By Alton Porter
Houston County's recently declared Local State of Disaster has been elevated to the level of a state recognized disaster.
Governor Greg Abbott's office on Wednesday, June 8, added the local Emergency Disaster Declaration for Houston County, initiated by County Judge Erin Ford, to a statewide disaster declaration that named other counties that were also drenched by heavy rainfall and flooding a little over two weeks ago.
Recognition and acceptance of the Houston County's declaration by the governor's office clears the way for the county to possibly receive state and/or federal financial assistance to help pay for repairs for more than $2 million in damages to roads and other county property caused by the storms.
The severe storms included heavy rainfall, high wind, flooding and excessive lightning, and the county received extensive uninsured physical and economic losses, according to Ford.
Ford had issued the Houston County declaration Tuesday, May 31, in the wake of the storms the previous week, and the Commissioners Court voted at a special called meeting Tuesday, June 7, to extend the declaration for an undetermined amount of time in expectation of the discovery of more damage and possibly new damage caused by more rain that had been forecasted.
After initially issuing the local declaration, Ford had sent letters to the governor's office and the Texas Department of Emergency Management to describe and explain the situation in Houston County, to establish a disaster declaration for the county at the state level and to request assistance.
According to Ford, virtually all of the county's 750 miles of roads had some level of damage caused by the rains, including damages to bridges and culverts and washed out portions of the roads.
He and Roger Dickey, county Emergency Management Coordinator, said that damage to the roads, bridges and culvert amounted to more than $2 million alone, without adding in damage to other county property.
The county's public utilities and the City of Crockett also sustained costly damages as a result of the storms, according to Dickey.
As of Wednesday, June 8, he said the city had reported some $100,000 in damages, due to the washing out of streets and damage to culverts, as well as damage to water pipelines. The city also reported some damage that was possibly caused by lightning, Dickey said.
Consolidated Water Supply Corp. had identified $80,000 worth of damage, primarily from "lines washed out of the ground," Dickey added.
He said Houston County Electric Co-Op had reported damage amounting to $30,000. The main source of this damage was broken light poles, downed electric lines and problems with transformers.
Dickey was careful to point out that these "numbers are still kind of soft," as employees of the city and utility companies are still in the process of making rounds and assessing damage.
He said officials also are bracing themselves for any additional damage that might be discovered and the possibility of additional damage that could be caused by more rain forecasted for late this weekend and early this coming week.