Help is available for damage from recent extensive flooding, wind

by Dale Freeman, Tyler County Emergency Management Coordinator

As we celebrate Independence Day, we celebrate Freedom and remember the sacrifices that have been made to give that to us. Through those sacrifices, we have created a Nation of People working together for the common good. Although I am not in agreement with everything our Government does, I do know that by standing together, we are all stronger.

As an example of how this works, I note that there are many among us in Tyler County that are still recovering from the disasters that have fallen upon us. We in Tyler County are very resilient and we get through things. However, we do have and need help in the process.

To review the situations, a year ago, (May 2015) we had a flood that pushed the level of the Neches River to an elevation of 73.50 feet at the Town Bluff River Gauge. This is the ninth highest level recorded and the sixth highest since the erection of the Town Bluff Dam. Again in March of this year, the river rose to 76.12 feet. This was the seventh highest recorded and the fourth highest since Town Bluff Dam has been in place.

Following that, in April, we had a line of windstorms that included several tornadoes pass through the County. Many homes and lots of property was damaged with some homes destroyed. Then again in May we had massive rains that caused the Creeks to swell from their banks invading homes and property that do not normally flood.

The rains caused the dam at Lake Amada to fail and resulted in the loss of their lake. Emergency Responders were making swift water rescues and evacuations by boat of persons from the flooded areas. The water rushed into the Neches River and Lake Steinhagen causing the River Gauge downstream of the Town Bluff to rise to 75.65 Feet. Although this is recorded as one event, the level fell to 69 feet in several days until the waters from like heavy rains on the headwaters of the Neches River brought it back up to almost 75 feet. That would be the fifth highest level of the river since the creation of the Town Bluff Dam.

In all of these situations, the American Red Cross was on scene working to help those affected by these disasters. Supplies were distributed and shelters were provided to those who needed a place to stay during the mandatory evacuations. We are very fortunate to have our friends at the American Red Cross working with us.

During some of these events, the County has declared a disaster and made appeal to the State for assistance. There were many Texas counties that suffered similar and worse damages even some with loss of life.

The State, on behalf of Tyler County and the other devasted counties, appealed to the Federal Government for assistance. The assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) came sometimes in the form of "Public Assistance," where funds were given for the repairs of our roads and infrastructure. Some of the events received approval for "Individual Assistance" as well. This "Individual Assistance" is where FEMA provides help directly to the individual citizens. The assistance is given regarding the need and the ability to recover using our own resources.

When the disaster overwhelms our ability to recover, the government provides assistance to get back to the pre disaster condition. Sometimes the assistance is given in the form of a low interest loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA). Certainly, having a disaster should not be looked upon as a windfall to get money from the government.

Individual assistance was approved in the March flood and again in the latest flood event of May, both occurring this year.
I was not in this (EMC) position for the March Event, but have been engaged for the windstorm of April and now the floods of May. Tyler County Emergency Management has worked in conjunction with FEMA to compile a list of victims and assisted FEMA in contacting these individuals to begin assistance efforts for them.

This past Friday and Saturday, July 1st and 2nd, we met with representatives of FEMA at the mailboxes at the end of County Road 4410 and the entrance to the Barlow Lake Estates Subdivision. The representatives were able to meet with victims and discuss their "Individual Assistance" claims. The representatives had the ability to access not only records of this latest event but also claims from the previous March flood event.

I heard some of the victims stating that they were just now receiving checks for the looses of the March Flood event.
I also met with FEMA Representatives at the Emergency Operations Center. We are working toward setting up a temporary office where victims can come in to discuss their situations with FEMA. This is in the works.

Finally I will meet with the County Commissioner's and Colmesneil City Officials and FEMA Representatives this next week to verify the "Public Assistance" claims filed for the latest Flood Event.

There is a lot going on and it takes a lot of time to get through the processes. Please be patient and keep plugging away at the task. I have talked with a lot of the FEMA people and I am convinced they want to help. They do have perimeters in their assignments that they can't go beyond. However, if you have something that you think should be covered, keep presenting it to them in a respectful way and help them understand your need. Sometimes the same situation can be presented a different way that will work. They will try to find a way to get some help if possible.

Anyone having flooding losses during the May Flooding event, who has not already done so,should call the Tyler County Emergency Management Office to have your name added to our list. We will follow your claim to insure that you have been contacted and received the attention that is needed to help you recover. I am told that FEMA will be doing a "blitz" of Tyler County this next week to contact any persons not yet contacted.

As an afterthought, I want to thank all of the citizens of Tyler County who have offered support and help to your neighbors in their time of need. Your support through all of this is most important in surviving a Disaster.

DETCOG Board names Lonnie Hunt to be Exec. Director

Nacogdoches, Texas – The Board of the Deep East Texas Council of Governments has chosen former Houston County Judge Lonnie Hunt as its new Executive Director. The board formed a search committee after the retirement of its previous executive director. It recommended Hunt to the full board out of twenty six applicants.

