Fort Bend County named StormReady County by National Weather Service

28 07 2012

For the last couple of years, Fort Bend County has been striving to meet the requirements for being recognized by the National Weather Service as a StormReady County.  StormReady is a nationwide community preparedness program that uses a grassroots approach to help communities develop plans to handle all types of severe weather—from tornadoes to tsunamis. The program encourages communities to take a new, proactive approach to improving local hazardous weather operations by providing emergency managers with clear-cut guidelines on how to improve their hazardous weather operations.

Various individuals are responsible for the County achieving the designation, but the two most important have been Alan Spears, Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator of the County’s Office of Emergency Management, and Captain Danny Jan of the County’s Sheriff’s Office.  Their dedication and efforts have allowed Fort Bend County to:

  • Establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center
  • Have more than one way to receive severe weather warnings and forecasts and to alert the public
  • Create a system that monitors weather conditions locally
  • Promote the importance of public readiness through community seminars
  • Develop a formal hazardous weather plan, which includes training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises.

Fort Bend County OEM wishes to thank Dan Reilly who is the National Weather Service Meteorologist that assisted OEM as we worked to meet all the requirements of the StormReady program.

As of July 24, 2012, there were 1940 StormReady sites in 48 states, Puerto Rico and Guam; 933 counties, 762 communities, 113 universities, 11 Indian nations, 51 commercial sites, 34 military sites, and 25 government sites.

In Texas, there are 125 StormReady designations, including 30 counties, 73 communities, 16 universities, 4 commercial sites, and 2 government sites.  If you would like to see a map showing the designation in Texas, click here:  Texas StormReady Map. In the Houston metropolitan area, Fort Bend County is the only County that has achieved the designation in the region.  Three cities in our area have also achieved the designation, including the City of Friendswood, the City of LaPorte, and the City of Pasadena.

Very soon, Fort Bend County will receive the formal notification letter from the National Weather Service and participate in a recognition ceremony.  Attaining the designation indicates that Fort Bend County is committed to safety and preparedness.

For more information about the National Weather Service’s StormReady program, click here:  StormReady



Fort Bend County “Grand Canyon” repaired in only two months

25 07 2012

On May 12th, portions of Fort Bend County experienced rainfall that caused tremendous flooding especially in subdivisions just north of Rosenberg and Richmond.  This particular area of the County received rainfall that totaled  up to 12 inches. Much street flooding occurred, but in addition, a gorge opened up in one area that caused much concern to nearby homeowners. The tremendous erosion was caused by a broken drainage pipe that caused tremendous water flow that quickly eroded land that was once open field – see photo to left.  Interim work by the Fort Bend County Drainage District stabilized the situation.

But now there is better news, as reported today by Erin Mulvaney of the Houston Chronicle.  Her article is below:

The gorge that grew so big that locals dubbed it “Fort Bend County Grand Canyon” has been repaired, two months after a 30-foot deep, 80-foot wide hole formed in Richmond.

On May 12, crews began working on filling and stabilizing the giant gorge that began eroding after a large storm broke a drainage pipe. The problem began after a storm dumped 8 to 10 inches of rain over the area. The earth that sometimes carried runoff to the Brazos River began giving way with huge sections of land crumbling into the rushing water, officials said.

Jeff Janacek, an assistant engineer with the Fort Bend County drainage district, said the structure has been replaced and it is now back open. He said the downpour that Harris County suffered a few weeks ago did not hit the county as hard, which was lucky as they finished their work.

“It’s pretty much all repaired,” Janeck said. “It looks quite a bit different now.”

He said the work was mostly completed by mid-July. The pit was reinforced with a concrete barrier to stop further erosion and crews worked to fill the gorge, a job that took two months.

Residents in nearby houses had noticed the pit grow and grow, but there had been no damage to their houses.  Janet Pickett lives a few blocks from the ditch and watched with other neighbors as the land caved.

“Every 30 seconds, a big chunk of land, like the size of a van, just started falling in,” Pickett said.

City of Missouri City provides its citizens with information on how to prepare for a hurricane before one threatens the area

22 07 2012

The City of Missouri City recently issued a news release providing good information on how to prepare the trees in your yard for a hurricane.  This is information that all citizens in Fort Bend County should keep in mind when preparing for the 2012 Hurricane Season.  The news release, published on July 13, 2012,  is below:

Don’t forget: It’s still hurricane season! Even though there has been no significant activity yet this year in theGulfCoast, a storm could hit at any time.

