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|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2008-09-14                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than six years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov ] [TH]
Sept. 14, 2008
Ike Update From TPWD: Game Wardens Search and Rescue, State Parks/Wildlife Staff Assess Damage
Noon CDT -- Update 6
Below is information sent by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to the Governor's Press Office today. The governor's office is coordinating official communication about Ike for the State of Texas, including TPWD activities. The following information is provided as a service and convenience for TPWD's audience. For complete information, see the Texas governor's web site at http://governor.state.tx.us/, or news media may phone the press office at (512) 463-1826.
Texas Game Wardens/TPWD Law Enforcement Division
--TPWD has more than 180 game wardens and associated boats and equipment deployed in Southeast Texas.
--This morning, five game warden strike teams with airboats and riverboats fanned out across Southeast Texas for search and rescue and damage assessment. Teams are working today in Beaumont, Orange, Port Arthur, Bridge City, and Chambers County. It's anticipated that search and rescue duties will continue in Orange County for three-to-six days.
--Yesterday, Capt. Rod Ousley of the Beaumont office and eight game wardens worked in Bridge City and Orange with airboats. By 4 p.m. they had completed more than 50 rescues, plucking people from rooftops and second story windows, bringing them back to National Guard trucks.
--Six other strike teams of 10 game wardens each are on standby today, three at Lake Bob Sandlin in Northeast Texas, and three more teams at Camp Allen near Navasota, awaiting deployment instructions from the State Operations Center.
--In Galveston, about eight game wardens normally based in that area continue to help patrol and search residential areas, using boats to navigate flooded streets in some cases.
--Dozens of other wardens based out of Region 4 in Houston are likewise continuing to search, rescue and assess damage in the counties and city areas they normally patrol.
Texas State Parks--More than 30 Texas State Parks remained closed due to Ike in Southeast and East Texas. For the current list of park closures, see the TPWD Web site (www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/parkinfo/hurricane).
--As of 5 p.m. yesterday, a total of 4,673 evacuees have been given shelter free of charge at 45 state parks outside the hurricane's path.Evacuees from storm-damaged areas are allowed to tent campor stay in RVs or campersat no cost in Texas State Parks, and they may stay in cabins or screen shelters at discounted rates. The latest information on parks closed or accepting evacuees is available through the TPWD Web site (www.tpwd.state.tx.us/site/emergency). The public can also phone individual state parks to see whether a park is closed or accepting evacuees.
--More damage assessments for the State Park Division came in this morning, though the full picture is still incomplete. Southeast Texas state parks sustained the most damage, where seven parks have reported significant impacts.Stephen F. Austin, Brazos Bend, San Jacinto Battleground, Village Creek and Huntsville sustained wind damage to treesand structural/infrastructure damage. No loss of life or injuries have been reported for the State Parks Division.
--In Northeast Texas, parks west of Tyler fared fairly well, although many reported trees down. Eastern parks like Martin Creek Lake, Caddo Lake, Daingerfield, and Atlanta sustained more damage. All of these are without electricity, with power lines down and poles broken, likely to remain closed for some time. Trees fell on some cabins and buildings at Martin Creek, though details are not known.
--The headquarters building at Mission Tejas burned to the ground around 10 a.m. this morning. No one was hurt. It is possible that an emergency generator being used to power the building caught on fire.
Wildlife--Wildlife Division staff assisted with search and rescue in Jefferson County at the request of local officials, and other staff are assessing damage to facilities and habitats in affected areas.
--Several Southeast Texas wildlife management areas near the coast where the landscape normally consists of wetlands, marshes and coastal prairies are all or partly underwater today, including the Murphree, Candy Abshier, Lower Neches and Hursts WMAs. Various WMA buildings and facilities sustained mostlyminor damage. A shop building at Murphree WMA was destroyed.
--Regarding ecological impacts, aerial overflights of the upper coast region are planned for Monday to assess damage to various TPWD division facilities and to natural resources. But longtime division staff member and Murphree WMA Superintendent Jim Sutherlin had this to say: "The Murphree area looks like the Gulf of Mexico. Wildlife impacts to every thing that doesn't fly will be significant like it was back in the early 1960s with Hurricane Carla. I expect a great reduction in reptiles and amphibians, particularly alligators, but also snakes, frogs, all the things that move on the ground in the coastal plains. We need to assess the full impacts, and that will take some time. It will set plant communities back to very early successional stages, and we'll see big changes in the landscape when this water comes off, for a couple of decades. That's something we'll see as our careers mature, and the young people starting careers in wildlife ecology now will follow it as we followed Carla."
