GALVESTON, Texas – Galveston County Judge Mark Henry issued a disaster declaration for the area just hours after the city of Galveston issued a voluntary evacuation order ahead of Tropical Storm Laura. The voluntary evacuation has since upgraded to a mandatory evacuation as of Tuesday.
According to Henry, the disaster declaration affects multiple areas including, Tiki Island, San Leon, Baycliff, Hitchcock, the Bolivar Peninsula and Galveston.
“Forecasts are showing the possibility of heavy rains, tropical force winds, and storm surge impacting our area,” Henry said in a press conference Monday afternoon. “This storm potentially presents a serious threat to the life safety and property of our residents.”
Earlier Monday, Galveston officials urged people who live in low-lying areas west of the end of the seawall are encouraged to evacuate the area as Laura approaches the coast.
“We urge our residents living in these areas to make preparations to leave,” the release read. “Higher than normal tides ahead of the storm may make some roads impassable so it is important to act quickly and carefully.”
The city also asked anyone who is not a resident or an employee on the island to go home. RV parks in the area were also asked to close and guests were asked to vacate.
“There is still a high degree of uncertainty regarding the track and strength of this storm,” officials wrote in the news release. “Residents should be aware changes could occur quickly, necessitating a mandatory evacuation of the island as early as tonight or tomorrow morning depending on developments in the storm.”
Henry said he anticipates there will be a voluntary evacuation order for the Bolivar Peninsula put into effect Tuesday morning.
“It’s voluntary because, if you’ve got enough supplies to last until Saturday and you don’t have to go anywhere and you don’t have to have electricity for life safety, you don’t have to leave. You’re welcome to stay.” Henry said. “If you don’t meet those criteria and also understand (that) I may not be able to get an ambulance to you ... if those things are OK with you, you can stay.”
The latest track has Laura set to make landfall in southwest Louisiana, but there is still a possibility that she could track closer to the Galveston-Houston area.
Laura is expected to make landfall as a Category 2 hurricane with winds upwards of 100 miles per hour.