A coastal low-pressure system and remnants of moisture from now-dissipated Hurricane Patricia brought off-and-on heavy showers to Galveston County on Saturday evening.
Starting late Saturday afternoon, rains swept through the region, at times dumping more than 2 inches an hour. Weather forecasters warned that the county could see as much as 9 inches of rain by Sunday morning.
Late in the afternoon, the air was thick with humidity and rain drenched downtown streets. The Galveston Island Oktoberfest — held under tents with vendors serving beer, sausages and other treats near 23rd and Winnie streets — drew far smaller crowds than Friday night.
But the soggy afternoon hadn’t discouraged everyone from coming out. At 5 p.m., a few dozen people were at the event. Some ran from tent to tent carrying steins and seeking shelter from the rain. Others huddled under a long tent near a band.
“Of course it does bother us a little bit, but it’s not going to keep us from having a good time,” Ken Ramsell said as he stood under an orange umbrella holding a stein of beer. “It’s all good.”
However, the rains eventually brought an early end to the festivities when the sponsor, the First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Galveston, announced the festival would be packing it in five hours earlier than planned.
A waterspout was spotted near Jamaica Beach in the afternoon. And residents reported a small cyclone had passed swiftly through Galveston’s East End early Saturday evening near 8th and Winnie streets, causing minor wind damage.
“My house started shaking,” Cindy Ramirez said. “I thought it was just the wind. The next thing I know, it sounded like a train and my windows started rattling.”
It stirred up some debris on the street and damaged part of her neighbor’s roof, Ramirez said.
Mark Keehn, a spokesman for the National Weather Service said the agency had not spotted anything on the radar, but “waterspouts are very difficult to detect.” When a waterspout comes on land it is considered a small cyclone, he said.
In La Marque and Texas City there was no evidence of street flooding as of press time Saturday evening.
“The rain was really coming down, but it’s slacked off and now it’s just drizzling,” Texas City resident Jose Boix said about 8 p.m. Saturday.
Saturday morning, Galveston County Judge Mark Henry had suggested a voluntary evacuation of Bolivar Peninsula in case weather conditions hampered emergency responders from getting to residents in need.
Charlotte Stirling and family live near Crenshaw Elementary School about seven rows back from the water on a wide part of the beach. They hadn’t experienced any problems, Stirling said Saturday evening.
The Stirling family chose to stay on the peninsula.
“We knew the conditions might be extreme,” Stirling said. “We chose to hunker down. We really have not had many problems.
“We are comfortable; we have provisions, a generator if we need it. We’re hurricane prepared.”
In San Leon, however, the tides were rising late Saturday and Ginger Grutzius was becoming increasingly alarmed.
Rain had been steady all day with occasional strong blasts and the bay water was rising.
The owner of Ginger’s Coastal Eatery & Sports Bar, 2007 E. Bayshore Drive in San Leon, which is only a little more than 6 feet above sea level, Grutzius was ready with rented pumps.
Also on standby was a U-Haul trailer to carry equipment and furnishings from her establishment.
Grutzius had planned to organize a grand opening Sunday, but canceled.
“It rained on my parade,” she said.
League City resident Rick Wade and family also were waiting to see what the night would bring.
The Wades had ventured out to Crazy Alan’s Swamp Shack in Kemah that evening, but had settled in at home to watch movies as they awaited what was expected to be heavy rains later in the night and early morning.
Clear Creek was rising, Wade said.
“We’re hunkering down and not heading out,” Wade said.
As of Saturday night, the Galveston Port-Bolivar ferry had been operating normally. Likewise, cruise ships were also still on normal schedule, Port of Galveston Director Mike Mierzwa said.
Daily News Business Editor Laura Elder contributed to this report.
After a deadly motorcycle accident required the sheriff’s office to shut down Interstate 45 in December 2013, a reserve deputy directing traffic was injured. A motorist drove around the barricade and slammed into the deputy’s patrol cruiser. The deputy, who was standing behind his car, suffered a broken leg.
Sheriff Henry Trochesset remembers another close call during a different fatality accident investigation. A deputy, whose car was parked sideways on the interstate, sat down in his patrol unit to make a radio call when a drunken driver struck the front of his vehicle. The front of the patrol car was smashed; the deputy left the scene with a cut on his forehead.
