(PNS) Last week’s heavy rain in south Texas has brought back memories of Hurricane Harvey for some residents along the Gulf Coast. As much as 15 inches of rain fell in some communities, causing flash flooding and forcing hundreds to evacuate their homes.
Texas authorities have declared a state of emergency for six counties and federal disaster relief has been requested for Hidalgo and Cameron Counties.
It’s been a busy week for Mission Presbytery in San Antonio, fielding calls and visiting churches and communities that received a bulk of the water. Ed Sackett, the presbytery’s disaster coordinator has been on the road since Monday assessing damage.
“Damage isn’t as bad in other areas as it could have been. Over the last several days, I’ve visited Corpus Christi, Beeville, Taft, Rockport and Port Aransas. The rain didn’t have a major impact other than localized flooding,” said Sackett.” I think some of the damage in Beeville probably occurred during Hurricane Harvey. The rains were so light and the winds were so strong, they didn’t see the damage until the rain came and caused part of a church roof to collapse.”
The hardest hit community is Weslaco, which saw more than 12 inches of rain in four hours.
“We had one family that has had problems with a clogged drainage ditch. The drainage is not sufficient for heavy rains like this. This is not the first time they’ve had problems. A few years ago, there was 12 inches of water in their house,” said the Rev. David McCann, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Weslaco. “Another member has a sunken living room and the water flowed across the floor and created an indoor swimming pool and their air conditioning went out.”
McCann says the problem over the past week has been accessibility. The water kept many disaster crews from getting into areas to determine the extent of damage. Churches have begun coordination effort to meet the needs of residents who have been displaced.
“Right now, the First Baptist Church has partnered with the Red Cross and is providing emergency housing,” said McCann. “We are collecting clothes for distribution to families that have lost everything. We will be collecting all this week while the rescue work continues. We hope to begin distributing the clothes next week because people are in need now.”
One of the problems crews faced was finding water pumps for flooded areas.
“The city had to ask the state to secure more water pumps,” said McCann. “One of the few available pumps they could find was in El Paso, a good eight to 10-hour drive. Another was 12 to 13 hours away. Those pumps came in Sunday morning and have been running non-stop.”
Sackett says the standing water is creating another problem, mosquitos.
“There used to be a TV commercial where people put their hands in boxes with the mosquitos. That’s what my car looked like this week. They are horrendous and because of this rain, residents will have to worry about potential illness the rest of this summer,” said Sackett. “I lived in Florida for 30 years and outside of being in the everglades, I’ve never seen mosquitos come after me like they did.”
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has provided a $7,500 emergency grant to assist the presbytery in the recovery effort.
“PDA will continue to be in communication with the presbytery to assess ongoing needs and respond accordingly,” said Jim Kirk, PDA’s associate for disaster response U.S. “There may be a silver lining. PDA is present, in response to Harvey, in many of the areas that were recently impacted. With volunteer groups already scheduled, those impacted from this flooding event may find help rebuilding sooner rather than later.”
Sallie Watson, general presbyter for Mission Presbytery, says PDA’s support has made a difference in their ability to respond quickly.
“We’re doing as well as we can. We are grateful to PDA for providing the grant enabling us to hire Ed Sackett as our disaster coordinator,” said Watson. “There is so much going on, I wouldn’t be able to meet all of the needs. We appreciate our continued partnership with PDA.”
by Rick Jones, Presbyterian News Service