Local Officials Prepare for Rita

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As Rita makes its way to the Texas Coast, Brazos County officials are making plans to deal with the storm. Local responders are counting on the lessons learned from Katrina to play a big role in preparing for this hurricane.

Brazos County emergency management officials spent Tuesday talking to the state and planning for yet another set of hurricane evacuees. Just last week all area shelters closed and the last of the Hurricane Katrina evacuees found housing.

Now Hillcrest Baptist Church in Bryan is set up to be a shelter for Hurricane Rita evacuees. Aldersgate United Methodist in College Station is also prepared to be a shelter.

"We're trying to ramp up and get ahead of the curve to get our shelters prepared and have provisions in place to supply those shelters," said Nate Sivils with emergency management.

Sivils says all types of plans are being considered, but he says it's difficult to know exactly what to prepare for since officials don't know how many people to expect.

The Emergency Operations Center is busy planning for Texas Gulf Coast Evacuees who may be coming to the area, but officials are also working on plans should local residents need shelter if hurricane Rita hits the Brazos Valley.

The Gateway Reception Center in College Station is set up as a receiving area. There, evacuees will receive information and be assigned to a shelter. Officials hope the process goes smoother than with Katrina evacuees.

"Katrina was a long term evacuation which we hadn't planned for so we're hoping that the plans that we laid out already will address those needs for short term evacuations," said Sivils.

But just like everyone else, emergency management officials will just have to wait and see what Mother Nature has in store.

In addition to creating shelters, Brazos County has called in the National Guard. About a hundred guardsmen will operate a distribution center at Blinn College. From there, food, water and other sheltering resources will be given out as needed.

Also, the city of Bryan has extended an invitation to the City of Friendswood, offering shelter for the city's government operations and equipment. Specifics of the agreement are being worked out.