While many of you are hustling and bustling to prepare your children for the upcoming school year, we suggest you also focus on the root of one potential hurricane hazard:  Trimming and pruning your trees.

“Proper tree pruning can go a long way in protecting your property from major storms,” said City Forester Paul Wierzbicki.

When pruning your trees, look for: dead or broken branches; crossing or grafting branches; trunks or branches with signs of wood decay or fungus, or large branches or trunks that come together in a sharp “V” crotch. “These are generally the trouble-makers during storms,” Wierzbicki said.

Trimming and pruning your trees is important, but overly doing it can cause more harm than good. Wierzbicki cautions homeowners to not excessively prune trees, as doing so increases the risk of the tree splitting or “heaving out of the ground.”

Maintaining your trees by trimming and pruning them allows wind to easily blow through. During hurricanes, in which wind speeds can reach over 155 mph, limbs can become projectiles, breaking windows and damaging roofs. They also can cause serious bodily injury, even death.

Uprooted trees and downed limbs also can seriously hinder recovery efforts, said Judy Lefevers, the City’s Emergency Management Coordinator. Properly maintained trees make it easier for power crews who often have to work around the sometimes puzzle-like pains to get to power lines. Crews can work more quickly to restore power if tree limbs aren’t in their way.

Since we are on the topic of trees, we’re going to branch out and provide you another important advisory about trees from the City’s Code Enforcement division.

The drought from last year and the rains received this year have presented some challenging issues forMissouri Cityand surrounding areas.  The drought has caused an increase in the number of trees that are dead and have become fire hazards. These types of trees also can easily become home to many unwanted critters. 

The rains received this year have been much needed, but they have directly caused two important issues relating to high grass and weed violations and trees overhanging sidewalks and roadways.  With this in mind the City wants to remind all citizens of the following regulations: 

  1. Dead trees are an “unsanitary matter” violation within the Code of Ordinances and must be removed.
  2. High grass and weeds nine (9) inches or more are a violation of the Code of Ordinances and must be cut.
  3. Tree limbs, brush or other vegetation less than eight (8) feet above the pavement of a sidewalk are a violation of the Code of Ordinances and must be trimmed.
  4. Tree limbs, brush or other vegetation less than thirteen and one half (13’1/2”) feet above the pavement of a roadway are a violation of the Code of Ordinances and must be trimmed.  
  5. Tree limbs, brush or other vegetation that obscures a motorist’s or pedestrian’s view of any street intersection, sign or traffic control device are a violation of the Code of Ordinances and must be trimmed.

For more information about tree ordinances, or any other City ordinances, visit the City’s website, On the homepage, type “ordinances” in the search box.

And, if you’re stumped and need more information about proper trimming and pruning of trees Wierzbicki suggests consulting an ISA Certified Professional Arborist to help you identify tree defects and give you an honest assessment regarding your trees’ structure and health. To find a local ISA Certified Arborist in your area visit

Insurance is Key to Disaster Preparation

18 07 2012

On May 30, 2012, the Texas Department of Insurance published a News Release providing valuable disaster preparation information to the public.  I am reprinting the information below.  Though the 2012 Hurricane Season has already begun, it is not too late to complete some of the suggestions mentioned below. 

With the official start of hurricane season on June 1 and an already active spring storm season, the Texas Department of Insurance encourages you to review your basic insurance needs to make sure you and your loved ones are financially protected from a disaster.  Here are some steps to take to make sure you’re ready.
Create a Home Inventory. Creating an inventory and storing it in a safe location away from home is a basic – and effective – disaster preparedness step.  According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), more than half of Americans don’t have a home inventory of their personal property. Not having an inventory to calculate the value of your property means you might be underinsured and not have enough money to replace your personal property if it’s damaged or destroyed.

You can download and print a home inventory checklist from the TDI website:

In addition, NAIC has created a smart phone app that makes it easy to create a home inventory.  The myHOME app lets users capture and electronically store images, descriptions, bar codes, and serial numbers of your personal property. The app organizes information by room and creates a back-up file for email sharing. To download the free app, go to the iTunes or Android app stores and search “NAIC.”
You should review your inventory each year. Note the make, model, serial number, purchase price, and purchase date of any new items and keep copies of receipts for major purchases with your inventory.

