SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas – South Texas residents boarded up windows, put sandbags in flood-prone areas and moved their RVs from the edge of a beachside park that could be swamped by Hurricane Emily (search).
"You're luck can't be that good all of the time and we've been lucky," Cameron County park Ranger Arnold Flores said Monday. "We haven't been hit like Florida has."
Flores was trying to get the last of the die-hard campers to move their RVs from a park on the edge of South Padre Island's (search) beach.
"We started telling people they need to leave because we don't want to be responsible for someone getting hurt or something they could have avoided," he said.
Emily slammed into Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula (search) early Monday with strong winds, leaving behind flooding and other damage. Forecasters expected it to regain force over the Gulf of Mexico and hit the northeastern Mexican coast "as a major hurricane," as early as Tuesday night, the National Hurricane Center said.
Despite that projected path, the storm could still hit the southern tip of Texas, prompting many tourists on South Padre Island to pack up.
Cameron County Judge Gilberto Hinojosa ordered people in recreational vehicles to leave county parks on the island. Flores said almost 500 left the RV park on the beach with the initial plea and then another 75 left when the evacuation was made mandatory.
A steady stream of RVs headed north from the island resort. Twenty-five remained late Monday.
One of those was Henry Barrientes, who needed help from friends with a forklift and a semi-truck to haul his 34-foot vacation trailer away to a warehouse in Brownsville.
"We've done this so many times and nothing has happened," Barrientes said, expressing frustration that he was going to all this trouble for a storm that may bring only wind and rain. "We have been thinking how we were going to move it all summer long."
Hinojosa said authorities would monitor the hurricane's progress through the evening and planned to make a decision about whether to order further evacuations early Tuesday.
A total of 225 soldiers of the Texas Army National Guard were activated in case they are needed for hurricane duty, said Kathy Walt, spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry. An additional 100 Texas State Guard personnel were on standby.
Given the unpredictable nature of hurricanes, Carlos Acevedo, director of Cameron County's emergency communications district, said many South Texas residents were loading up on water, batteries and canned food, boarding up windows and removing any debris that the storm could sweep up and turn into a deadly projectile.
"It's just like having a baby," Acevedo said. "You know it is coming, but you don't know what to expect. It's not frustrating, but just an antsy feeling, just a feeling that something is pending — something that is going to require a lot of work once it does come our way."