HOUSTON — Hurricane Ike made landfall in Texas on Sept. 13 as a Category 2 hurricane. In Houston, nearly the entire city was without power, and residents suffered significant damage due to winds, downed trees and flooding.
Bonnie Russell, assistant superintendent of transportation for Houston Independent School District (HISD), reported that in preparation for the storm, district school buses were parked in the shelter of the district’s two stadiums in “storm formation,” with newer buses on the inside of the stack and older buses at the perimeter.
The transportation department began 24/7 operations Sept. 12, when all campuses were closed, with its emergency response team located in a command center set up at one of the district’s transportation sites. Winds dropped below tropical storm force on Sept. 13, and HISD buses began transporting evacuees to primary shelter sites.
On Sept. 15, 24-hour on-site security teams were formed to oversee the fleets and prevent loss of fuel or vandalism at the storm formation sites. Later, a fuel acquisition program for district employees was established.
The transportation department was involved in recovery efforts throughout the month. HISD bus drivers transported evacuees, Houston Fire Department trainees and out-of-town power workers from hotels to work dispatch locations. Drivers also assisted the HISD food services department in emptying freezers and coolers at the district’s approximately 300 campuses and assisted the HISD facilities department in cleanup and repair at campuses and other district sites.
The transportation department took students on field trips to provide educational opportunities for students at campuses that had not yet re-opened due to power outages.
“Throughout this event, I have been so impressed, so proud and feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to work with such dedicated teams as those here at Houston ISD and especially the transportation department,” Russell said. “It is really something to see a well-functioning team get to ‘stretch its legs’ when faced with continuing difficult challenges, yet see them over and over again be successful at the highest level.”
More on this story, including additional photos, will appear in the November issue of SBF.