Check Your Policy. It’s important to know whether your policy includes coverage for replacement cost or actual cash value in case of a loss. Actual cash value (ACV) is the amount it would take to repair damage to your home or to replace its contents after allowing for depreciation. Replacement cost is the amount it would take to rebuild or replace your home and its contents with similar quality materials or goods, without deducting for depreciation.

Make sure your policy meets your needs and that you know your policy limits, deductibles, exclusions, and claim notification requirements. Store copies of your insurance policies with your inventory in a safe location away from your home so that you can easily retrieve them.  Also consider scanning your policies and storing them electronically on a computer or server away from your home.

Keep a list of contact details for your insurance agent and company with your policies. Include office phone numbers, mailing addresses, website addresses, and all of your policy numbers for quick reference. Email this information to yourself in case you’re separated from your hard copy list.

Make Sure You Have Windstorm Insurance.  If your property is in one of the state’s 14 coastal counties or parts of southeastern Harris County, your homeowners policy might not provide windstorm coverage.  You may be able to obtain insurance coverage for windstorm or hail damage from the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA). It’s important to know that you cannot buy or change TWIA coverage once a hurricane is in or near the Gulf of Mexico. For more information about windstorm coverage and inspection requirements, call your insurance agent or TWIA at 512-899-4900, or visit TWIA’s website at

If you’re a TWIA policyholder, be aware that your policy recently changed. For more information about the new TWIA claims process, call TDI’s Coastal Outreach and Assistance Services Team (COAST) at 1-855-35COAST (352-6278).

Consider Flood Insurance.  Most homeowners and commercial property policies exclude coverage for damage from flooding.  To protect yourself from losses caused by rising water, you’ll need a separate flood insurance policy, typically from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). NFIP is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Flood insurance policies usually have a 30-day waiting period after the purchase date before coverage takes effect on currently owned property, so don’t wait until a flooding threat is imminent. To get flood insurance, call your insurance agent or NFIP at 1-888-FLOOD 29 (356-6329) or visit

Make a Safety Plan.  If a disaster threatens your area, you might have to decide whether to stay in your home or evacuate. Whenever local authorities recommend evacuation, you should leave. The advice of authorities is based on knowledge of the strength of the storm and its potential for destruction.

• Map out safe routes inland or to safer areas. If you live in a low-lying area, know where low-water crossings might make travel to safety more difficult and plan routes that avoid these areas.
• Find out the location of any nearby community shelters in case you must seek immediate shelter.
• Work out a way for family members to communicate in case you must leave your home or if there is a disruption in local phone service.

For more specific information about safety planning and emergency preparedness, go to

For More Information:
If you have questions about insurance, call TDI’s toll-free Consumer Help Line (1-800-252-3439) or visit the TDI website at

Failure Is Not An Option – Joe Toye

13 07 2012

Periodically, I like to feature background on individuals who exemplify the phrase “failure is not an option.”  Today, I am providing information written by Marcus Brotherton. It originally ran on Men Who Lead Well ( I first viewed the article on the website “The Art of Manliness.”

How many times have we hoped for a specific type of success, only to have it elude us? We dream of being an Olympic sprinter, a prize-winning surgeon, or a writer of the great American novel.

But try as we might, the specific type of success we long for never comes.

Sgt. Joe Toye, one of the original Band of Brothers, fit this profile. The hardscrabble son of an Irish coalminer, Toye was a promising athlete, excelling at both boxing and football. But Toye’s father died when Toye was in 7th grade, and Toye needed to drop out of school, go to work, and help feed the rest of the family.

He would never become a professional athlete. That dream was dead.

When WWII hit, Toye volunteered for the elite paratroopers and became a squad leader, a go-to organizer who always got the job done. He dreamed of a long-term career in the military, and he was just the type of man the Army was looking for.

Whenever the company commander needed a volunteer, Toye was first on the list. Volunteering for these missions required extreme bravery, but when called, Toye never hesitated.

Once, his company was pinned down in ditches outside Neunen, Holland. Their British tank support was being annihilated. The commander needed to find out what he was up against. He looked around, spotted Toye, and said, “Joe, I need a live prisoner.” Wordlessly, Toye left his squad, crept into no-man’s land, and came back with a prisoner from the 107th Panzer Brigade.

