Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - September 2008
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
Houston County Well-Prepared for Ike
Houston County Courier - September 2008
By Sharron Randall
Tim Culp, executive director of Crockett Economic and Industrial Development Corp, held a full press conference with members of the local media on Tuesday, Sept. 16, at Crockett Civic Center to discuss Houston County's status after the devastation caused by Hurricane Ike's tear through east Texas Saturday, Sept. 13.
"This is basically a synopsis or update of what's been done and what's still being done in our county," Culp said. "We were far better prepared for this storm than three years ago."
He went on to praise the "remarkable" efforts and planning of David Lamb, Houston County Emergency Management coordinator, and the citizens that "heeded" the many warnings by county officials.
Culp began with President George W. Bush's statement on federal disaster assistance for Texas on Sept. 7, which orders Federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area struck by Hurricane Ike.
Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owner's recover from the effects of the disaster.
Federal funding also is available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis in 29 counties, including Houston and neighboring counties of Angelina, Cherokee, Madison, Nacogdoches, and Trinity.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said that those who sustained losses in the counties designated for aid to affected individuals and business owners can begin applying for assistance by registering online at http://www.fema.gov or by calling (800) 621-FEMA or 621-3362; for the hearing and speech impaired, call (800) 462-7585. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, until further notice.
As soon as Federal-State Disaster Recovery Centers are opened throughout the affected area, the U.S. Small Business Administration, SBA will provide one-on-one assistance for applicants of low-interest disaster loans.
In recapping local hurricane events, Culp said that the category one eye made landfall five miles east of all major cities in Houston County, but that Pennington, Kennard, Ratcliff and Weches sustained the most damage during the height of the storm.
He reiterated that Crockett is not a "shelter" but a "pass through" to other locations with more resources. If evacuees from Galveston, Orange, Harris counties or other coastal places hardest hit from Hurricane Ike are sheltering in Houston County and cannot go home, call 546-5636 and give information about present situation so proper authorities can be notified.
Culp said that distribution points at Crockett Civic Center Frontier Camp, Kennard Independent School District, and underneath the water tower in Lovelady are currently giving out ice and water from 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Citizens who have electricity and water in Houston County are urged to save the ice and water for those who do not have resources. He said, "Unless you absolutely need ice and water, don't go to the distribution points, please!"
The Boil Water Notice remains in effect for the city of Crockett and all of Houston County until further notice except for Grapeland, with the exception of those living south of Old Crockett Road and the old junior high school.
On electricity, at last report, Culp said that 90 percent of Oncore users' electricity has been restored; "Turn on porch lights," even if you don't have power, as Oncore, basically anyone not served by Houston County Electric Cooperative, Inc., will do a physical assessment to see who has and who has not recovered power.
At the height of the storm, approximately 11,000 meters were out; today 40 percent is still out, which includes Trinity, Groveton, Ferguson, and Midway areas. Culp said that it is possible that those users will be without power for up to three weeks.
Crockett schools in Houston County opened on Tuesday. Students were asked to bring water because of the boil water notice. Latexo and Lovelady ISDs are operating on a day-to-day basis, as is Jordan School. Kennard ISD is closed for the rest of the week. Grapeland schools are fully functioning.
Houston County has lifted the burn ban, except for the city of Crockett where a burn permit is required. Tree limbs and brush can be taken by residents only to the South Wastewater Treatment Plant located on Caddo Lane off East Loop 304 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
House and building materials debris such as shingles and other non-tree related debris can be dropped off by residents only at the Recycling Center at 400 North Durrett from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. No old furniture or junk--storm debris.
City crews will continue to pick up debris at the curbside until the debris is all removed. By piling trees and brush in one pile and other debris in another, and sweeping debris from the gutters, residents will help the clean-up crews.
Culp said, "Be mindful of large limbs that have not yet fallen." All city services are operational and city hall is open.
He issued a thank you to all local fire departments who worked "tirelessly," emergency medical teams, and Fire Marshal Lamb who "prepared us well and did such a good job."
Lamb called during the press conference and said no MREs, meals ready to eat, will be distributed in Houston County.
When questioned about this decree, Culp explained that there is no shortage of non-perishable foods in the county and no fuel or transportation issues; Citizens can go to the same grocery stores they shopped at prior to the storm.
Culp said, "We dodged a real bullet. It could have been worse."