By Mary Torres, Special to MyRGV.com
We are in the midst of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season which started on June 1 and ends on November 30. According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service, atmospheric and oceanic conditions remain conducive for an above-average hurricane season.
The latest outlook reflects that the number of expected named storms (winds of 39 mph or greater) is 15-21, including 7-10 hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or greater), of which 3-5 could become major hurricanes (Category 3, 4, or 5 with winds 111 mph or greater). This updated outlook includes the seven named storms that have formed so far, with Hurricane Grace becoming the 7th named storm on record.
We’ve been fortunate so far that hurricanes have not impacted our area, but we’re in the most active part of the hurricane season. How prepared are you for the possibility of being in the path of a tropical storm, hurricane, or another type of weather-related disaster? How about other types of catastrophes such as a fire or burst plumbing? Outside of preparations you make to protect your family and home, which take precedence, do you have a disaster plan to ensure the safety of your important documents, and your genealogical research, including photos and family heirlooms whose sentimental value is priceless?
Basically, genealogists are family historians, but we’re also archivists. We don’t work in formal archives but we do have some of the same responsibilities that archivists do, such as collecting original records and photographs and organizing and preserving those records. It is therefore important to have a disaster plan in place and to keep your records in a state of preparedness in case of a disaster.
How do you prioritize? What items would you rescue? If you’re like most of us, it wouldn’t be easy to decide on short notice! Some things you can do now: digitize the most important documents and photographs in your collection; store genealogical records in archival safe materials like file folders, boxes and sleeves so that they are protected from the effects of disasters; backup computer files to external drives, the Cloud, or other media regularly, and send copies of the data to someone in another city for safekeeping. Important original documents should be placed in a safety deposit box.
In the event of an evacuation and you only had time to take one item, what would it be – family papers, photographs, grandma’s jewelry, a family bible, or a piece of your child’s artwork? Know how to locate your treasures quickly so that you can take them with you if you have to evacuate your home on short notice.
Museums, libraries, archives, and other institutions prepare written detailed disaster plans for protecting their collections. Your disaster plan doesn’t have to be lengthy, but it should address the family’s needs, and outline the steps needed to prepare for beforehand and what to do afterward. For more information on preservation, disaster planning, and clean-up guidelines, visit: The Texas Historical Commission, www.thc.state.tx.us; the National Archives, https://www.archives.gov/preservation/family-archives; Ancestry.com or other genealogy sites, and FEMA at https://www.fema.gov/ has information on preserving documents and lists the key steps to recover documents for FEMA disaster assistance.
You can also Google “Genealogy Disaster Plans” for more tips, hints, and sample outlines for preparing your own plan. Many local governments and entities publish hurricane guides and one, The 2021 Rio Grande Valley/Deep S. Texas Hurricane Guide is online at https://www.weather.gov/media/bro/tropical/guide/2021/English.pdf.
Harlingen Art Night in Downtown Harlingen will be held on Friday, Aug. 27, from 7 to 10 p.m. This wonderful Downtown Harlingen evening event held on the last Friday of every month, celebrates local art and artists. Merchants open up their businesses showcasing artists and offering refreshments, galleries host artists and exhibitions, live music is featured at various venues. There is an artist alley called ” Art on A St. ” where artists can showcase and sell their original work during the evening. Stroll down the twinkling lights of historic Downtown Harlingen and enjoy the murals, original art, live music, shops, and restaurants of beautiful Downtown Harlingen! For more information call the Downtown Office at (956) 216-4910.