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, www.missouricitytx.gov. 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 www.treesaregood.org.

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Local MUD operating companies maintain disaster preparedness certification with county

16 01 2012

Each year, Fort Bend County OEM works closely with local municipal utility districts to ensure that adequate preparations are taken to get ready for the hurricane season and also for other disasters that are not related to hurricanes.  Below, please see the text from a recent article published by the Fort Bend Star recognizing the efforts of local operating companies who have maintained their preparedness levels during 2011.  In fact, most of these entities have been part of the County’s MUD Readiness Program since its initiation in 2009.  The article was published on December 21, 2011.  And, believe it or not, in just a few short weeks, it will be time for the 2012 Program to kickoff!

County Judge Bob Hebert in conjunction with the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management would like to recognize Municipal District Services, Severn Trent, SouthWest Water Company, Environmental Development Partners and Fort Bend County Municipal Utility District No.25 for participating in a voluntary National Incident Management System (NIMS) Program that he initiated in 2009.  In 2011, each company completed the requirements of the program and are hereby recognized as “NIMS Competent First Responders.”

Those recognized have earned the distinction by taking actions to become an integral part of the County’s emergency management network. The program involves a series of actions to be taken to make these operating companies more prepared for Hurricane Season, improve communications with emergency management staff at the County level, and truly begin to make the County’s water districts responsible for emergency management activities. County Judge Bob Hebert stated, “The program is based on assuring that participating operating companies are fully informed on the workings of the National Incident Management System and the role of the county in supporting all first responders during a declared emergency. The idea is to ensure improved communications between emergency management personnel and utility operators and to include utility district representation in the County EOC in all future activities.”

The conditions of the program included having employees from each utility operating company complete four NIMS on-line training courses (100, 200, 700 and 800).  Additionally, multiple employees have attended training sessions at the Fort Bend County Emergency Operations Center (EOC). During these sessions, attendees learned key definitions, the difference between crisis management and consequence management, the emergency response realities for municipal utility districts, the purpose and objectives of the County EOC, and the framework for the State of Texas Emergency Management Plan.

Jeff Braun, the County’s Emergency Management Coordinator, notes that “OEM staff is committed to expanding the readiness program and he is hopeful that additional companies will take advantage of the training offered in the voluntary program.”  Overall, the program is intended to ensure a more coordinated and effective response to water emergencies that may occur in the future in Fort Bend County.





More Rain Could Wreak Havoc on Fort Bend County Roads

11 10 2011

Well, the good news is that we finally got a good soaking rain over the weekend in Fort Bend County. Around two inches fell across the County, and reportedly over five inches fell out in the Needville area.  This is was first significant rain in our area since January of this year.  The KBDI level dropped significantly— to a level under 600.  Definitely a needed respite from the 100 degree temperatures that the drought conditions that we have experienced for the last six or seven months.

On the other hand, it seems that the rain that we all wished for is causing some serious problems for our roadways.  Over the last couple of days, Sally MacDonald, myFOXHouston, has reported on the effect the recent rain has had on our County’s rural roads.  She reported on October 10th and 11th:

After our weekend rain, there are new concerns about area roads damaged by months of drought, but the full impact won’t be known for years. How bad the ground shifts all depends on what the weather does in coming months. 

It’s a smooth ride now, but right around the corner rural, asphalt roads in Fort Bend County are splitting wide open.   The cracks are happening faster than Marc Grant’s crews can make it out to repair them. 

“I’d say a minimum of 30% of our roads are in disarray right now,” said Grant, Fort Bend County Road Commissioner. 

Grant says drivers aren’t in danger. 

Homeowner Terence Romney acknowledges, though, that some of the larger cracks have almost swallowed his Boxer, Bruce. 

“Sometimes his foot goes in, and if his foot goes in the next time he’s walking he’s going to be jumping,” said Romney. 

Blame the unrelenting sun for cutting the life span of one of the roads in Bridlewood Estates in half. It’ll take a lot more rain than what we got on Sunday before experts can truly grasp the scope of the problem. 

“If we get small rains, short rains these cracks may firm back up. If we get large, inches upon inches and days and days of rain it could really be bad for us,” said Grant.

That’s because too much moisture inside the cracks will wreak even more havoc on the shifting ground. 

“Eventually this roadway will start pushing laterally into the ditch,” said Grant. 

In the past road crews have tried to repair the cracks. 

“This is the filling they did last time, and look what happened it’s right back to where it was and even got wider,” said Romney. 

This time Grant says crews will wait to fix less traveled rural roads until a full weather pattern has run its course.   Busy roads are getting immediate attention. Grant says he won’t know the financial impact until we get more rain.





