August 31, 2020

Hurricane Laura Response Debriefing

To say we really dodged a bullet last week is a colossal understatement.  With 150 mph winds at landfall, Laura is tied for the fifth most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. since 1900, and is the strongest storm on record along its particular track in the Gulf of Mexico.  Our relief at having been spared from great devastation and destruction this time around is matched only by our compassion and support for our neighbors to the east, which was on display this past weekend with several local supply drives and other assistance efforts.

Though it ended up being a nonevent for us, the run-up to Laura was hardly much ado about nothing.  It was a very, very close call.  It was also an opportunity to demonstrate and evaluate our overall disaster preparedness.  The Bellaire emergency management team’s post-incident review gives us at least some idea of what’s involved in a response like this, and shows that we were indeed ready for any potential impacts.

August 24, 2020

Preparing for Tropical Storm Laura

Over the past several days the forecast models for Tropical Storm Laura have seemingly been all over the place, made even more unpredictable by the influence of Hurricane Marco (now downgraded back to a tropical storm).  Today the picture is a bit clearer, and while neither Laura’s path nor intensity are yet certain, experts are telling us we need to be prepared.  Based on what we know now we should anticipate at least moderate impacts, and potentially severe should the storm shift more in our direction and strengthen into a major hurricane, both very much still possibilities.

August 20, 2020

Safely Support Bellaire Restaurants by Dining Out, Outside

In time for (hopefully) cooler weather, Bellaire restaurants now have the option to convert some of their currently underutilized parking spaces to provide additional outdoor seating.  Largely modeled after the City of Houston’s More Space pilot program adopted earlier this month, Bellaire City Council has approved issuing temporary use permits to participating restaurants subject to certain minimum standards and safeguards.  Fees for the temporary permits will be waived.

The intent is to give our restaurants some much-needed relief from the prolonged economic effects of the ongoing pandemic, while allowing residents to begin dining out again, safely.  COVID-19 public health guidelines will apply the same in these expanded outdoor dining areas as they do inside.  There will also be specific requirements for the permitted spaces, such as seating layouts for social distancing, traffic plans, and physical barriers at the perimeter to keep cars separate from people.

Though we don’t know for how long restaurant occupancy restrictions will remain in effect, Council provided this temporary authorization until May 1 of next year.  That’s in recognition of the fact that even after the Governor lifts those restrictions many people still won’t feel completely safe in crowded dining rooms.  Plus, it gives restaurant owners added flexibility as they make their plans, including any upfront investments.

Bellaire residents have always valued and supported our local businesses, and this pandemic is no exception.  In fact, it’s now more important than ever that we do so.  We hope this initiative will help our restaurants in their economic recovery and make it easier for residents to Stay Loyal to Local, while also staying safe.