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For the first time in its history, Harris County is using bilingual English-Spanish digital billboards to remind residents about the upcoming hurricane season, which starts on June 1 and will end on November 30.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced the campaign on Thursday. As in previous years, the digital billboards display a countdown to hurricane season and preparedness messages. Clear Channel Outdoor is providing 12 digital billboards and four traditional billboards.
Hidalgo took office in January after delivering one of the biggest political upsets of the 2018 midterm elections and defeating longtime incumbent Ed Emmett. Hidalgo is originally from Colombia and has made bilingualism a main feature of her administration, speaking in English and Spanish at all her news conferences.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 43 percent of Harris County’s population is Hispanic.
“If you are new to Harris County, remember: We have the threats of hurricanes and floods, that’s something that our region faces,” Hidalgo noted. She also emphasized the importance of having a plan and an emergency kit in case of an emergency, such as having to evacuate because of a hurricane.
The county provides practical tips on emergency kits on the website for its Office of Emergency Management, commonly known as Ready Harris, which can be translated to Spanish, as well as French, Chinese and Vietnamese. In addition, residents can sign up for alerts about severe weather.
Hidalgo also recommended residents consider getting a flood insurance policy through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). She underscored that many houses and structures that flooded during Harvey were not in flood zones. Harris County officials are working on new floodplain maps that better reflect the areas that could be at risk by using new topographic and predictive rainfall data.
Hidalgo also talked about federal funding that Harris County now has at its disposal to assist Harvey victims. In January, the Commissioners Court accepted more than $909 million to support local rebuilding efforts following the devastation of the hurricane. The majority of the funds are going toward housing related projects, starting with home repair, reconstruction, buyout and reimbursements for homeowners on repairs made at their own expense.
This month, the Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University released its forecast for the 2019 hurricane season. Researchers estimate 13 named storms will develop in the Atlantic hurricane region. The forecast calls for five hurricanes and two major hurricanes, meaning storms that are classified as a category three or greater with winds in excess of 111 mph.