While Hurricane Gustav moved past Cuba and through the Gulf of Mexico Saturday, Walker County authorities participated in several meetings and conference calls to learn more about its future path.

According to information released by the National Weather Service, the storm was moving at a rate of 15 mph on a course which would result in landfall near central Louisiana, making east Texas a likely area for rain and high winds.

According to Danny Pierce, Walker County emergency management director, all Walker County residents are advised to prepare for at least a heavy rain event.

“Hurricane Gustav is strengthening in the Caribbean and is preparing to enter the Gulf of Mexico,” Pierce said Saturday. “Although forecasters predict this storm will not make landfall on the Texas coast, we are in no way out of harm’s way.

“It is too early to totally rule out a Texas landfall, and even if Walker County were to escape the direct fury of this powerful storm, a scenario may be setting up for this system to move over the east Texas area and stall.

“If this scenario were to materialize, areas east of Interstate 45, which would include Walker County, may experience a very serious heavy rain event.”

Where the storm makes landfall, Pierce said, will depend heavily on whether or not it maintains its current rate of speed.

“It’s a good thing for us when it travels at 15 mph, because if it maintains that speed across Cuba and the gulf, it will stay pretty well on course toward central Louisiana,” he said. “If it slows down, then more than likely it will bump west, which would mean it would be coming right at us.”

As of Saturday morning, the Walker County Emergency Operation Center was fully activated, and personnel will be on hand throughout the course of the storm.

“Due to this potential threat, I am recommending that all Walker County residents remain vigilant,” Pierce said. “The adverse affects of this storm may be mitigated by residents taking preparatory action now.

“I am advising all residents to immediately review their respective personal and family emergency plans. This would include completing a personal assessment and inventory of critical items to include food, water, medications, fuel, important documents, and any other necessary items.”

Pierce said families should maintain a supply kit which is both waterproof and easy to lift in case of an emergency.

“Some of the items which should be included in the kit would be a first aid kit, a road map, plenty of batteries for radios and televisions, photo identification and proof of residence,” he said. “Cash should also be included in the kit as, during a storm, ATMs may not be functional.”

Statewide, Davis said authorities are putting extra law enforcement resources along the state line from Corpus Christi to Beaumont, and coastal authorities are expected to decide today about their own evacuation plans.

Locally, Pierce said additional law enforcement officials from the Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Department of Transportation officials will be stationed near Interstate 45 if needed.

“We’re a lot better organized for this storm, and I think we’re about as prepared as we can be,” Pierce said. “During a situation like this, we’ll definitely have more law enforcement on hand.

“Congregated in the area adjacent to the interstate, we’ll have at least 10 state troopers in Walker County and 48 TxDOT personnel.”

The Emergency Operation Center will have several means of communication on hand throughout the storm, Davis said.

The center can be reached at any time during the storm at (936) 435-2400.

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