Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said based on new tornado damage assessments this week, he's seeing more debris than originally anticipated which will run the numbers up toward a possible federal disaster declaration. He and other local officials are hoping to reach the federal threshold for reimbursement so local taxpayers won't shoulder the burden alone.
Picking up tornado trash is only part of the puzzle and that expense is quickly piling up.
"We're seeing extensive amounts of debris. Yesterday in Richardson, our debris amounts went up about $1,000,000," Jenkins said. "We had estimated about 6.5 (million dollars) here in Dallas, we believe that number is quite a bit higher now after getting out and looking at it with FEMA."
FEMA called Wednesday 'day one in Dallas.' Agents are joined by city, county and state officials, like those from the Texas Department of Emergency Management.
"In this situation, it's a case of the state and FEMA standing next to each other, two eyes are better than one, so that nothing gets missed," said Robin Smith, with public relations for FEMA Region 6.
After spending two days in Garland and Richardson, they're now taking a close look at areas hit by the October 20 E-F3, places like Thomas Jefferson High School and Cary Middle School. Teams are split into three groups – schools, debris sites and parks and rec. They're focusing on public infrastructure, not private, looking at what's covered by insurance, what's not, and the gaps local agencies could be left on the hook for.
"But it's the state and TDEM who are really involved in the entire process and we just want assist," Smith said.
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This could be the beginning of FEMA's involvement. It's merely helping with preliminary assessments if Texas wants to pursue federal dollars with a federal disaster declaration.
In Dallas County, that starts with research on the ground, then moves up the chain through cities, Judge Jenkins, the governor's office and then the president.
"We're committed to getting this federal money opened up for Texas," Jenkins said.
Tours should wrap up by the end of the week. As far as we know, the governor hasn't seen the damage in person yet, but Jenkins said he's coming up on Friday for an event they have together and he plans to show him.