Disaster Assessment Begins in Wake of Hurricane Hanna
[South Texas, July 28, 2020] On Sunday, July 26, the Commission for Disaster Preparedness and Response initiated its disaster assessment process following Hurricane Hanna's landfall on Saturday in South Texas. Governor Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 32 counties on Saturday, including 26 within the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas. The diocesan counties affected are Aransas, Bee, Bexar, Brooks, Calhoun, Cameron, Dimmit, Duval, Goliad, Hidalgo, Jackson, Jim Hogg, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg, La Salle, Live Oak, McMullen, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Starr, Victoria, Webb, Willacy, and Zapata counties. The Diocese has congregations in 19 of the counties under the state disaster declaration, and 51 of its congregations are potentially impacted.
Jennifer Wickham, Deputy for Disaster Recovery, issued an initial survey to emergency contacts for the 51 potentially impacted congregations, and to date, 26 congregations have responded to the survey. Five churches, located in the Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend regions, have reported damage to church property, including water damage and minor structural losses. Commission members will continue reaching out to potentially affected congregations, as needed.
Mustang Island Conference Center, located in Port Aransas, reports that its staff are safe, and its facilities sustained only relatively minor property damage, due to storm surge. A 60-foot section of the boardwalk suffered damage, and the conference center also lost equipment stored in a beachside platform. Staff is actively repairing the boardwalk and replacing the lost equipment, with plans to welcome Family Camp Session 10 families on Thursday, July 30.
The Rt. Rev. David Reed, Bishop of West Texas, states, "I’m thankful that damage in the Coastal Bend and in the Valley is relatively minor - though 'minor' only applies if it didn’t happen to you, and having 26 of our counties within the Diocese included in the state disaster declaration indicates Hanna was not a 'minor storm.' I’m also profoundly grateful for the ways our clergy and lay leadership in the impacted areas responded. This includes our wonderful staff at the Mustang Island Conference Center, who sent participants in Family Camp Session 9 home on Friday, before the storm made landfall. Almost all of the places Hanna visited are in the midst of serious COVID-19 spikes, and yet our people were able to turn their attention to the multiple threats posed by the storm and prepare. We’ve learned a lot since Hurricane Harvey three years ago, and our Deputy for Disaster Recovery, Jennifer Wickham, has worked very hard to build a network among our congregations and other disaster response organizations."
Jennifer Wickham says, "The rapid development and changing track of Hurricane Hanna are strong reminders to all of us to pay attention and never become complacent during hurricane season. It's important for our congregations and households to prepare ahead of time so they're ready for whatever may happen."
While reports are still being received, the Diocese knows that a number of neighborhoods in its communities have experienced significant flooding and other damage. Bishop Reed calls on everyone to "Be mindful of all those suffering in the wake of Hanna, and please look for opportunities to assist as you are able. Our diocesan Communications Office will continue gathering information, helped by the Commission's ongoing work, and will share opportunities to support the ongoing response efforts among our congregations as they develop."
For more information about the Disaster Preparedness and Response Commission, contact Jennifer Wickham, Deputy for Disaster Recovery, at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow DWTX Disaster Recovery on Facebook.