Responding to flooding in and around Travis County was the focus of a lengthy discussion during the Travis County Commissioners Court meeting June 2 at the Travis County Administration Building.
During the meeting, the court unanimously approved continuation of the disaster declaration Judge Sarah Eckhardt signed May 28. Heavy rains on May 23 and 25 affected many Austin-area residents, and one fatality was reported in Travis County. There was significant damage throughout the county and city of Austin, though it was not as severe as that of Hays County, said Pete Baldwin, Travis County emergency management coordinator.
Soon the county will begin working with state and FEMA assessment teams, which will determine whether the county is eligible to receive state and federal assistance for recovery efforts, Baldwin said.
Travis County is seeing a considerable amount of debris and issues with removal, particularly in unincorporated areas, Eckhardt said, noting she would urge private property owners to handle their own debris if they can.
“It is unlikely that we will see federal assistance on this level of damage, particularly in light of the fact that our neighbors really are in desperate need, and that is where the assistance needs to be going,” Eckhardt said.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty said a tornado went through Shady Hollow, ripping tops of trees off and dropping them on roofs.
“The frustrating thing about this is, the average everyday person, it’s easy for them to hear from government, ‘You need to take care of it yourself.’ That’s not a very good response that any of us can deliver,” Daugherty said.
Daugherty noted Travis County did not see the same type of devastation as it did with the Halloween flood on Oct. 31, 2013, which struck some parts of Southeast Austin, including neighborhoods positioned along the Onion Creek waterway such as Onion Creek and Dove Springs.
Michael Hemby, Planning Manager at the Travis County Sheriff's Office, noted deputies went door to door in areas such as Onion Creek to warn homeowners about the flooding on Memorial Day weekend. Staff advised registering cell phones and land-line phones through the Capital Area Council of Governments website. The system provides notifications about emergencies such as extreme weather conditions.
“I think all of this violent weather that we’re experiencing at greater and greater frequency really should tell us that we have to do more to prepare our communities,” said Brigid Shea, Precinct 2 commissioner. “I think we’re ahead of the curve in Travis County, and I look forward to just really knocking out of the park with a model program for the country.”