Dire warning in East Texas: ‘Get out or die’

With the Neches River threatening to flood, officials in Tyler County, Texas, carefully considered what to tell residents to get them to heed their advice to evacuate.

A post on the Tyler County Emergency Management Facebook page reads as follows: 

“The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers has advised the Tyler County office of Emergency Management that the flood gates were opened to 100 feet at 3:00 pm CSDST. River levels will rise to near seventy nine feet. With additional rain fall accumulations, a potential elevation could reach near eighty two feet. All residents ... who have not already evacuated must do so immediately. Anyone who chooses to not heed this directive cannot expect to be rescued and should write their social security numbers in permanent marker on their arm so their bodies can be identified. The loss of life and property is certain. GET OUT OR DIE!”

Tyler County Judge Jacques Blanchette told CNN on Thursday that he posted the blunt message on the county’s emergency management Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon to get the attention of residents accustomed to flooding along the Neches River north of Beaumont, Texas.

“These are friends; these are neighbors; these are people who live along the the Neches River,” Blanchette said. “They are accustomed to flooding of the Neches.”

He feared that those long-time residents would cavalierly regard this flood as no worse than previous ones.

THE LATEST: Updates from flood-ravaged Texas

But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages B.A. Steinhagen Lake along the Neches, had warned Tyler County officials that catastrophic flooding below the lake’s dam was imminent.

“The information we had access to ... was dire,” Blanchette said. “We agonized over just what we needed to say so that they got the message.”

As a result of the evacuation warning, Blanchette said, no lives were lost in the devastating flooding.

“Was it the right thing to say the right thing to do? I’m responsible for those lives,” Blanchette said. “It was extremely effective.”

His words were reminiscent of the advice that officials in Rockport gave residents of that Texas coastal town as Hurricane Harvey blew in.

"All the advice we can give is get out. Get out now," Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Rios told South Texas TV station KIII-TV before Harvey made landfall. "Those that are going to stay, it's unfortunate but they should make some type of preparations. Mark their arm with a Sharpie pen. Put their Social Security number on it and their name."

About the Author