Flood Recovery Continues – Help Needed
Chief Acevedo apologizes for slow response
The cleanup effort following the Halloween flood continues as city officials wrestle with devastation in the Onion Creek area. At a packed Nov. 5 town hall meeting at Perez Elementary School, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo offered regrets about the slow recovery response. "We relied too much on technology and gauges that were not working properly instead of relying on you, and for that I apologize from the bottom of our hearts. That is a fact. We have had some lessons learned," he said to a cheering crowd.
Acevedo also addressed rumors about looting in the flood-damaged areas, saying that properties have been mostly kept safe due to the police presence and the efforts of neighbors. Acevedo acknowledged that two homes were burglarized in the area, incidents he said were "two too many," but he insisted the crimes do not qualify as looting.
According to a Nov. 2 City of Austin Homeland Security and Emergency Management briefing, the flooding affected at least 1,100 homes in Austin, plus another 260 in Travis County. More than 300 of those homes sustained major damage, and 12 remain uninhabitable. As of Tuesday, more than 125 tons of debris had been collected in cleanup efforts. Affected roads have been repaved and repaired, although some continue to have reduced or tapered lanes. At press time, forecasted rains brought the threat of further flooding; officials warned that the wet conditions could mean quicker flash floods.
To help speed the cleanup efforts, Mayor Lee Leffingwell has issued a Local State of Disaster declaration. He also sent Gov. Rick Perry a letter asking for assistance in making repairs and providing citizen relief. City Council will likely be approving an ordinance to waive permit and development fees for residences affected by the flooding. The Mayor asked that the regular Council session finish business by noon on Thursday in order to not delay cleanup efforts. The Tuesday Council work session was canceled.
The Flood Assistance Center at Dove Springs Rec. Center (5801 Ainez) is remaining open from 8am-8pm every day to help flood victims. The center is hosting free legal clinics for residents through Friday, Nov. 8, and Travis County Emergency Services has sent volunteers in safety vests into the affected neighborhoods to directly engage with flooding victims.
Meanwhile, Council Member Mike Martinez made a renewed call for volunteers. "Every volunteer we can put in the community will greatly help our neighbors," he said. "Hundreds of families still have a desperate need for help with cleanup and access to resources. We need to pull together as a community and give everything we can to help these folks through this difficult time." Volunteers can sign up at www.adrntx.org or call 512/331-2600 for info. Service agencies, including Red Cross Central Texas, the Salvation Army, and the Austin Disaster Relief Network, still need monetary donations. Oak Meadows Baptist Church (6905 S. I-35) is housing donated items such as grocery gift cards, furniture, clothing, and tools.
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