Local emergency management partners gather to prepare for hurricane season

MERCEDES — Dick and Joan Volkmann were sitting in the front row taking notes.

They were taking in the details at the National Weather Service’s annual Rio Grande Valley Emergency Management Partners Hurricane Workshop.

“It was very informative and it is nice to know there is so much information out there and it’s just a phone call away and on the website,” said Joan, a first responder at the Llano Grande resort community in Mercedes.

“If there is a problem we can alert people in the park and help one way or another.”

The Volkmann’s were eager to learn about the upcoming hurricane season and how to stay connected and track the weather forecasts and storm alerts.

The event took place Wednesday at the Mercedes Safe Dome/Community Center.

“The bottom line is we are getting core partners in public safety to come and listen to everything from the review of the previous season, preview of the season coming up and we talk about what we offer in terms of our information stream,” Barry Goldsmith, NWS warning coordination meteorologist, said about the workshop.

More than 60 first responders from multiple agencies across the Valley were in attendance.

“We have some great teams and they are ready to play,” Goldsmith said about the NWS initiatives they are rolling out with to stay in contact and inform first responders and the public during this hurricane season.

Goldsmith said the vast majority of the population in the Valley needs to plan for inland storm surge flooding from rain.

“We want to be ready for wind in all areas,” Goldsmith said. “Overall, we want to keep hammering the inland flood threat first.”

Two ways Goldsmith and the National Weather Service team want to communicate their messages to prepare are with their NWSChat service and adopt a community initiative.

NWSChat is an instant messaging program used by NWS operational personnel to share critical warning decision expertise and other types of significant weather information essential to the NWS’s mission of saving lives and property.

And their adopt a community initiative sends NWS personnel to work directly with first responders in their community to better improve their service by working together to plan better in the event of a storm.

“They are bringing knowledge to the people and knowledge is power,” said Ruben De Leon, Donna emergency management director.

De Leon said a lot of deaths come after the storm.

“People fall off a tree, step into wet electrical wiring or fall into flooded water,” De Leon said.