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Residents affected by Hurricane Hanna still waiting for FEMA assistance

Local News

HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — It’s been over three weeks since Hurricane Hanna impact the Rio Grande Valley.

According to area emergency management officials, hundreds of homes were damaged during the storm, either by flood or wind damage. Leaving many residents asking when assistance from FEMA will be available.

We asked officials from the Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy Counties to give us an update on their damage assessments.

According to Rick Saldaña, Emergency Management Coordinator with Hidalgo County, the State of Texas must meet nearly $39 million dollars in damages between a 32 county region before FEMA can offer assistance.

Saldaña says the county itself must register at least $2.9 million in damages, so far they have exceeded that with $4.7 million in damages recorded. The county has also filed for a 30-day extension in hopes Texas will reach the $39 million in damages, Saldaña says they are almost there.

“So hopefully, that [is] why we have asked for an extension, to allow our municipal partners to continue doing their damage assessments, especially those that were more impacted. The ones that had sinkholes. The ones that had damaged stations, or damages to their wastewater systems or plants,” says Saldaña.

Over in Cameron County damage assessments and pumping operations continue.

Tom Hushen, EMC with Cameron County, says there are a certain number of destroyed or damaged homes in the county that must be reached before FEMA will help.

So far 130 homes have been reported damaged, with 5 suffering major damage. Hushen says there are a lot of details FEMA must review before it will classify a home as destroyed or damaged, including insurance and if a claim was recently filed on the home.

“Remember what FEMA, declares a destroyed home is if the water is 18 inches inside the home, that’s all the way up to the light socket. If it just got on the floorboards, FEMA will consider that just minor damage, and that doesn’t count for the overall. If it was a trailer home, and the floor was damaged, FEMA will consider that as a total loss,”  says Hushen.

Hushen says it’s still up in the air at this point if FEMA will come in to assist, but says residents can still submit damages. Hushen adds FEMA is processing all damages through a phone app. The Red Cross has also stepped in to help by going door to door assessing damages.

Hushen notes some of the mitigation FEMA has done in the past few years has worked but their efforts are ongoing. Hushen also adds with storms once again threatening the gulf, residents need to be prepared.

Over in Willacy County, Frank Torres EMC, says the damage does not seem to be as severe as they initally thought. Torres adds they experienced very little flood damage and most of the damages were caused by wind.

“We are not anywhere near the 800 homes that FEMA requires for us to qualify for FEMA assistance,” says Torres.

Torres adds some homes lost half their roofs or many shingles were blown away, but unfortunately while it may be considered major damage for the homeowner, FEMA may classify it differently.

Since all three counties are in damage assessment mode, it’s not too late to report damages to either your local municipality or county.

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