From the desk of Ida Schossow (April 2016)

A torrential rain event in Orange and Newton counties brought over 2 feet of March precipitation, unleashing major river flooding, rising to historic levels in some areas. Record flooding occurred along the Sabine River in both Texas and Louisiana. The river cresting near Burkeville broke a record by over 5 feet, topped a 1913 record east of Bon Wier, and topped an unofficial record from 1884 in Deweyville. The city of Orange saw substantial flooding as well. The Sabine River overtook the Texas Travel Information Center and even shut down east and westbound traffic on I-10.

March 14, Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of emergency in 17 Texas counties including Orange and Newton counties and visited Orange on March 16 to survey the damage caused to the area.

“Profoundly, I’ve seen the way leaders across this area have come together to help people respond to this challenge,” Abbott said at a press conference at the Emergency Management Building on FM 1442. “There’s a saying that adversity reveals character, and that’s exactly what we’ve seen in this region of Southeast Texas.”

U.S. Rep. Brian Babin (TX-36) surveyed the flood damage in Orange and Newton counties as well. Rep. Babin met with some of the victims of the flooding and first responders.

“My heart breaks for those who have lost so much to the flood waters,” said Babin. “However, I couldn’t be more proud of how our communities have pulled together to help each other during these difficult times.”

Reflecting back on the past two weeks reminds me about how people come together to help each other. The floodwaters inundated our communities, and the feeling of loss was real. In situations like this, you can’t see the light the end of the tunnel, and you wonder how will we recover and move forward. Looking around today, you can see volunteers from churches, citizens, Red Cross, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and many more all here to help. My good friend David Jones is an avid runner, and I saw a quote from an unknown author he posted that read, “Run the mile you are in.” That is what our communities are doing: running the mile we are in. Months maybe years from now, we will look back and there will be many miles behind us. Our communities will be rebuilt and we will be stronger because we came together and worked as one.

In the meantime, relief is available following a Saturday, March 19, presidential disaster declaration.

Residents of Orange, Jasper and Newton counties who sustained damage or losses from the recent flooding can now register for disaster assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Applicants will be asked for the following:

• Social Security number

• Address of the damaged primary residence

• Description of the damage

• Information about insurance coverage

• Current contact telephone number

• Address where they can receive mail

• Bank account and routing numbers for direct deposit of funds

Disaster assistance for homeowners and renters may include grants to help pay for:

• Temporary housing

• Essential home repairs

• Uninsured and underinsured personal property losses

• Other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance

FEMA grants do not have to be repaid, FEMA assistance is nontaxable and will not affect eligibility for Social Security, Medicaid or other federal benefits. Survivors should register even if they have insurance. FEMA cannot duplicate insurance payments, but underinsured applicants may receive help after their claims have been settled.

FEMA representative Greg Hughes said, “Our role is to get you on your feet, to start people on the road to recovery,” he said. “I’ll be around here at least 30 days. We (FEMA) will be here as long as we’re needed.”

According to Hughes, right now crews are trying to contact those affected by the flood and get them signed up for FEMA assistance.

“We want to get the word out to make sure people know how to contact FEMA. It’s the all-important first step,” he said. “There are two ways to do that – call the toll free number at 1 (800) 621-3362 or apply online at disasterassistance.gov.

For more information on Texas recovery, visit www.fema.gov/disaster/4266.

Recent festivities serve as evidence that we are not going to let this disaster keep us down. The Chamber kicked off the Yellowfin Elite Series Classic presented by The Stark Cultural Venues on April 8 at the City of Orange Boat Ramp. The event offered vendor booths, a kids fish tank, carnival rides and live music from country singer Craig Campbell, not to mention a chance to see professional saltwater anglers in head to head competition. Art in the Park, which coincided with the Elite Redfish Classic, took place at Stark Park on Green Avenue and featured crafters who displayed a variety of works such as paintings, woodwork, painted glass, metal sculptures, pottery, monogrammed items, books, jewelry, crocheted items, hand-made soaps, face painting and much more.

Events like these bring people to Orange County, not only for the fishing, but to visit the Stark Cultural Venues, stay in our hotels, eat at our restaurants and let them know something that we already do — Orange County is a great place to live!