County skips worst of Harvey


While the worst of Hurricane Harvey missed Madison County, it still managed to dump more than 15 inches of rain over the weekend

The weather also put area residents on alert, and many prepared for the worst.

And when most of the water case shelves at the local grocery stores were bare, the residents of Madisonville still found themselves calm, collected and prepared as a whole.

“We’re just in here getting what we can right now and hoping for the best after that,” said Loris Price as she walked into Brookshire Brothers on Friday afternoon. “There’s really nothing huge we can do. It’s in God’s hands now.”

Other stores in town were also experiencing the same problems. Wal-Mart ran out of water cases as early as Thursday in anticipation for the storm and were reportedly running low on bread as well.

For Madisonville, like many Texas towns, the main concern ultimately was flooding.

“This is really the first hurricane we’ve had to worry about near our town since Hurricane Ike in 2008 and, of course, Katrina in ’05,” said Shelly Butts, emergency management coordinator for Madison County. “We’ve had our partners meeting and planning for this since Tuesday. We’ve been working with the state, local schools and businesses to make sure all the necessary supplies are in place and ready to go. We also had to worry about significant flooding twice in the last couple of years.”

The county as a whole was lucky enough to miss the worst of the initial storm, but will have to deal with heavy rain over the next couple of days or so. In fact, Butts stated on Monday morning that the last 12 hours were probably the worst for the storm locally. Still, precautions were taken and there were multiple road closures on county roads as well as other notable shutdowns.

However, numerous county and city residents didn’t hesitate, and started donation drives for necessary items, and many headed south with boats to help with rescue efforts.

Madisonville and North Zulch school districts were closed due to the storm and road conditions on Monday and Tuesday, which was supposed to be the first days of the new semester. Lake Madison Park is also closed for the time being.

Fire Chief Thom Jones said the Madisonville Fire Department manned station all weekend, just in case.

“All firefighters with boats were prepared, and we’ve been out with calls of trees down, cable TV lines across roads,” he said. “On Monday, we were out at Buc-ee’s helping retirees out of The Woodlands; on Tuesday morning helping with a water rescue south of Midway.”

Jones lauded the several church groups from Madisonville that sent boats down, as well as one of his volunteer firefighters who is down there helping.

Capt. Richard Morris of the Madisonville PD said that while the weekend was very slow, there were officers checking waterways in the city and patrolling the streets.

“We had officers come in on overtime just in case conditions got bad,” he said. “It was very slow over the weekend; slow on I-45, traffic in town was slow, everyone heeded the warnings and didn’t travel if they didn’t need to.”

Sheriff Travis Nealy said his deputies mainly stayed on top of flooding issues, which were few in the county.

There was no one underwater, and no water rescues of any kind (this weekend),” Nealy said. “I have some staff (and some jailers) that volunteered to go to Houston, and they’ve been helping with the water rescue. Many county residents have taken their boats to assist with efforts as well.”

City Manager Camilla Viator said city personnel kept out and monitored infrastructure, being ready in case of emergency. She commended Butts for her work to direct emergency efforts during this time.

Elsewhere, the county has not yet had to open any shelters for people or animals. Showers are expected to linger in the Madison County area until Friday and citizens are still urged to be extremely cautious as they go about their daily business.

Butts said she began work early last week in preparation, and held regular meetings with emergency responders and things developed.

As it got into the weekend, Butts said that there were numerous county roads needing closures, and the county exhausted its supply of barricades and relied on public information to keep people off dangerous roads.

“We are fortunate that we did not get more rain up north, so that our rivers weren’t out to begin with,” Butts said. “We have been very blessed that we were not hit with more rain.”