In an effort to assist the victims of Hurricane Harvey, the Grayson County Office of Emergency Management held a meeting Thursday and proposed the county adopt a community affected by the storm and deploy specialized teams and volunteers to assist in long-term recovery efforts.
The meeting was held in the Grayson County Courthouse and was attended by dozens of church groups, non-profits, first responders, government agencies and elected officials. No formal action was taken on the suggestion and no specific communities were mentioned as possible partners, but the participants took the opportunity to share information about the services and resources they could contribute.
“Why not find a community, kind of like ours, that happens though to be in hurricane impact area?” Grayson County OEM Director Sarah Somers asked the group. “Those are people we can actually communicate with. And we can say ‘What do you need?’ as opposed to what our best idea of the day is. We can adopt them and work directly with a mayor, or a county judge, the local Red Cross or their long-term recovery committee and find ways that we can help for a year or two years or three years.”
Somers acknowledged that many Grayson County residents and Texans across the state have already made donations and contributions in the immediate aftermath of the storm. But Somers said the damage from severe storms and natural disasters takes years to fully assess, repair and recover from.
The OEM director attempted to illustrate her point by referencing the flooding and storm damage experienced by Grayson County in 2015. Somers said the Federal Emergency Management Agency only recently oversaw the completion of some county and city infrastructure repair projects that were spurred by those storms.
But Hurricane Harvey, which struck the Texas coast as a Category 4 hurricane last week, unleashed a level of damage the U.S. has rarely seen. The storm dropped more than 52 inches of rain across the Houston area and more than 200,000 homes have been flooded and thousands have been rescued and relocated. Numerous other communities, including Rockport, Dickinson and Beaumont have also seen widespread damage and flooding.
“It’s going to take a decade or more for Southeast Texas to recover — to the extent that they do,” Somers said.
While the damage of Hurricane Harvey was endured by communities hundreds of miles away, Somers said it is important for Grayson County to develop and enact a long-term recovery plan and partnership for the sake of the victims. She added that the development of a successful plan could also benefit those closer to home.
“We need to figure out how we go forward and that it be a good model for our own community,” Somers said. “Because the truth is that we’ve got some families from a recent flood that have been displaced in our own community.”
Somers encouraged area organizations and individuals who believe they can help in the recovery efforts to contact her office. Somers also said those looking to make immediate contributions to legitimate relief groups already on the ground should donate cash if at all possible, as it gives the groups the flexibility to acquire whatever resources or supplies they may need.