Friday, September 12, 2008
According to the Austin American-Statesman, 1000 prisoners in the Galveston County Jail, along with their jailers, are not being evacuated. Here's the article.
And here's a quote from the warning issued yesterday by the National Weather Service:
ALL NEIGHBORHOODS... AND POSSIBLY ENTIRE COASTAL COMMUNITIES... WILL BE INUNDATED DURING THE PERIOD OF PEAK STORM TIDE. PERSONS NOT HEEDING EVACUATION ORDERS IN SINGLE FAMILY ONE OR TWO STORY HOMES WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH.According to Google Earth and Google Maps, the Galveston County Jail, at 5700 Avenue H, Galveston, TX, is about 3 feet above sea level; the building appears to be two or maybe three storeys high.
(Note that jails, as opposed to prisons, are typically used to hold people awaiting trial; many the inmates, one must assume, haven't even been convicted of anything. Not that this makes the slightest bit of difference.)
Just to make sure the story doesn't vanish, here's the full article, copy-and-pasted from the web site:
UPDATE: According to another article in the Galveston County Daily News, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Office claims that "The inmates are safe, sound, and the jail is high and dry". The same article says the jail holds 1300 prisoners. The same spokesman says the jail is primarily on one level.
An estimated 1,000 prisoners remained locked in the Galveston County Jail this afternoon, as the Hurricane Ike began battering the island city with flooding.
County officials earlier had ordered a mandatory evacuation for all residents. Sheriff’s officials insisted the prisoners and jailers were safe and sound, in a 2-year-old building designed to withstand hurricanes.
A sheriff’s office spokesman said the plan was for the prisoners and jailers to weather the storm in place — unless an evacuation took place later today. Sheriff’s office spokesman Maj. Ray Tuttoilmondo told the Houston Chronicle that the reason for not evacuating the prisoners is a security issue and cannot be discussed,
Even so, he said, “the prisoners and their safety and well-being are paramount and it will be handled.”
In Austin, several legislative offices early this afternoon lodged angry complaints with Galveston County and state officials that the jail had not been evacuated — and perhaps would not be.
Forecasters earlier warned that Ike’s storm surge of as much as 20 feet is possible — a level that would put water 3 feet over the top of Galveston’s seawall.
Galveston and state emergency management officials early this afternoon said they were checking on the situation at the jail.
I really hope that this isn't as bad as it sounds, and that I end up looking like a panicking fool in a day or two.
UPDATE 2: It's possible that the Sheriff's Office has plans to evacuate the jail, or perhaps has already done so, but they're just keeping the plans secret for security reasons. As an article in the Houston Chronicle hints:
Any decision to move the prisoners would be kept secret for security reasons, as happened before Hurricane Rita in 2005, he said.We'll see.
"We did this during Rita and no one knew until it was absolutely done," Tuttoilmondo said.
Galveston County Judge Jim Yarbrough said search and rescue efforts would be fully under way today as more help streamed into the county.The sheriff's office didn't evacuate county prisoners, and Yarbrough said they were unharmed as Saturda'.s storm surge failed to reach the county jail or Justice Center on 57th Street."The good Lord took care of those 1,050 inmates," Yarbrough said. "There was no rising water, but some wind-driven rain did make it into the law building."