City of Houston issues mandatory water restrictions

19 08 2011

A couple of days ago, the City of  Houston implemented stricter water conservation measures.  And, yes, that affects citizens in Fort Bend County— about 38,000 individuals of the City of Houston live in Fort Bend County.  The City of Houston, along with First Colony MUD No. 9 are now at “Stage 2” of their drought plans.  More about the actions of the City of Houston can be found in the report from KHOU.com staff, published on August 16, 2011.  The article:

Mayor Annise Parker on Monday implemented the City of Houston’s “Stage Two” water conservation plan, making the previous voluntary water restrictions mandatory for all residents.

Under the Stage Two plan, Houston residents are required to repair all detectable leaks within 72 hours of discovery and limit outdoor watering to two days a week.

Residents at even-numbered street addresses can water their lawns on Sundays and Thursdays, between the hours of 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. Residents with odd-numbered addresses can water on Saturdays and Wednesdays, between the hours of 8 p.m. and 10 a.m.

Failure to comply with the restrictions could result in hundreds of dollars in fines.

Parker said it wasn’t her intention to hand out a slew of violations, but residents are asked to take the restrictions seriously.

“While these restrictions are mandatory, we will begin with warnings and an informational campaign because the goal is voluntary compliance,” said Parker. “For those who insist on not being good neighbors, citations will follow.”

The City of Houston will also begin internal water-conservation measures, including the suspension of any scheduled window or power-washings, an audit of all irrigation systems for leaks, and the suspension of washing city vehicles or equipment except for health, safety or critical maintenance reasons.

The city has three main water reservoirs: Lake Livingston, Lake Houston and Lake Conroe.

Officials said because of the persistent drought conditions, they plan to start drawing water from Lake Conroe to stabilize the declining water level at Lake Houston.

It will be the first time the city has drawn water from Lake Conroe since 1988 — and only the third time in its history.

So far this summer, Lake Conroe has been losing about half a foot of water every month. Once the city starts drawing water, that will increase to more than a foot and a half a month.

In a news conference last week, Parker reminded concerned Lake Conroe property owners that the lake was built thanks to Houston taxpayers in the early 1960s.

“It is what it is,” Parker said. “There may be recreational impacts. We have to provide the necessary water to our population.”

After “Stage Two,” there are two, more serious levels of water rationing.

In the meantime, residents are also encouraged to take other water-conservation measures when possible, such as installing low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators and toilets, refraining from washing cars or filling swimming pools, limiting showers to five minutes, washing only full loads of dishes or clothes and turning off the water while brushing their teeth.





Drought plays havoc with Fort Bend Roads

18 08 2011

The extreme heat and the lack of rain is beginning to take its toll on area roadways.  B.J. Pollock, correspondent with the Houston Chronicle, wrote an article that was published yesterday detailing the problems caused by the drought conditions; and as you will not in reading her article below, the problems will probably get worse before they get better.  As reported by Ms. Pollock:

The extended drought conditions in Texas have caused problems with some rural roads in Fort Bend County as the shifting dry ground splits open the pavement.

In addition, the drought has led to an extension of a county burn ban that has been in effect since April.

“Dry weather is the worst for roads; it takes a toll,” said County Road Commissioner Marc Grant. “The bad part is, when we do start getting rain, it’ll go down in the cracks to the subgrade and mess it up.”

Grant said the subgrade lies beneath the lime that is under the top layer of pavement, and that many long cracks are several feet deep.

Deterioration caused by moisture starts at the subgrade level and progresses to the surface. While reinforcement bars keep concrete roads from fracturing a little less than asphalt roads, it’s all susceptible to the drought.

“There’s just about no way to keep the roads from cracking anymore,” Grant said. “We’re going out every day, sealing cracks. You can’t seal all the cracks, but you try to seal as many as you possibly can.”

Crews are concentrating on the more well-traveled roads, and Grant said they’ve been repairing fissures for months. Of course, that takes money.

“The longer the drought, the more the monetary impact,” he said. “It’s financially a huge burden, and we won’t know the financial impact until after the rains come through.”

In some places, the sides of the roads appear to falling off. In those cases, said Grant, “When it rains, it’ll fall even more. Then we’ll come back and build it back up.”

He said the root systems of grass that’s popping up in many of the cracks actually helps hold the roads together.

“We’re always looking for new ways to seal cracks; ways that will help the integrity of our roadways,” he said. “I tell everybody, ‘If you can find a way to seal crack in this region, you’re going to make lots of money.'”

County commissioners enacted a burn ban April 26 and extended it at their July 12 meeting.

County Fire Marshal Vance Cooper said burn bans are only good for 90 days and then must be voted on again. He also said it would take about 10 inches of rain across the county to lift the ban.

Cooper said the Keetch-Byrum Drought Index, which is a scale for estimating the dryness of soil, shows Fort Bend County to be at 705, with any number higher than 500 indicating need for a burn ban. The scale runs from zero to 800. The higher the number, the more dry it is.

“In talking with the Forest Service, if we got an inch of rain, we’d be good for about 24 hours and then we’d basically be back to where we are now,” he said. “This drought did not happen overnight. It took several years to get where we are and it’ll take several years to get out.