Southern Texas prepares for a possible strike from Hurricane Dean

HOUSTON – Even with powerful Hurricane Dean days away and its path uncertain, officials in sodden south Texas left little to chance yesterday, readying planes, gasoline and hundreds of buses to get residents out in a hurry.

Authorities passed out sandbags, evacuated inmates and opened emergency operations centers in a region still soaked from the remnants of Tropical Storm Erin, which caused severe flooding and at least one death yesterday in Oklahoma.

“We’re preparing for Hurricane Dean just as if it is going to be direct hit,” said Johnny Cavazos, the chief emergency director for Cameron County at the state’s southernmost tip.

A state of emergency was declared in the resort town of South Padre Island. About 3,300 jail and prison inmates in the area were to be bused to correctional facilities else where by yesterday night.

In Washington, R. David Paulison, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said up to 100,000 people might have to be evacuated from the state’s southeastern coast and its immigrant shantytowns near the Mexican border. The storm is on course for northern Mexico, but could shift and hit the region around Brownsville, Texas, Paulison said.

In Oklahoma, what was left of Erin flooded homes and roads and blacked out thousands of customers, mostly in the Oklahoma City area. One drowning was blamed on the flooding and a motorist was missing, local and state officials said.