*Editors Note: All the pictures we are using to show the flood devastation were taken by Corridor News. The picture above was taken In Wimberley on River Rd on Tuesday May 26, 2015. This silver Porsche is high centered on a red push lawn mower. According to residents and neighbors of the owner, the only thing left was the car, home and all belongings are gone.
Chief of Emergency Management Division Warns Of More Weather Events
Racked by flood and flash flood warnings, severe thunderstorm warnings, tornado watches and warnings, Texas has not escaped the wave of deadly weather incidents that have wreaked havoc nationwide in the last several weeks.
Citizens throughout the state have been rocked by recent weather events that have resulted in death and destruction from Central Texas to West Texas and from the Dallas-Fort Worth area to Houston. Following flooding on the Blanco River in Central Texas, five bodies have been recovered. Eight people are still missing in Hays County.
Rain that pounded Houston left malls flooded and strings of vehicles under water on local highways. Tornadoes in North Texas turned deadly.
And, according to Nim Kidd, chief of the Division of Emergency Management of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), it’s not over.
“We’re not out of this fight yet,” Kidd said during a Thursday press briefing regarding the state’s response to the weather tragedies. “We’ve still got a long way to go.”
To date, nearly 50 Texas counties have been included in a disaster declaration issued by Gov. Greg Abbott. Those declarations ensured that state resources were mobilized to those areas to assist those in the affected communities.
In spite of the horrific destruction of property and loss of life, representatives of state government, the American Red Cross, food banks, community nonprofits and religious groups from throughout the state and an army of volunteers moved in quickly after each weather event to assist with search and recovery efforts, cleanup and moral support for those affected. “None of the affected are not having their basic needs met,” said Kidd.
DPS, Texas Military Forces and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are conducting search and rescue missions, assisted by Texas Task Force 1. Medical assistance is being coordinated by the Texas Department of State Health Services, debris cleanup on highways is being led by the Texas Department of Transportation and various other agencies are providing assistance as those affected seek funding for storm cleanup and repairs and resolving problems such as loss of power and other utility issues.
Kidd said there will be even more requests for assistance, both from individuals and government entities “as the rain continues to increase and rivers continue to rise and more people are impacted.”
In the meantime, state and local officials are focusing on saving lives. “Turn around, don’t drown,” said Kidd, citing the DPS catch phrase that urges safety first during flooding events. “We’ve got to get that message out.” He said it is important for Texans to adhere to that message – don’t try to drive through what looks like a low water crossing and don’t drive around barricades set up by emergency crews in flooded areas.
The emergency official described flooding waterways as moving “very fast, very hard and very high.” He warned, “There’s nothing we can do to stop that but stay out of its way.”
Kidd urged Texans to invest in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radios that broadcast warnings of impending weather events from tornadoes to floods. “NOAA weather radios save lives,” he said. “You need one in your home and in your office.” Some of these radios are priced below $20, which Kidd said is a small price to pay to ensure one’s safety.
Qualifying for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will take some time, said Kidd. The state must reach a certain dollar threshold for major damages or destroyed homes or uninsured losses before additional assistance can be sought from the federal government. To determine that number, preliminary damage assessments (PDAs), disaster summaries for local governments, must be conducted in affected counties. PDAs have been completed in only a few of the counties that have damages. For instance, PDAs have been completed in West Texas and in Van, where tornadoes left a path of destruction earlier this month. Conducting PDAs in other areas has been more difficult. Officials had planned to conduct PDAs in Cook, Denton and Grayson counties, but had to reschedule when the rains returned. So, the dollar threshold statewide has not yet been determined.
Throughout these weather-related events, the State Operations Center has been active, drawing emergency personnel from major state agencies, utility companies, law enforcement, organizations such as the American Red Cross and Salvation Army and others – all working together to assist communities affected by these weather events and coordinating a statewide response.
Because the ground is so saturated over Texas, Kidd said it is likely that there will be more flooding. And, it will not be over when the rain stops, he added. The emergency official said the most staggering statistic that he’s heard through these events is that it will take 10-14 days to “de-water” the state once the rain stops. He explained that is how long it will take after the rains end before waterways in the state are no longer out of their banks.
“I’m not sure the worst is over yet.”