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The long anticipated summer travel season has arrived and thousands are preparing for family outings and vacations, dragging out their camping gear and setting their travel plans in order. But for residents along the Texas Gulf coast, the potential call to immediate action and on-the-spur-of-the-moment getaways go hand in hand with the summer season, and if this year's hurricane outlook is anything last the last, Lone Star coastal dwellers may be in for the ride of their lives.

It's easy to be pessimistic on the heels of last year's record setting hurricane season. Those images of storm-stricken Biloxi and New Orleans are enough to last a lifetime, and the close calls and near misses of most every season keeps us mindful that Texans are no more immune to storm threat than cows are of flies.

After all, we have a long history of serious storm assault. First to come to mind is the 1900 Galveston Hurricane, often called Isaac's Storm, that decimated Galveston Island leaving in its wake an estimated 6,000 dead.

In 1957, Hurricane Audrey assailed the Texas-Louisianna border. Hurricane Carla made her debut near Corpus Christi-Port Lavaca in 1961 flooding nearly one-third of the state with a deluge of rainfall and an outbreak of serious tornadoes.

Other notable storms include:

Beulah - Rio Grande Valley near the mouth of the Rio Grande in 1967
Celia - hit just north of Corpus Christi in 1970
Allen - hit the Rio Grande Valley near Brownsville in 1980
Alicia - hit Houston in 1983
Gilbert - Rio Grande Valley (after hitting northern Mexico) in 1988

But so much for history. We are all aware that Texas, along with the Carolinas and Florida, is one of the most prone states to hurricane threat. The question isn't whether we are at risk from such a natural disaster, but are we ready?

We don't have to look very far back to realize the answer to that question is a resounding "NO". Last year, as Hurricane Katrina approached the coastline, there was a reasonable possibility the major storm could hit the Houston-Galveston metroplex. Immediately roads and highways were clogged with evacuees. Traffic slowed to a stand still. If Katrina had made landfall in Texas, hundreds of thousands would have been trapped on the side of the road in their cars, trucks and RVs.

The same potential hazard exists for residents of the Rio Grande Valley. With only two major evacuation routes out of the Valley (U.S. 77 to Corpus Christi and U.S. 281 to Alice-San Antonio)  storm planners predict serious traffic problems as the million-plus residents of the Valley flee the coastline. And if the Mexican border towns of Matamoros and Reynosa should opt to evacuate through the Valley, problems could even get worse.

Even Corpus Christi-Port Aransas-Rockport area residents may have problems fleeing up Interstate 37 to San Antonio, or up the coastline via U.S. 77 (to Victoria) -- too many people, too many cars, and never enough gas or time.

So -- what to do?

If you're an RVer you know well your susceptibility to high winds and water. Experienced RVers and safety consultants will tell you never try riding out a storm in an RV. But RVers willing to vacate an area well ahead of the storm may be the ones with all the luck when the sheets of wind hit the coastal fan.

For one, RVers have bigger tanks for fuel and water. If you can get far enough away from the coast to avoid heavy winds, you can always hunker down at an inland RV park or campground, preferably under the cover of large trees or out buildings to further guard you against the weather.

And paying to stay in a park is still far less costly than putting up in a hotel, and offers more privacy than sleeping ina relative's living room or den. You can still cook you own meals, and there is a degree of privacy and that feeling of "being at home" that you can't get otherwise when displaced by a storm or disaster.

If you're making your early hurricane plans and are an RV owner, there's always concern over protecting your investment. So why not make plans to evacuate at first warning and take a long road trip inland where conditions are much safer. Even if you get stuck away from home for a week, a month or more, you at least have the comfort of being in your "second home" and surrounded by your own things.

Watch for future how-to articles that will guide you through the process of evacuating with/in an RV. Until then, keep your eyes on the coast and your RV full of gas!