LCOEM: Thousands evacuated from rising water during Imelda

With the worst of the storm over, local and federal officials gathered at the command center for the Liberty County Office of Emergency Management Thursday evening to review the County's emergency response and plan for the coming days. Pictured left to right are LCOEM Director Crista Beasley-Adams, Will Carter with U.S. Rep. Brian Babin's office, Liberty County Judge Jay Knight and Hardin Mayor Harry Johnson.

By Vanesa Brashier,

The Liberty County Office of Emergency Management is still tallying Tropical Depression Imelda figures as they come in, but the most recent information is that 3,200 people in Liberty County were evacuated from their homes by first responders using boats and high-profile vehicles on Thursday. Another 163 were pulled from their stalled vehicles in the rising floodwaters.

The worst-hit areas of Liberty County, due to the amount of rainfall, were Tarkington, Cleveland, Plum Grove, Devers and Raywood. Dayton and Liberty also experienced flooding that many officials say is the worst they’ve ever seen.

“This was definitely worse than Harvey because of the amount of rain that was dumped on us in a 24-hour period,” said Liberty County Judge Jay Knight. “The National Weather Service said we were going to get 8-10 inches of rain throughout the whole episode and we ended up getting close to 30 inches or more. I know Tarkington Prairie had about 30 inches. That’s a lot of rain.”

Unlike Harvey, the rain comes after a lengthy drought that left creeks and ditches dry, and the Trinity River at low levels. That should help, Knight said.

“The water is going to go down faster because the river was low,” he said.

While Liberty County is working to develop a drainage plan that should ease flooding with normal rainfall, even the best drainage plan in the world would not have made a difference given the amount of rainfall that fell in a short time frame, the judge added.

The judge commended the efforts of firefighters and law enforcement officers who worked tirelessly rescuing residents from their homes.

“We had no fatalities. Thank you, Lord. I know Constable Hunter in Tarkington was doing a lot of good work, and the fire departments in Plum Grove and Cleveland, and the Pct. 6 Constable’s Office were rescuing a lot of people, some who were stranded on US 59,” he said.

Evacuees are being sheltered in two locations in Liberty County – The Sanctuary Church on E. Hanson St. in Cleveland and First United Methodist Church on Main St. in Liberty. The last count was that 17 displaced people were staying at FUMC in Liberty and another 70 were staying at The Sanctuary.

Knight and Liberty County Office of Emergency Management Director Krista Beasley-Adams are working with state and federal officials on disaster declarations. Will Carter with U.S. Rep. Brian Babin’s office spent Thursday in Liberty County looking at storm damage to report back to Babin.

“Congressman Babin and Congressman Randy Weber sent a joint letter to the President, passing along the Governor’s disaster declaration, asking him to post-haste issue a federal disaster to get federal assets in place,” Carter said.

However, it will be some time before Liberty County officials know if the damage from Imelda hits the threshold for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“We have to look at the number of homes damaged and they have to factor in if they are complete losses. Some of our people in Liberty County are still recovering from Hurricane Harvey,” Beasley-Adams said.

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