KOUNTZE, Tx – Residents of Hardin County have pretty much become the forgotten victims of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey as FEMA just, on Monday, arrived and began working with county officials focused on rebuilding while hundreds of homes still sit underwater, roads are still closed, bridges have been washed away and citizens are left searching for food and answers.
“Our status is that we are in recovery,” Hardin County Judge Wayne McDaniel told SETINVESTIGATES.COM. “We have several areas, and I would say that it is countywide, that are totally devastated.”
When asked about the needs of Hardin County and exactly how dire the situation is, he said he had just come out of a meeting with FEMA and that resources were finally starting to flow into the county. Those resources included three military choppers packed with Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) that were about to land and be off-loaded by the Texas Air National Guard.
“It’s just very heartbreaking,” McDaniel said. “We need to help our people.”
McDaniel said even though FEMA in now operating in the county, there are still questions that need to be answered as the recovery and rebuilding process moves forward. However, waiting on answers from the government will not stop county leaders from getting things back to normal.
McDaniel said the community has come together in so many ways with neighbors helping neighbors and churches and civic groups joining forces to provide for those in need. There is even a free medical clinic open at the First Baptist Church of Batson. Patients will be seen beginning at 10 a.m. And even though FEMA has only been on the ground for less than 24-hours, they are already handing out MREs and water.
McDaniel did point out that even though FEMA is helping, the agency does not replace homes for people who did not have insurance. And for those with mortgages but now find themselves with no house, if they didn’t have insurance they are still responsible for the mortgage.
“Apparently it has always been this way, for people who have lost their homes and have no flood insurance, the federal government does not replace those homes,” he said. “A person who has a mortgage on a home still has a mortgage on a home if they don’t have flood insurance. And to rebuild that home they will have to get a loan. Now, the SBA (Small Business Administration) will be coming in with FEMA to make those loans. FEMA is going to help them to a certain extent. I know they are helping people now with lodging, so by my ordering the mandatory evacuation for the areas that were flooding and the areas that could potentially flood and by them evacuating and going to a safe location, FEMA will help with lodging.”
McDaniel said he doesn’t yet know how long FEMA will help to provide lodging for residents but they are also working across Southeast Texas on multiple housing issues.
“It’s never been this bad,” McDaniel said. “I knew sitting in here that we had houses flooded up to their rood. In my mind, I figured it might be 20 but I went up in a helicopter to do an assessment … I didn’t ever count but I just remember I kept seeing all of the houses that you could barely see the roof and all of the houses where you couldn’t even see the roof. It kept adding up and I don’t know a total but it was in the hundreds. It was unfathomable but we will rebuild and we will be stronger.”
LOCATIONS FOR COMMUNITY ASSISTANCE:
Woodcrest United Methodist Church – Lumberton
Gateway Church – Between Kountze and Lumberton
Kirby School – Hwy 418 in Silsbee
Assemble of God Church – Honey Island
First Baptist Church – Silsbee
Assembly of God Church – Batson
Baptist Church – Batson
Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church – Sour Lake – Closing Tuesday
LOCATIONS OF FEMA PODs:
FEMA POD – 132 S. Main Street, Lumberton – In front of Goodwill
FEMA POD – 975 E. FM 327, Silsbee – Silsbee Palm Center
FEMA POD – 440 W. Monroe Street, Kountze – Hardin County Courthouse Annex
FEMA POD – Lion’s Club Park, Sour Lake
For Updated Information On Hardin County’s Disaster Assistance, Please Check The Hardin County Emergency Management page on Facebook