Texas, federal government will begin tallying damage from spring storms, Gov. Greg Abbott says


Texas and the federal government will begin assessing the damage caused by a series of storms that battered rural East Texas and the Houston area with rain last week.

Gov. Greg Abbott and the state’s emergency director Nim Kidd, at a news conference Monday in Conroe, urged residents to report damaged property to their insurance companies and the state.

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Abbott also confirmed three deaths related to the storms: A Conroe police officer who died after a tornado hit his home in Trinity County, a 4-year-old boy in Johnson County, and a man in Bosque County.

No deaths have been reported in the counties that saw the worst flooding, including Polk, Montgomery, Liberty and Harris counties.

Abbott’s office has declared emergencies in 91 counties following the spring storms, he said. More than 230 local, state, and federal agencies were involved in rescue operations. The state evacuated 124 people and rescued 58, Abbott said. Hundreds more were rescued by local first responders and volunteers.

More than 50 state roads and highways remained impassable, Abbott said. Forty-three were closed at certain points due to flooding and another 14 were closed due to damage. Other local roads may also be dangerous, he said.

Officials urged residents to be careful as they returned to their homes and property and obey road closures if necessary.

“Rain is not falling where we are right now,” Abbott said. “There could be some people who think, ‘Well, you know what we may be out of the woods.’ That would not be the correct thing to think.”

The Texas Division of Emergency Management is accepting self-reported surveys, which residents can find online under “Spring Severe Weather and Flooding Event” to specify the damages. The tool is also available in Spanish.

Texas needs to report 800 uninsured homes that sustained damage to qualify for federal assistance, Kidd said. It also needs to demonstrate the state suffered $54 million in uninsured damage to government infrastructure.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency can award up to $75,000 in grants for repairs, Kidd said. The average payout after Hurricane Harvey in 2017 was $2,400 per household. Only 501 people have registered a claim with their flood insurance as of last night, Kidd said.

“I believe we’re going to hit that [number] for this event, but I’ve gotta be able to demonstrate those numbers to our federal partners,” Kidd said.

Meanwhile, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo lifted the mandatory evacuation order on Monday morning. Polk County officials are upholding theirs for low-lying areas near the Lake Livingston Dam, according to the county emergency management office’s social media.

North of Harris, Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough said on Monday that the county would begin recovery efforts.

On Friday, the rivers in Southeast Texas were already swelling with excess water from the rainfall. In Polk County, the Trinity River’s gauge north of the city of Shepard recorded the water rose to 49 feet, which was 12 feet above flood stage. The Trinity River flows into Lake Livingston. The flood gauge on Monday had only lessened two feet, well above the point of a major flood stage.

In Central Texas, the West Fork of the San Jacinto River peaked at 58 feet on Saturday morning and overflowed with water until late into the next day. That portion of the river feeds into Lake Conroe before eventually spilling into Lake Houston.

Shelters continue to be opened across the region. Harris County residents can check their address at the county’s website for help.