Gov. Greg Abbott asked for a federal disaster declaration Thursday for a dozen Texas counties inundated by flooding and other damage from recent storms, seeking money and low-interest loans so those places can rebuild.
Abbott's request to President Barack Obama seeks individual and public assistance for Austin, Brazoria, Brazos, Fort Bend, Grimes, Hidalgo, Hood, Montgomery, San Jacinto, Travis, Waller and Washington counties. A federal disaster declaration could clear the way in those counties for assistance grants of up to $33,000 for individuals and low-interest disaster loans.
"This month's severe weather and flooding devastated the properties and lives of thousands of Texans across the state," Abbott said, adding that the request was "the first step in helping these Texans rebuild their lives."
A total of 46 counties are part of a June 1 state disaster declaration due to the weather. Abbott said the latest floods in the southeast and central parts of the state mark the sixth major disaster in the last 13 months, with 151 of the state's 254 counties being declared a disaster area in that time and 48 of those coming under such a declaration twice or more.
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"There are areas where people are barely starting to recover when severe weather strikes again," Abbott said in his letter to Obama. "Texans will overcome these challenges, but assistance is needed from the federal government."
Mandatory evacuations and flood warnings remained in effect Thursday along parts of the swollen Brazos River in Brazoria County, south of Houston. At Rosharon, the last flood gauge before the river empties into the Gulf of Mexico was at 51.42 feet early Thursday afternoon, down slightly from 24 hours earlier but still well above the 43-foot flood stage.
"We still have water in those areas and roads are impassable," county spokeswoman Sharon Trower said. "The mandatory evacuations issued by the county are still in effect and will be in effect until we see roads safe to travel on."
She estimated nearly a third of the 325,000 people living in Brazoria County were affected by flooding linked to storms that lingered into early this week. Areas within Lake Jackson got up to 3 inches of rain Tuesday, she said.
"We're looking at 100,000 directly or indirectly affected by the flood. That could be anything from road closures to traffic to being evacuated," Trower said.
Three prisons near the river also remained evacuated after nearly a week with no timetable yet for their return, Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Robert Hurst said. About 4,300 inmates from the Ramsey, Stringfellow and Terrell units have been taken to other prisons in East Texas.