KETR

Piece of Mind: Disaster Declaration Seems Incomplete

Feb 21, 2021

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wanted all 254 Texas counties to qualify for “major disaster” relief from the U.S. government.

President Biden granted that status to 77 of them, or a just a bit less than one-third of what Abbott had sought in the wake of the terrible Texas snow and ice storm.

I saw the list of all the counties and, as a Collin County resident, I was heartened to see my county on the list of declared places, along with Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties. Others in our immediate area received the designation. So did other major counties, such as Bexar, Travis, Harris and their immediate surrounding jurisdictions.

One of the regions where I once lived, the Golden Triangle, also got the disaster declaration, but the Texas Panhandle did not get that designation.

I was struck, though, by the absence of Hunt County from the list of counties to receive federal aid under the designation. Commerce’s water supply system went kaput. Much of it came back, but the city has been on a boil-water advisory for several days; the advisory is expected to last a while longer. Indeed, some parts of the city remain without water at this moment. I consider that a serious disaster, you know? 

What's more, other neighboring counties were left off the disaster declaration list: Fannin, Hopkins, Rains and Delta counties; Rockwall joins Collin County as one of the counties included on the president's disaster declaration list. Were the rural counties spared misery from the storm? Umm, no.

What does it take, therefore, for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to declare a county a “major disaster” when that county is suffering through, um, a major disaster?

I cannot really know what goes into the decision-making processes within FEMA. I just am an observer of how various jurisdictions within my particular orbit are dealing with the mess that the storm has left behind. From my perch in Collin County, it looks for all the world like our neighbors to our east are going through precisely the same tragedy that Mother Nature brought to my neighbors and my family members.

Abbott called the disaster declaration from President Biden a “good first step” in helping our state recover. Perhaps a “good next step” would be to expand the list of counties that receive this disaster declaration.

John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, is also a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is now retired, but still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook, or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis' blog for KETR, "Piece of Mind," presents his views, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff, or its members.

Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.