During June heavy storms and rains soaked a large part of the state, leaving much of Central, North and East Texas vulnerable to severe and sustained flooding. Roads were shut down, entire playgrounds were buried, homes and businesses were destroyed, and lives were lost.
As of press time, Gov. Perry had issued a state disaster declaration for 44 counties including: Archer, Baylor, Bell, Blanco, Bosque, Brown, Burnet, Callahan, Coleman, Collin, Comanche, Cooke, Coryell, Denton, Eastland, Ellis, Fannin, Gillespie, Grayson, Hamilton, Hood, Hunt, Jones, Lamar, Lampasas, Lipscomb, Llano, Mason, McLennan, Menard, Mills, Ochiltree, Parker, Runnels, San Saba, Starr, Stephens, Tarrant, Travis, Webb, Wichita, Williamson, Wise and Young.
County officials have played a crucial role in the disaster response.
Between 10 p.m. June 26 and 6 a.m. June 27, southern Burnet County, including the Marble Falls area, received 19 to 20 inches of rain. The National Weather Service called it a “Rain Bomb.”
The following letter, penned by Burnet County Judge Donna Klaeger and posted on the county Web site, offers a unique glimpse into the area response effort, highlighting the intrinsic value of bold leadership coupled with community spirit.
July 6, 2007
Letter to the editor:
Citizens of Burnet County:
First and foremost, please remember the families of Bradley McMellon and Paul Slinkard, the two young men who are missing. Pray for those who lost their homes and businesses and personal properties. (As of press time, searchers continued to fear that floodwaters may have washed McMellon and Slinkard into Lake Travis.)
Last week’s flood devastated much of our property, but can never devastate our sense of community. It was by the grace of God that this storm hit us in the middle of the night and in the middle of the week, with very little personal injuries to our citizens.
I cannot begin to thank everyone for their assistance in our time of response to the disaster. The state of Texas, surrounding communities, our local law enforcement, every volunteer fire department, EMS, churches, social services, nonprofits, media and citizens, alike responded to our needs. It is my intent to send a letter of thanks to everyone from Burnet County, so please send me names and addresses, and we will make sure they receive a thank-you.
While the flood lasted only a few hours, the recovery will take months or even years. We need to continue to unite and work together to get through the recovery. We know through experience in watching other disasters throughout the country that it takes time for the federal government to respond. So we must do what we do best, TAKE CARE OF OURSELVES and hope and pray that there will be aid forthcoming.
It is amazing that we just spent six months as a community training in emergency management. The hours spent not only learning procedures, but learning how each of our separate entities can work together, proved invaluable.
Where we are today: On June 27, 2007, I declared Burnet County a local disaster because of flood. It is our understanding that at the end of last week, Governor Perry declared our community, along with some 35+ counties, a state disaster. Six counties in the state of Texas were declared a federal emergency because of flood that began on May 23, 2007. Governor Perry has requested to FEMA that the additional 35+ counties be added to the federal declaration. Our state senators have written President Bush a letter in support of this request.
We are told by the State Coordinating Officer that we could be added at “any time.” So, we have spent this week, getting ready. Burnet County submitted our preliminary Disaster Summary on Monday, July 2, which immediately initiated our FEMA, SBA and Governor’s Emergency Management teams to verify assessments on July 3, 5, and 6, 2007. At the end of today, July 6, 2007, we will have completed the verification requirement. Our first amendment to the Disaster Summary is set to be submitted on Monday, July 9, 2007.
We are applying for two different assistant programs: Individual Assistance which covers individual and business damages, and Public Assistance, which covers roads, bridges, low-water crossings and parks. One is not contingent upon the other.
As soon as we receive notice that we have been declared a federal disaster, we will get the word to you immediately with instructions as to your next steps. At that time, you will be dealing directly with FEMA and/or SBA. You can go online to their Web sites to get an idea of what assistance you might qualify for. Again, we have been advised to let you know to not “register” with either organization UNTIL we are officially declared a federal disaster area. I do believe that it WILL happen, just have no idea of when. Even after we receive this declaration (again, IF), it will take time for their FEMA teams to deploy into our communities to meet with you individually. I expect weeks not days.
What do you do until then?
County road and low water damages: contact 512-756-5420
City roads, bridges, etc.: contact your local city office
Agricultural damages including fencing, tanks, debris removal if it interferes with farming: contact 512-556-5572, Ext. 2.
Subdivision roads, bridges: contact your local POA.
Personal property damage: contact your insurance company
NOTE: It is against the law for the county to perform any service on private property.
Personal needs: housing, clothing, food, counseling, volunteering: contact: 830-693-0700.
The Long Term Recovery Committee for Burnet and Llano counties has been established and will have their first official meeting at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church on Hwy 1431 in Marble Falls at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 8. Central Operations for the Long Term Recovery Committee will be coordinated out of the Family Services Center at 1016 Broadway in Marble Falls. Coordinating locations throughout the counties are being identified and will be published following Saturday’s meeting. Everyone who wishes to continue voluntarily providing assistance to the citizens of these counties is invited to attend the meeting. For information, requests for assistance or opportunities to volunteer, please call 830-693-0700. For clean-up volunteer opportunities within Marble Falls, please call City Hall at 693-3615.
Donations: If you would like to make a donation to those who experienced loss from the flood, visit highlandlakeslegacyfund.org, Burnet County Flood Relief Fund, or mail a check to Burnet County Relief Fund, in care of The Legacy Fund, 608 Gateway Central, Suite 200, Marble Falls, TX 78654. Your donations through this fund will be tax deductible.
Please convey your needs to the numbers above, seek assistance with our local community organizations, and understand that we will get word to you as soon as we receive it. Patience is a necessity as we all work together to get through this disaster.
The flood may have caused tremendous property damage, but we MUST not let it dampen our spirit as a community. We must continue to take care of ourselves and our neighbors and pray that we will get outside assistance soon.
Thank you again to all who serve.
To those in need, you are in our continuous thoughts and prayers.
Your County Judge, Donna Klaeger
Wichita County Flooding
Wichita County received more than 20 inches of rain in a three-week period. Some 189 homes experienced water seepage, with at least 50 enduring high-water damage.
Gordon Griffith is both a Wichita County commissioner and a farmer.
Twenty of the 26 gravel roads in Griffith’s Precinct 3 suffered flood damage and will require repair work on the base and culverts. Approximately one-third of the paved roads also sustained damaged.
While coordinating these repairs, Griffith was simultaneously surveying his personal damages. Griffith’s 60-acre farm was buried by 3 to 8 feet of water, and he lost 15 pieces of equipment and many of his collectibles.
Griffith’s constituents fondly refer to him as the “Commissioner of Football, ” as he chairs the Top of Texas Football League. In fact, a local field has been named in his honor.
Griffith’s personal loss has given him a special perspective, allowing him to offer his friends and constituents not only guidance and sympathy, but empathy as well.