A weekend of torrential rain, tornadoes and flooding has left at least six people dead in Texas, along with dozens of flood-damaged homes and businesses. The Houston area is reporting up to a foot of rain since Friday. There were reports of at least six tornadoes touching down in communities to the south and east of Houston. More than a hundred water rescues have been reported.
Austin and San Antonio were hard hit as well. The National Weather Service reports the all-time 24-hour rainfall record for Austin was shattered over the weekend with 14.54 inches falling. The previous record was 8.7 inches set back in 1974. October was Austin’s wettest month on record at 22.08 inches.
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has been in communication with presbyteries and National Response Team members to determine the greatest needs.
“The biggest problem right now is establishing direct communication with various areas of the presbyteries to find out what’s going on,” said Alan Ford, the disaster response coordinator for Mission Presbytery, which includes the cities of Austin, San Antonio and Corpus Christi, among others. “Until we get more information, we feel a bit handcuffed.”
PDA and a number of volunteer agencies were already working throughout the state as it recovered from record storms over the 2015 Memorial Day weekend. Twelve counties within Mission Presbytery were declared disaster areas after that storm. Ford says they’re facing a disaster again.
“This has been an emotionally traumatic time for many of us in that we’re now experiencing our third disaster in five months,” he said. “Last month, we had a wildfire in Bastrop that destroyed 64 homes and left other areas badly burned. That was sandwiched between these two strong storms making this a difficult year.”
Another compounding factor for the presbytery is that recent flooding hit areas that were still recovering from flooding in 2013 and the city was in the process of moving several families out of the area.
Ford says they’ve already been working with PDA on long-term recovery and emotional care training for volunteers and groups that come to the area.
“John Knox Camp, which was damaged by flooding back in the summer, will now be used to host volunteers coming to provide long-term recovery work,” said Ford. “PDA has the knowledge and expertise to help us through what will likely be a two to three year process.”