Hurricane meeting open for inexperienced, brave
With the last major hurricane (Celia) making a direct strike on Port Aransas nearly 40 years ago, complacency has become a problem, according to John Metz, the warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service office in Corpus Christi.
How bad is the complacency problem?
“I would say it’s probably pretty bad,” Metz said. “We have had a couple of generations of people grow up in this area that never have been through a hurricane. We have had a lot of people who moved here from up north and never have been through a storm, so they don’t know what to expect. … It’s a serious problem.”
Metz will be the keynote speaker at a town hall meeting on hurricane preparedness sponsored by the city of Port Aransas Tuesday, July 20. The meeting will be from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Community Center.
Metz said he will make a PowerPoint presentation, talking about local hurricane history, describing how future storms could impact the region, explaining how people can prepare and laying out how they can handle things in the aftermath of a hurricane.
The meeting will be hosted by City Manager
hosted by City Manager Robert Bradshaw. Also speaking will be Mayor Keith McMullin, who will talk about evacuation advisories, recommendations and orders. Port Aransas Police Chief Scott Burroughs will talk about measures individual citizens should take to prepare for hurricane season.
One of the most critical things to be aware of is the risk of a storm surge in a hurricane, Metz said. The Coastal Bend has the largest population of people living in a storm surge zone of any part of the Texas coast, he said.
“Making people aware of the risk of storm surge is the biggest thing I would like to see improved,” Metz said. “Storm surge, historically, is the deadliest part of a hurricane. A lot of people don’t understand it and don’t realize they live in a surge zone.”
Over the years, Metz has talked to a lot of veteran coastal residents who didn’t evacuate, instead choosing to ride out landmark Texas hurricanes like Celia (1970), Beulah (1967), Carla (1961). Without fail, he said, each of those people have said the experience was so frightening that they never would stay again during a hurricane.
Metz, 41, earned a bachelor’s degree in atmospheric science at the University of Wisconsin in 1992. He then was hired by the National Weather Service and first served as an intern at in Del Rio and Victoria.
Metz became a forecaster in the Corpus Christi office of the weather service in 1996 and was promoted to lead forecaster in 2003. He became the warning coordination meteorologist the same year.
Metz visited the Victoria area after Hurricane Claudette mowed through the region in 2003. He didn’t see utter devastation. A Category 1 hurricane, Claudette was relatively small, producing winds only up to about 100 mph. (Some hurricanes pack winds of over 155 mph.)
Still, Metz saw a lot of heavily damaged mobile homes, downed power lines and large live oak trees that had been uprooted. And he saw the shaken reactions that the storm produced in area residents.
“Folks who were in the coastal communities in Calhoun County and Seadrift and Port Lavaca personally said to me they will never stay through another hurricane again,” Metz said. “They said they could not imagine a hurricane of greater intensity than a Category 1. That’s pretty amazing.”