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County official says damage from Halloween flood likely underestimated

Wednesday, November 27, 2013 by Mark Richardson

A Travis County official says that estimates of the damage from the Halloween flood may have been “grossly underestimated,” and further examination of the damage could bring the total high enough to trigger federal aid.


Travis County Emergency Management Coordinator Pete Baldwin told Travis County Commissioners Tuesday that state and federal officials have further examined the damage from the flood and say it is likely much higher than the initial estimate of $14 million.


“We want the court to know after the public damage assessment teams came in last week from the state, they felt that both the city and the county had grossly underestimated the total expenditures, based upon the fact that there are some areas that are still covered with debris and we don’t know what kind of damage that has caused the bridges,” he said.


Baldwin said that state inspectors have discovered additional damage at a wastewater treatment plant and a lift station. He also said that the damage to several bridges along Onion Creek could be more than originally estimated, and that some areas are still covered with debris, which could be hiding more damage.


The Federal Emergency Management Agency, better known as FEMA, initially inspected the flood-damaged areas of Travis, Hays, Caldwell and Williamson counties over the weekend of Nov. 9-10 and completed their preliminary damage assessment. But the amount of damage necessary to trigger FEMA assistance is $35 million in total damage attributable to a single event.


Baldwin said state inspectors told them that some of the items they underestimated included road repairs.


“For example, they said that while we had the short-term expense of resurfacing some of the roads, there is also a permanent cost that we may have to go back in, put in new base material, repave the roadway and install a new guard rail,” he said. “So there are several different costs involved. They will go and look at each and every project in detail to see where we fall on the public assessment.”


Baldwin told commissioners that at the county’s request, FEMA Assessment Teams will be in the area Dec. 4 to examine all areas of damage and produce a report. If the total of damage from the storm reaches $35 million, FEMA would then provide aid to repair damages.


Currently, there is only one federal program available to homeowners and businesses that suffered losses from the flood. The Small Business Administration announced late last week that it will offer low interest loans to homeowners, renters, business owners and nonprofit agencies whose properties were damaged during the floods. The SBA will offer disaster loans up to $200,000 to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. Homeowners and renters are also eligible for up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property. Business loans will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.


Baldwin said he plans to submit an updated disaster summary to FEMA officials Wednesday.

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