Mayor Joe McComb: What we learned from Hurricane Harvey

It has been about two and a half weeks since Hurricane Harvey hit -- enough time to think about what went right and what could have been better in terms of the City of Corpus Christi's response to the storm.

CORPUS CHRISTI (KIII NEWS) - It has been about two and a half weeks since Hurricane Harvey hit -- enough time to think about what went right and what could have been better in terms of the City of Corpus Christi's response to the storm.

Mayor Joe McComb knows about disasters. He was in Corpus Christi in 1970 during Hurricane Celia, and he lost his daughter-in-law and grandchildren in the 2015 Wimberley floods; but as Hurricane Harvey was approaching the Coastal Bend, many criticized some of his decisions.

Even though McComb said some things could have gone better, he stands by how the City acted and responded to keep people as safe as possible.

"These guys kept their focus and it paid off," McComb said.

McComb said he and his team of City leaders spent hours in a room debating what would be best for Corpus Christi when Hurricane Harvey hit. They urged anyone in low-lying areas like Padre Island and Flour Bluff to get out, but he knew the winds would not get to the same strength as Hurricane Celia did in 1970.

Ultimately, the mayor made a decision on Aug. 24 that many were unhappy with -- not calling a mandatory evacuation in Corpus Christi, and saying it is not the government's job to tell people what to do.

"It just kind of boggles my mind that people are waiting for somebody to make decisions for them. If you feel it's in your best interest to get out of town, then get out of town. There was nothing mandatory to stay," McComb said. "We just felt like as a community that would be the best interest of our people, to stay put and out of harms way and ride it out."

Not only did McComb feel that it was a success when all was said and done, but the City also bussed hundreds of people to shelters in San Antonio, almost exactly as had been in planning for the last four years.

"To my knowledge, I think everyone is home now," McComb said. "That worked out well."

But there were some things that did not work out so well -- things that McComb said are already being looked at. For instance, the fact that the O.N. Stevens Water Treatment Facility lost power, prompting a water boil that many could not handle without electricity.

"We need to make sure we're testing those generators on a monthly basis," McComb said. "I mean we may test them for months for four years or over, but we need to know when we flip a switch on a generator it's going to work."

Still, overall, the City's preparations worked.

"We've pulled together before, we'll pull together again and just keep moving to the future," McComb said.

McComb also said they need to identify backup chemical suppliers for our water because many that we rely on along the Texas Gulf Coast started shutting down as Harvey moved north. We could have had a complete water shutdown ourselves if we did not meet TCEQ requirements.

© 2017 KIII-TV


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