Officials In Rio Grande Valley Push FEMA To Reassess Flood Damage

County officials say the Federal Emergency Management Agency incorrectly assessed the damage after the June floods, leaving counties ineligible for federal money to help repair infrastructure. 

By Kristen CabreraSeptember 13, 2018 1:43 pm| ,

After days of heavy rain and flooding in June that caused damage to parts of the Rio Grande Valley, counties still haven’t received the aid they requested from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

County officials are still trying to secure FEMA funding to repair damaged infrastructure. FEMA conducted preliminary assessments, but Cristina Garcia, a reporter for the McAllen Monitor, says assessments varied widely across the region. 

“Three counties, which were Jim Wells, Cameron [and] Hidalgo Counties, sustained only $18 million in damages. But there’s one city that says … [it] sustained over 34 million [dollars],” Garcia says. 

Garcia says FEMA put a $36 million minimum requirement for cities to received financial aid. Local and county officials say the agency didn’t assess the damage properly the first time, and now they’re calling on it to conduct reassessments. 

“In one precinct alone, over 100 streets were damaged, and they say that FEMA only actually visually saw 15 of those streets,” Garcia says.

FEMA visited the affected sites with officials from the Texas Division of Emergency Management, which local officials say lasted three hours.

Garcia says local officials said ” ‘there’s no way we can show them the extent of the damage in three hours.'”

Garcia says FEMA is conducting reassessments this week, and county and local officials hope that this time, they meet the funding threshold, especially because more rain is falling and could exacerbate the problem. 

“In one city, about 70 percent of the ground is saturated by rains this week. This is what they’re concerned about: If they have water lingering for days again, the infrastructure will be damaged even further,” Garcia says.

Written by Alvaro Cespedes.