The Grayson County Office of Emergency Management announced the adoption of Aransas County Monday and outlined the agency’s first steps in helping the coastal county’s government and residents rebuild after Hurricane Harvey.
Aransas County is home to roughly 25,000 residents and the city of Rockport, which was one of the Texas communities hit hardest by the storm. Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Rockport on Aug. 25 as a Category 4 storm and lashed the city with damaging winds and flooding.
“It’s hard because there is so much need, but also because it’s really hard to get in touch with those folks just to see if they need your help,” Grayson County OEM Coordinator Sarah Somers said. “They’re really, really busy. When we talk about disasters and the catastrophic effects and those kinds of things, they’re living it every day and every minute.”
Somers said Grayson County agencies, such as the OEM, the health department and Grayson County Sheriff’s Office, will offer the first assistance and begin assessing government and infrastructural needs with Aransas County’s comparable departments and its long term recovery committee.
“It’s really, really important that we spend out rime right now getting organized,” Somers said.
GCSO Lt. Sarah Bigham said the sheriff’s office will send a team to Aransas County next week to help facilitate court proceedings while the county’s courthouse remains closed due to storm damage.
“We have five deputies that we’re sending down with five vehicles so that they can get their inmates to court and where they need to be so that they can get them, hopefully, processed and out of their jail, and they have fewer inmates to deal with,” Bigham said. “That is a way that we can help them right now.”
Somers said once Aransas’ government and infrastructure are stabilized, the second wave of Grayson County’s assistance will be coordinated with the assistance of faith-based organizations and groups that will be charged with further assessing the area’s needs.
Grayson County first floated the idea of adopting a hurricane-hit community earlier this month at a meeting attended by public safety agencies, elected officials and representatives of various organizations and non-profits. Those who attended the initial meeting outlined their available resources and specific skills for the county.
With widespread damage across Southeast Texas, Somers said it will take years for Aransas County to fully recover. She explained that such a time frame would likely result in waning public interest and that attention to Harvey-affected communities was already split by those hit by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Despite the initial challenges, Somers said she felt confident that the partnership between the two counties would be mutually beneficial and forge a positive relationship between two distant neighbors.
“We’re hoping some of that knowledge and education and on-the-job training we’ve gotten can help some of our fellow Texans and also put us back in a position where we’re all knowledgeable about long-term recovery, should we ever need it,” Somers said.