Polk County residents evacuate from Trinity River flooding

Heavy rains have swelled Lake Livingston, whose dam regulates the Trinity.

By Michael MarksApril 30, 2024 2:11 pm,

Residents of Polk County who live along the Trinity River were told to evacuate yesterday after a series of heavy rains.

Polk County is a rural area situated northeast of Houston. The Trinity’s flow there is regulated by the Lake Livingston dam. But so much water was being released from the lake into the Trinity that it flooded some low-lying areas, making roads impassable and forcing some folks from their homes.

Melissa Gates, Polk County’s liaison for long-term disaster recovery, spoke to Texas Standard about the flood’s impact. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: Can you describe the extent of the flooding so far and how people have been affected?

Melissa Gates: The mandatory evacuation has affected 734 homes in the low lying areas down in, south Polk County. Goodrich, Holiday Lake Estates, Taylor Lake, route 66, Siesta Country 3 and 4…

I understand you’re talking about the mandatory evacuation issued by the county judge for some of those unincorporated areas around the Trinity River. Did people follow those orders? 

Mostly. There was some that did not want to go. So you can’t make them. But, yeah, there were some that that chose to stay home.

Is this an area that’s been significantly affected by other natural disasters recently? 

Not too recent. So the last heavily impacted event was Winter Storm Uri in 2021. Few rain or wind event since then, but nothing major. So this is the most serious event since ’21.

So what have the last 24 hours been like for you?

Actually, given that our communications was impacted – internet and phone lines throughout were down – we were not receiving calls last night. We were here. We were here and ready for anything coming in, but it was a quiet night and same for yesterday.

But, you know, we were just communicating with the fields by radio and MiFis as much as possible. For a disaster, this has been the quietest one I’ve experienced. So that doesn’t mean to say that come tomorrow, hopefully all of the lines and everything will start coming back up and we’ll be able to start hearing from those folks and who needs what out there.

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Does that mean you don’t really have a good idea of what the extent of the damage is, or who might need help out there?

Well, not exactly, because our sheriff’s departments have been on patrol. Aand we have our communication back up in the EOC. So that has made it easier to communicate with the sheriff’s department and the fire departments.

So yes, they are still getting reports in on areas that are flooded and everything, until it’s all done right now, all we can do is respond.

You know, you have to take care of the people first. If they’re in there, they need to get out. They need to take care of them first. And then when that water subsides, we’ll be able to go in and get a better one-on-one understanding of what the damages are for individual people.

Well, if people want to help out with the recovery, what can they do?

They can help with donating to Polk County Recovers. We have website: polkcountyrecovers.org. There will be a donate link on there as well as multiple ways to volunteer. And also on the website, there is a place if somebody would just like to volunteer their time.

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