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On the Net:
TPWD Emergency Information: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/site/emergency/
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[ Note: This item is more than six years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov ] [TH]
Sept. 14, 2008
Ike Evacuees Wait Out Storm At Texas State Parks
6:30 p.m. CDT
AUSTIN, Texas -- More than 5,000 people took refuge from Hurricane Ike at 59 different state parks across Texas. Most of them, more than 2,000, stayed at Garner, including many from the Houston-Galveston area who vacation at the park each year.
"A lot of people tried to pay us like they usually do when they checked in, and when we said it's on us, no charge, they just broke down and cried," said Rick Meyers, Garner State Park superintendent. "A lot of these folks were just emotionally frazzled. Emotions were pretty high all around."
Texas State Parks waive entrance and camping fees for disaster evacuees, making it free to tent camp or stay in RVs or campers. During Hurricane Rita in September 2005, an estimated more than 1,000 evacuees took shelter in state parks.
"I was at Inks [Lake State Park] when Rita came through, and we had a lot of evacuees, but not near this many," Meyers said. "Rita displaced a lot of folks, but long timers here say this is the most evacuees we've ever seen at Garner."
Garner State Park in northern Uvalde County is popular for shady campgrounds along 10 miles of the spring fed Frio River, which runs clear and cool even in summer heat. Now more than 1,400 acres in size, land for the park was first acquired in 1934. The site is named for John Nance Garner of Uvalde (Cactus Jack), U.S. vice president from 1933-41.
Last Wednesday, as Ike bore down on the Texas coast, the first evacuees began arriving at Garner. At first they were calling, making reservations. Then people started showing up without reservations. By late Thursday, the slow trickle had become an evacuee convoy.
"Some of them came with trailers, either U-Haul rentals or just flat beds with tarps, loaded with personal belongings like TVs, sofas, couches, tables and chairs," Meyers recalls. "It looked like in flood prone areas they just loaded everything on their trailers."
Thursday night, the park office stayed open until 11 p.m. checking people in, and park peace officers were out past midnight helping people get settled and checking the crowded campgrounds. The park staff bent the eight person per campsite rule so evacuee families could stay together, allowing up to 12 people per site.
Walking through the campgrounds Friday night, generator-driven TVs picking up satellite signals glowed and news broadcasts crackled through the normally quiet air. Park visitors watched along with millions of people around the world as weathercasters described Ike's size and power. Anxious faces watched to see whether their homes would be flooded by the predicted record storm surge.
On Saturday and Sunday, as conditions cleared, the campgrounds began to empty.
"On Friday around 4 p.m., our head count was about 1,650 evacuees," Meyers said. "We were down to about 1,100 late Saturday, and probably half that Sunday."
Many of those that remain are from the hardest-hit regions.
"We had one family that requested to stay several weeks," Meyers said. "Typically we don't host evacuees that long, but we found out her house was totally gone; she was from the Galveston area. So of the ones that are still here, a lot of them can't go home. They're watching the news and they know if their neighborhood still has no power or water, there's no point."
Similar stories played out at dozens of other state parks outside Ike's path. Many evacuees clustered at Hill Country parks like Inks Lake (507) and Pedernales Falls (143), but others spread across Texas as far away as Davis Mountains (15) and Lake Arrowhead (67).
Among those gathered at Bastrop State Park were seven members of the Pavlu clan from Angleton. Wayne and Vicki Pavlu came in an RV with their son Kevin and his wife Hannah, daughter Tammy and grandkids Cooper and Konner. Along with them came four dogs and the family's blind pet rooster named Rooster. The setting is pretty, the weather fine, the park staff gracious and helpful, but many evacuees describe an undertone of anxiety to their experience.
"The park's been great, but overall it's been stressful, horrible," said Tammy Pavlu, a 24-year-old insurance agent. "You don't know what you're going to come back to. You don't know what to pack because space is limited, but you don't know how long you're going to live out of your car. We're anxious to go home."
Still, for thousands of Texans, state parks provided a welcome respite. Hundreds of miles away, emergency workers and law enforcement officers were clearing debris and conducting search and rescue through flooded streets without electrical power or running water. Eventually, evacuees from those areas will have to go back and pick up the pieces. But not this Sunday, not for those at places like Garner.
"The sun is shining here," Meyers said on Sunday afternoon. "Folks are in the river swimming and inner tubing. They've had a pretty rough ride, with more to come, but at least they're getting to enjoy themselves while they're here."
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On the Net:
TPWD Emergency Information: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/site/emergency/
-30-