City leaders say Lubbock will be ready to respond, as Tropical Storm Gustav barrels toward the Gulf Coast. The storm killed at least 14 people in Haiti Tuesday, after it stalled off-shore.
Forecasters predict Gustav will intensify as it hits warmer waters between Cuba and Jamaica. They suspect the storm will become a hurricane as early as Wednesday. Lubbock is preparing to take in evacuees and send first responders to the coast. The city has become an evacuation hub for Texas.
This week, city leaders and the Red Cross started phone conferences with state and federal relief coordinators. They say, as forecasters track the storm's path they're hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. "We're preparing ourselves for the possibility of receiving evacuation folks from either the Texas or Louisiana coast; we're also preparing for what happens when landfall strikes and the possibility that some of our equipment or personnel maybe needed in that area as well," Disaster Chair for the South Plains Regional Chapter of the American Red Cross Bill Curnow said.
Curnow says the city is set up to be a special needs evacuation site, primarily due to Lubbock's medical facilities. The city could receive up to 800 evacuees. "That presents interesting challenges to get the local citizens into that role of hurricane sheltering," Curnow said.
"If it hits the Texas coast, there's going to be a mass evacuation take place, and we're going to be involved at some level," Rhea Cooper with Lubbock's Incident Management Team said. Cooper says seven members of the team are on the list to head down state to assist with flooding and distributing supplies. The rest, around 20 members, will stay in the city. "So, in the event that we have victims coming into our city shelter, we can help manage that incident also," Cooper said.
Leaders say the preparations will continue until Gustav strikes land. Then, preparation turns into action. "Gustav is so far out that it's very difficult to get a good track on what's going to happen, so the best we can do is prepare," Curnow said.
Forecasters predict Gustav could make landfall anywhere from South Texas to the Florida Panhandle by Labor Day.
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