Following a career in broadcasting, Hunt was elected Houston County Judge. After serving a term as DETCOG's First Vice President, he was elected DETCOG President in 2011. During his term he was elected First Vice President of the Texas Association of Regional Councils. Most recently he has served as a County Relations Officer for the Texas Association Counties.
The Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) was formed under enabling legislation passed by the Texas Legislature in 1965. DETCOG is a political subdivision of the State of Texas. It is a voluntary association of local governments established to assist them in planning for common needs, cooperating for mutual benefit and coordinating sound regional development. It has none of the regulatory or taxing authority of cities or counties, but is subject to state laws governing open meetings, access to public records and the conduct of public officials. The DETCOG Region includes the counties of Angelina, Houston, Jasper, Nacogdoches, Newton, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Trinity and Tyler.

Suspect dies after being tazed by deputy

by Emily Waldrep

On June 1, 2016, at approximately 8:25 p.m., Tyler County Deputies conducted a traffic stop on FM 92 near FM 1746 in the Town Bluff Area. According to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, deputies stopped a 2002 passenger car for a traffic violation.

During the traffic stop deputies were able to identify the driver of the motor vehicle as a resident of Woodville. The male passenger provided deputies with a false name and was unable to produce any type of identification.

"While speaking with the passenger, Deputies noted he exhibited possible signs of being under the influence of some type of narcotic," Weatherford said. "As deputies returned to their patrol vehicle in an attempt to ID the male passenger and check for warrants on both occupants of the vehicle, the male passenger exited the vehicle in an attempt to evade deputies on foot."

According to Weatherford, a deputy chased the male passenger on foot into a wooded area as the second deputy detained the driver of the vehicle. The suspect refused to comply with the deputy's commands and the deputy deployed his Tazer, striking the suspect. The suspect, later identified as Michael Cassell, age 41, of Kountze became unresponsive on scene and deputies performed CPR on Cassell until EMS arrived, Weatherford said.

Cassell was transported to the Tyler County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead by Justice of the Peace Trisher Ford. An autopsy was ordered by Judge Ford regarding Cassell's cause of death. Those results could take over 6 weeks to be released. It was later determined that Cassell had multiple outstanding felony warrants for his arrest out of Sabine County and was in possession of illegal narcotics. The Texas Rangers were contacted and are investigating the incident.

Woodville City Council considers speed reduction for N. Magnolia

by Darby Kethan

The City Council meeting June 13, 2016, opened with a prayer, led by Mayor Nally and the pledge to the American flag.

The first business undertaken by the council was to consider the reduction of speed from the current 50 mph to 40 mph in the 900 block of N. Magnolia. There are several businesses in that area and reduction in speed in that area could increase safety by vehicles turning into and exiting these businesses. With the council approval, a request will be nade to TxDOT, who will assess the situation and make a recommendation to the council. All members voted to contact TXDOT to ask for an assessment. Further action to be taken by the council depends upon the findings of TXDOT.

The city has received requests for a right of way utilization application from Texas Relay Networks. Other cities have been contacted to see if similar requests have been made and that information was shared with the city council. The reason for the application is uncertain, and information from those making the request seems limited and inadequate at this time. The matter was postponed to enable more information to be gathered.

City Administrator Risinger reported that work on the series of disasters lately, and work on previous disaster relief, such as the Industrial Park water well is continuing. The pump has been set, is working well, and samples of water need to be taken and analyzed before signing off on the project occurs. Reconstruction at Holly and Beech streets, MLK and Shivers, and the inlet at Carlow Hill have FEEMA grants totaling approximately 48K for repairs. The leaf and limb pickup service for the city is "going as fast as we can". According to Risinger, the extent of the work needing to be done to clean up after this disaster has been "overwhelming".

During the most recent flooding, 5/27/16, the city water line providing service the Tyler County Hospital and other medical service in the area was compromised due to culvert failure on HWY 190 in that area. The city has repaired the water line, encasing the service line in a culvert designed to protect the city water line from further damage in case of future similar highway damage due to flooding. TEXDOT is responsible for restoring the highway and structures in that area.

Judge Haney expressed appreciation and admiration for the city employees during the recent weather induced crises. She referred to them as "outstanding employees" and expressed her pride in them for their hard work and dedication. She also expressed appreciation to Ofeira Gazzaway, of Heritage Village, who volunteered to feed the city workers repairing the culvert on 190. Judge Haney's report included 221 citations processed, 91 arrest warrants issued, and 4 parent contributing to non- attendance cased filed. Of the 221 citations, 138 were for speeding, with 22, in a school zone, and 13 for exceeding the posted speed by 25 mph or more.

Fire Chief Shane reported another German Pellet Fire, hwhich presented problems in the extinguishing by the complications in utilizing the water tank on premises and disruption in city water line Woodville VFW was assisted at the site by the Livingston ladder truck.