Everything changed one wintery day in Bastogne. During a barrage of intense shelling, Toye was hit badly. He was evacuated to a hospital in London where his leg was amputated below the knee.

His military career was over. Another dream was dead.

After Toye came home, life was never the same. Toye was a big-hearted family man, but he also floundered in life. He drank too much. He fought. He struggled with nightmares from the war. He divorced and remarried. He drew some disability because of his missing leg, but not enough to support a family. He found work sharpening bits in a steel mine, where he stayed for more than 20 years until he retired.

Once, Toye remarked to his son that he didn’t feel like he had done much with his life. None of his dreams had ever come to pass.

Along the way, however, something unforeseen began to unfold.

Toye’s youngest son, Jonathan, was born with a severe birth defect. The son was mentally handicapped and couldn’t walk, talk, or feed himself. The boy’s condition hit Toye hard. There was no way a working family could care for the boy on a daily basis, so the son was placed in a home for special needs children, about an hour away from where the Toyes lived. Toye tried hard. He visited his son every chance he could.

After Toye retired from the steel mill, his handicapped son became everything. Each day, Toye spent hours with Jonathan, feeding him, cleaning his messes, talking with him, telling him he was proud of him.

Caring for his son became Toye’s life.

Jonathan wasn’t supposed to live much longer than childhood, but Jonathan had tough blood in him. Years passed. Toward the end, Toye’s goal became simply to outlive his son.

Jonathan died at age 32, three times longer than anyone thought he would live.

A year and a half after his son died, Joe Toye died too.

How strange: although we strive for a specific kind of success, it may never come. Instead, unexpected opportunities appear in our lives. Call these chances for unimagined greatness. Windows for living well.

“The point of life is not to just get by,” wrote St. Paul of Tarsus. “We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well.”

Using that criterion, I’d say Joe Toye was a tremendous success.

Texas Hurricane History Demonstrates Need to Prepare For 2012 Season

10 07 2012

Below, please find a News Release from FEMA.  This is originally published on May 30, 2012.  It is Release Number R6-12-101.  We are slightly more than one month into the 2012 Hurricane Season, and nothing much as happened yet that has affected the Texas Gulf Coast.  However, it is still early, and August and September are usually the busiest months for our area during the hurricane season.

Fourteen hurricanes and six tropical storms since 1961, which resulted in federal disaster declarations, serve as reminders to Texans that now is the time to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season.

The 2012 Hurricane Season begins on June 1, and while experts are predicting a slower season than in past years, most of the predictions still call for at least a normal amount of activity.  The 50 year average is a little over 11 named storms, six of those becoming hurricanes and two becoming major ones – Category 3 or higher.

In the last 50 years, Texas has had 20 storms that resulted in federal declarations.  Fourteen were hurricanes and six were tropical storms. The hurricanes were Carla (1961), Cindy (1963), Beulah (1967), Celia (1970), Allen (1980), Alicia (1983), Gilbert (1988), Bret (1999), Claudette (2003), Katrina (2005 – Emergency), Rita (2005), Dolly (2008), Ike (2008) and Alex (2010).  The tropical storms were Danielle (1980), Allison (1989), Charley (1998), Frances (1998), Fay (2002) and Erin (2007).

Six of the hurricanes and two of the tropical storms occurred in the last decade and resulted in the Lone Star State receiving approximately $7.5 billion in federal disaster aid. That assistance fell under both the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Public Assistance (PA) and Individuals and Households (IHP) programs and included funding for direct housing, crisis counseling, disaster legal services, disaster unemployment, and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) low-interest disaster loans.

Hurricane Katrina in Texas was an emergency declaration and provided reimbursements to the state for housing Katrina evacuees.

There have been no hurricanes or tropical storms resulting in a FEMA disaster declaration in the past two years, but several storms have affected the state nonetheless. Tropical Storm Hermine in 2010 caused major inland flooding in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011 stirred up winds that exacerbated a weekend wildfire in Bastrop County.

“These statistics more than demonstrate the need for all Texas to be prepared,” said Acting FEMA Region 6 Administrator Tony Robinson. “We say it often, but it’s the best way to get a clear message out there – Get a Kit, Make a Plan and Stay Informed.

For more information on the upcoming hurricane season, please visit and

Volunteering is one way to be prepared to help others. Use VolunteerMatch to locate local Red Cross volunteer opportunities in your community. You can also visit for ways to help and be prepared.

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.