Central Texas Red Cross preparing for a possible storm threat off the Texas coast

AUSTIN (KXAN): Now all eyes are on the tropics, as a tropical storm or hurricane may soon hit the Texas coast.

KXAN meteorologists are intensely following long-range computer models that, as of Wednesday afternoon, show a current disturbance in the Caribbean, which could intensify in tropical storm or hurricane this weekend or early next week as passes through the western Gulf of Mexico.

It is still unknown exactly where this storm will arrive, but models show that the entire Texas coast or Louisiana coast could be on its direct path.

Red Cross preparing for a possible storm

Richard McAlister, a meteorologist and spokesman for the American Red Cross in Central and South Texas, is watching the possible system with enthusiasm.

“We’ve been in touch with our leaders and our volunteers and keeping them informed, inventorying our products, making sure our vehicles are ready, and making sure we have enough supplies to respond,” he said.

These supplies include food, cleaning supplies, cots, blankets and children’s toys. The Red Cross also regularly supports pet shelters during the tropical storm season, if needed.

“We have all of our supplies parked here in Texas and we’re ready to roll,” McAlister said.

The American Red Cross has what they call a 120-hour timeline that they used to prepare for something like this. Five days before a potential disaster, the Red Cross will begin pre-planning operations, alerting staff and volunteers and preparing supplies.

McAlister says they are in the early stages right now and at this time of year they are operating at a higher level of climbing, so many of these measurements have already been made.

“As the clock runs out, we will begin to execute this plan, moving those resources and people to their position where they can help,” he said.

COVID-19 playing a role

While the Red Cross is working to prepare for the possibility of a severe storm affecting the Texas coast, they must also face another natural disaster, COVID-19.

“We are following the guidelines given to us by the state, federal and local communities as we interact with them,” McAlister said. The Red Cross has additional COVID-19 protocols that have been in place since last year, which include maintaining people’s social distance and wearing masks.

“Here’s the end result, it doesn’t change what we do, it changes the way we do it,” McAlister said.

Four years later: lessons learned from Hurricane Harvey

This storm comes exactly four years after Hurricane Harvey dealt a devastating blow to Texas ’coastal communities and 40-50 inches of rain fell in southeast Texas.

KXAN reported in 2017 that the Red Cross orchestrated 411,000 overnight accommodations during and the month after the Harvey impact. They also had approximately 2,900 volunteers on the ground and spent millions of dollars in response.

When asked what the Red Cross did to Hurricane Harvey, McAlister said the storm demonstrated the importance of partnerships and teamwork.

“With all the resource, people and donors we have, we still can’t do it alone, so we need teammates,” he said.

McAlister says they have fostered strong relationships with community members, local and federal governments and other resources to intervene and help as a result.

How to prepare

The American Red Cross says having a team, making a plan, and staying informed are the most important things when preparing for a possible storm.

You can find the Red Cross Hurricane Safety Checklist in English here and in Spanish here.

This checklist includes things like turning the fridge and freezer to the coldest place to make food last longer if the power goes out, picking up things the wind can toss or move easily, and filling the car’s gas tank.

While important physical steps can be taken, McAlister says staying informed and having a reliable way to get information is also a key part of the preparations.

The Red Cross will provide routine updates for this storm, including preparatory steps and storm path updates. They say they will be posted twice a day and as the storm approaches, more often.

You can also stay with KXAN, KXAN.com and our free weather app KXAN to get forecast updates, as we will be collecting new information over the next few days. Interests on the Texas coast should be aware of hurricanes.