Mayor Nally expressed appreciation from himself and the council for the hard work the city and fire department personnel have performed during the recent emergency situations.

Judith Haney listed upcoming attractions, including plays during the months of June and July at the Emporium, summer art classes for adults and kids, Camp Niwana, and the JP Summer Internship Grant which provides summer employment/ internships for high school students. The Teen Police Academy led by Bubba Sheffield for high school age students will begin the second week in July.

Tyler County EMC reports on recent Tyler County flooding

by Dale Freeman, Tyler County Emergency Management Coordinator

When I woke up Friday morning (May 27) it was just the last day of a regular week. There was rain predicted but never did I realize what was ahead for us in Tyler County. In the afternoon, rain was falling all across the county. Some areas were receiving more than others. In the Colmesneil area, the rain was falling like water poured out of a bucket.

As the rain continued, water began flooding roads all across the county. The Sheriff's Department began dispatching services to the wrecks that accompany rain events. The creeks and small streams overflowed their banks. There was just too much water placed upon the area for it to run off. The water started flooding and began threatening homes. Water was rising into places that had never had water in them before. The Sheriff's Department started getting calls for help from people whose homes were surrounded by water. And the water was still rising.

As all of those scenarios were developing, I got a call from Lake Amanda. I was told that the water was overwhelming their spillway. The overflow standpipe spillway was already under water. The Emergency Spillway was overflowing. Now the water was overflowing the dam. Lake Tejas was experiencing a similar situation upstream of Lake Amanda. The sudden 10 inch plus rainfall in a short time was now draining into the lakes and stressing them, threatening to cause a dam failure. We began an immediate plan of action. No sooner than I made my notifications and briefed the emergency responders with this plan than the call was received than the Lake Amanda Dam had failed.

Sheriff's Deputies immediately responded to Wolf Creek Village on Wolf Creek near where it crosses Hwy 92 near Dam B. A mandatory evacuation was executed. The water rose and went through that community with high water flooding some homes. Many of the homes in this community are elevated on pilings nine to eleven feet off the ground. Of course, the houses that were elevated did not get water in them, but many of their vehicles had up to four feet of water in them. Most everyone had a lawnmower that went under water. Anything that was not elevated was flooded. I interviewed several who told us the door to door warning by the Sheriff's Deputies gave them enough time to save some of their belongings.

The water crossed Hwy 92 at the intersection of CR 3007 and the Magnolia Ridge Park Road. The rushing water actually washed the pavement off the road in one place. This massive amount of water from all over made its way into the creeks and streams and then into the Neches River and Lake Steinhagen.

Friday was not the end of my week. In fact the next week started with more situations piled on the ones we were still dealing with from the week before. The water from the localized flooding started piling into Steinhagen Lake. As the lake rose, the gates were opened. The Corp of Engineers chased the level of the lake trying to overtake it with the release of water. The gates can only be opened by protocol a little at a time. The result from the release of the flood waters was flooding in the Barlow Lake Estates Addition.

The water rose to a level where the water was in some homes and there were some breaker boxes and meter cans under water. The power to Barlow Lake Estates was disconnected as a safety measure for both the residents who remained and first responders who might go in after them.

As the water from the localized flooding started down, we maintained an eye on the River Gauge Level and the Flow Rate of the River at Rockland. Localized flooding also occurred in the upper watershed of the Neches River. We watched the river at Rockland rise, knowing that water would be impacting Steinhagen Lake in eighteen to twenty-four hours.

As the water receded, the level of Steinhagen Lake went down and the outflow of water through Town Bluff Dam was decreased. When the water receded from Barlow Lake Estates to the point that power could safely be restored SHECO turned the power back on.

In a case of the worst possible timing, the river crest from upstream heavy rain arrived at Steinhagen Lake at the same time as we were receiving more heavy rain. The rain caused the release of more water from the Town Bluff Dam which led to rise in the river and additional flooding at Barlow Lake Estates. The River rose to a crest of 75.65 and Friday afternoon(June 3rd) seems to have turned the corner and is starting down. It appears that we might just squeak by with no additional flooding, but it is still raining and is predicted to rain more on Saturday (June 4th).

Our Red Cross Shelter at the True Vine Church remains open. We have four people in the shelter. Anyone displaced by this weather incident can come to the shelter and receive shelter. At some point when the evacuation is lifted, the shelter will be closed and the Red Cross will shift its focus of attention toward helping in the repopulation of those areas that were evacuated.

On Sunday (June 5) the Corp of Engineers began closing gates on the Town Bluff Dam. In a series of exercises, the gates are finally down to 21 ft. The River Level is down to 69.5 feet and should drop a little more. The Corp Of Engineers plan is to keep the river at full bank level for a while as they evacuate stored water from Lake Sam Rayburn. They will begin generating very soon.

We are not complete with this event, only now are we starting with the road to recovery.