FORT BEND COUNTY, TX – Since the catastrophic flooding in May of this year, Fort Bend County has provided services to meet the needs of the thousands of residents impacted by the flood. From simple barricades across impassable streets, to rescue and evacuation, to temporary shelter and long-term recovery for the dozens of families actually flooded out of their homes; “business as usual” for Fort Bend County has been far from business as usual.
This past May, a large storm system moved through Texas, drenching the Brazos River watershed just upstream of Fort Bend County. The Brazos River rose to 54.8 feet at the Richmond river gauge, almost four feet higher than any event in the last sixty years. The flood inundated 17% of the county –148 square miles.
“This has been the biggest flooding disaster in the memories of most of our residents,” says Fort Bend County Judge, Robert Hebert, “and its impact is going to be felt in our community for a long time.” The resulting flooding damaged well over a thousand homes out of approximately 50,000 residents affected and forced the coordination of almost 800 rescues.
Many residents received flood insurance payments, FEMA grants, or Small Business Association loans, but that money only helps jump-start their recovery process. The County is now pursuing additional state and federal funds to help residents recover more fully, including funds to help offset costs of construction or sale of the affected property. This is, of course, in addition to the swift actions on the part of the County to ease the tax burden on affected homeowners, waive permitting fees for those who chose to rebuild and pay for contractor support to expedite the recovery process. For some, this will not be enough.
The County has also collaborated with the United Way to facilitate a Long Term Recovery Committee to help meet additional needs of the residents recovering from this disaster. The Long Term Recovery Committee (Fort Bend Recovers) is comprised of non-profits, faith-based organizations, community groups, businesses, and local governments working to find unique solutions for residents, like a furniture donation warehouse and a long-term recovery fund.
The County also opened a first-ever Flood Recovery Center. “We wanted to make it even easier for residents to get the help they needed to recover, so we moved several critical departments under one roof.” Judge Hebert adds, “In total 5 county departments staffed the center for 9 days and helped over a hundred residents get answers to their recovery questions.”
Fort Bend County has only begun traversing the long road to recovery, but with the County Judge, the County Commissioners, and the combined effort of county departments, progress is being made. The strong leadership and collaborative efforts of citizen volunteers, private businesses, non-profit organizations and local governments willing to come together in support those experiencing flood damage, reinforces why Fort Bend County is one of the best places in the United States to live, work and play.