The close calls show a risk officers face every day on the road. However, law enforcement officials and experts say these types of deaths don’t garner the same attention as felony shootings, despite nearly half of all officer deaths occurring during accidental traffic-related incidents in the past decade, according to FBI statistics.
“You rarely hear outrage in the public if an officer is killed in a traffic accident,” Trochesset said. “Every day somebody puts on a uniform, there’s that risk.”
On Monday, the FBI released statistics showing 96 police officers were killed in the line of duty in 2014. The report showed 51 officers slain during criminal acts; most were shot and killed. The remaining 45 officers died in accidents, including traffic and other situations such as drowning. In its news release, the bureau notes the officers killed during criminal acts was a spike from 2013 but fewer than the two years before.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group, tracks the figures differently. While the FBI generally tracks accidental deaths versus criminal killings, the nonprofit organization divides the statistics into three areas: firearms, traffic-related and other causes, predominantly health-related deaths. Its research shows fatalities related to traffic incidents — accidental and criminal, such as being struck by a drunken driver — were the leading cause of death during 14 out of the past 16 years.
“A lot of attention is put on officers being shot, and rightfully so,” said Steve Groeninger, a spokesman for the nonprofit organization. “But traffic-related incidents are the leading cause of death. We view many of the traffic-related deaths as preventable.
“This can be a hard piece of candy for the public to chew on.”
The traffic-related deaths are preventable for several reasons, Groeninger said. For example, of the 49 crash-related deaths in 2014, 20 were single-vehicle wrecks, according to the organization, which advocates mandating every officer wear seat belts.
In conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the organization also pushes for enforcement of “move over” laws, which require motorists slow down and leave an open lane for officers stopped on the side of the road. A version of the law exists in every state, according to the organization.
The Dickinson Police Department, which covers a section of Interstate 45, asked motorists to help shorten the time officers spend on the side of the road during traffic stops.
“Be patient and understand that if there is disagreement related to a violation, that a disagreement should be presented in court and not on the side of the road during the stop,” Patrol Captain Jay Jaekel said.
Facing a cancer diagnosis alone might make for drama in a play, movie or book; but, in real life, cancer outcomes are generally better with the support of family, contemporaries and peers.
Stella Turrubiate, an oncology nurse at the University of Texas Medical Branch, said she sees the value of support groups every day.
“When you belong to a group of women, it just feels right,” she said. “It offers a place where you can be vulnerable, but still be able to laugh and allow others to know you as a friend.”
Turrubiate refers to these groups as “sisterhoods of survival.” She said that although many women were hesitant to sign on, the benefits were beyond dispute.
“I’ve seen the way each woman has blossomed from being slightly nervous and quiet to empowered and self-assured,” she said. “They walk in not knowing one another and question whether it will really help them. But as each opens up, it draws them together. Each tells a story of their journey which provides comfort, strength and wisdom to the others. This is their time and their place of security to speak of all that matters to them.
“I believe attending a support group does make a difference in how one deals with breast care during and after treatment.”
Vicky Tobleman of Texas City wasn’t planning on being here. Her family had no history of this disease when her tumor was detected two years ago.
“When you are initially diagnosed, your world is in chaos, nothing seems to make sense, and you are looking for answers, for information, for direction,” she said. “Following one of these meetings with the surgeons, Stella encouraged me to attend a support group.”
A self-described “private person,” Tobleman was hesitant to attend that first session.
“It was an eye-opening experience and I was hooked,” she said. “I had found a home base for my journey. Over the months of surgeries and chemotherapies, I, along with my fantastic sister Terry who was my rock, and the support of a core group of members and facilitators helped me get through to the other side of some really rough treatments.
“Everyone in the group had either been through the same thing or were going through it.”
Now in remission, Tobleman continues to attend the Reconstruction of a Survivor support group.
“During our sessions we laugh, we cry, we talk about things that only women that have experienced what we have experienced really understand,” she said. “It’s our safe place, our haven.”
Jennifer Baer of Friendswood, was also cautious about joining a group.
“I thought I was doing fine without it and was busy with work and family and thought it would take too much time.”
Now, she has become completely convinced of the value of such support.
“Hearing how others have dealt with similar issues has been wonderful,” she said. “There is a camaraderie from having a shared experience that brings comfort. I would say access all the help you can and even with a supportive family and friends, it really does help to talk to someone who has gone through what you are going through. It helps to see that they made it and so can you.”
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