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Important information regarding flooding, downed power lines, and assistance

Storms in our area seem to be never ending. If it's not flooding, it's wind with downed trees and power lines. The danger is very real.

Kirbyville Volunteer Fire Chief Greg Ellis said of the downed trees and power lines, "Please stay clear of all lines especially when they are on the ground because they could still be energized. Just call 911 get us in route and also call the JNEC".

Of local flooding, Jasper County Judge Mark Allen said, "I would imagine that in the next few days we'll see some increases in the lake levels and rivers due to rainfall received to the north and northwest of our area. Thankfully, these rains over the past week have not brought about the levels that we saw in early April and May. We haven't had any additional homes reported to us as being flooded. However, we have numerous reports of downed or broken trees that have brought down power lines, blocked county and state roadways and damaged a few homes. The recent downfalls are primarily due to the high winds resulting from these storms and the fact that the ground is saturated".

All of our Linemen, Fire Fighters, and First Responders have been very busy for the past few months. Roganville Volunteer Fire Chief Mike Smith said, "The wet ground and extremely high winds had everything to do with (the downed trees)". Smith said that he lost the roof over his wife's shop just last night. Whether it's a personal loss or a community loss, our firefighters have to be right on it at a moments notice.

Regarding the trees and power lines, Smith added, "I would tell the public to slow down and drive carefully when the weather is bad. There could be a tree in the road anywhere. If they do come up on a down tree or powerline, do not approach it. Call 911."

Beech Grove Volunteer Fire Chief James Gunter and his team, like all others in Jasper, Newton, and Tyler Counties are and have been terribly busy with everything from high water rescues, tree removal, putting out fires caused by downed power lines, on top of their normal duties of putting out house fires, and working automobile accidents. Gunter said in a Facebook post, "Have you thanked an electrical lineman today?" ETB urges our readers to not only thank a lineman, but also our firemen and other first responders for keeping us safe throughout this weather onslaught. Without them, where would we be?

With flooding still occuring we asked Judge Allen about displaced citizens. Allen said, "Currently, there are no shelters activated in Jasper County, and we believe that most people displaced in April from the storms in Jasper and Newton Counties have either returned home, obtained new housing through DETCOG via vouchers, or are staying with family or friends".

Many citizens have already filled out the damage survey that has been passed around online, but unfortunately many more still have not filed. Since we recently received the FEMA disaster declaration, some people are confused as to whether or not they still need to fill it out. Allen stated, "Oh yes (they do), especially since we have the FEMA Disaster designation for citizens. This will help with obtaining assistance from FEMA, SBA, USDA or other agencies". (Damage survey is posted below)

As a side note, Allen said that yesterday they activated the FEMA Disaster Recovery Center in Jasper at the Annex Building for citizens to file for assistance for damages resulting from the flooding, as well as cost assistance for being displaced. The hours are 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and it will be open 7 days a week over the next few weeks. Anybody in Jasper County that had damage resulting from these storms is welcome to come by to file for assistance.

Chief Gunter added, "I've lost count on how many (downed lines/trees). Quite a few in the last few days and a whole bunch in the last several months.

Be careful when driving and pay attention. Lots of dead trees on the roadsides, lots of trees leaning over the roads, etc. With saturated ground these trees will fall. With minimal winds, these trees will fall. Drive alert, always paying attention to your surroundings".

Gunter closed in adding,"Never make assumptions that electrical lines that have fallen or that are tangled in fallen trees are not energized. Always assume they are, until confirmed otherwise by electric company personnel. Never attempt to cut a tree entangled in power lines".

Images courtesy of Chief James Gunter


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