Abbott visits flooded Orange County Tuesday

Published 5:37 pm Wednesday, March 16, 2016


ORANGE — Just hours before the Sabine River was expected to crest at record-breaking levels Wednesday, Texas State Governor Greg Abbott flew over a wide swath of Southeast Texas and assessed the damage from flooding that has swamped both Texas and Louisiana as a result of last week’s torrential rains.

“It was just stunning to see the how widespread the water was and the amount of water just covering everything,” Abbott said at a press conference held after he met with emergency workers. “To see the different communities seeing the homes that were half submerged in water and thinking about the people who live there and the loss and grief they must feel, that stirs up the necessity for us as leaders to make sure we aid these citizens to help them rebuild their lives as quickly as possible.”

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Abbott said the people of Southeast Texas should continue to heed the warnings of emergency officials until the water recedes.

That might take days, he said.

“As the waters go away, the challenges won’t go away for those who need help,” he said. “The best you can do to help the agencies help the displaced is to donate money to org that are helping out.”

Orange County Emergency Management office has indicated as of Wednesday afternoon 2,394 structures were located in areas inundated with water. Of those, 14,777 were estimated to be in the evacuation zone for a projected value of $6.2 million, according to Orange County Appraisal District data.

Approximately 9,100 people live in the evacuation zone.

Abbott said the first step for those in need of state aid is to make an assessment about whether a disaster declaration is in order. That step has already happened. On Tuesday, Abbott declared state of disaster in 17 counties, including Newton and Orange counties, where the banks of the Sabine are overflowing at record levels.

Abbott said another four counties would be joining that list.

Abbott said he expects Interstate 10 closures to continue until the water is no longer a threat to motorists.

“There is one issue of primary concern — to make sure nobody drives down the road and gets injured or dies,” Abbott said, “My observation from the sky was there is water on parts of I-10. We have to make sure water is no longer rising, is receding, and then have to make sure the road is stable. It will take at least several days, maybe a week or 10 days”

Orange Mayor Jimmy Sims said he was relieved to see the flooding was not as bad as predicted, though it was still considered major flooding with serious repercussions.

“I am not discounting it, it is a disaster, it is bad, but at some point I was afraid it would have been much worse.”

The water was already flooding out into the Louisiana marshes, he said.

Sims, 65, has lived in Orange County all his life, and has never seen a flooding event like this one.

“We were just blessed to have no bad weather during this time,” he said.

City Manager Shawn Oubre said it was too early to make an assessment of the damage received around the city, but early on it appeared the Brownwood area bordering Interstate 10 to the south might have received the most water.

Oubre said the city would likely begin assessing the damage Thursday or Friday.

“We are not expecting the water to go down over the weekend, it may be Monday or Tuesday before it does,” he said.

As of Tuesday night, Oubre said about 165 people had gone to shelters.


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