Deborah Heathcock is an FLNG senior help desk and desktop support analyst who works from the Quintana Terminal administration building. She lives with her family outside of Holiday Lakes in an area called Long Pond.
"There were several warnings the days leading up to the actual flood. We did receive a mandatory evacuation at which time my husband and I debated on whether or not we should leave. We ended up staying the night and leaving the next morning because we needed that night to prepare what we could, move things up to higher ground and pack what we wanted to take.
"Freeport LNG offered us one of their corporate beach houses to stay in. We stayed there the first night, not intending to stay there too long. My father-in-law and my husband’s cousin live right next door to us (in Holiday Lakes). They decided to stay and they were the ones who told us how bad it was. They took final pictures of our home before they ended up having to leave by rescue.
"When I went back to the house, the first thing of course was the smell, and the heat was terrible. I saw lines across the walls that helped me determine that the water had gotten at least five and a half feet high at our home. We lost 100 percent of our furniture and all of our appliances. In the home alone, we probably lost about 90 percent of everything.
"The United Way helped us with cleaning supplies, food, bug sprays and trash bags. The company (Freeport LNG) had a home that we were able to rent for a while, and right now we’re staying nearby in another house on our property until we can get our home rebuilt. Freeport LNG and the employees have been a true blessing. They’ve helped my family with furniture. They’ve helped us with gift cards. I’ve had employees purchase things from websites for us. And not just the employees. I’ve had contractors as well, working with Freeport LNG, that have also donated a lot of things!
"Right now the house is down to the studs. We’ve removed everything out of it and it has been sprayed for mold. We have not started the rebuild process yet. We just received our insurance money not too long ago. So that’s the condition it’s in right now— just nothing but the studs."
ncreasing problems with flooding along the Gulf Coast have made homeowners more aware of the danger, but human nature still lulls many into thinking, "It can't happen here." During March and April this year, there were minor flooding events in Brazoria County affecting about 45 homes. To most, the news didn't seem threatening, but one organization took notice.
"We’re at the end of the Brazos River before it goes into the Gulf," observes Jenna Masters, Executive Director of the United Way of Brazoria County. "With any flooding that you get in the Dallas area on down, we will eventually be affected. So, we became concerned that there might be issues going into the summer if we got a substantial amount of rain."
The day-to-day work of the United Way of Brazoria County focuses on programs and services in education, income, health and basic needs. But during disasters, it can also act as a "convener," meaning it helps coordinate local first responders and relevant organizations to assist people affected. This includes the Red Cross, Salvation Army, county, state and federal groups and officials. In early June this year, rainfall levels substantially increased. The United Way began to have daily talks with Angleton County and city officials about the level of the Brazos River.
Homeowners were finally able to go back to their houses to assess damage nearly a week later. At that time United Way moved into their long-term recovery activities, a process that can span three years.
Many displaced from their homes—which were damaged or totally destroyed—had to deal with rebuilding issues. They needed rent and utilities assistance for 12 to 18 months. If they had lost everything, they needed household goods, furniture and appliances.
This was not uncommon in the Holiday Lakes area, where flood levels rose as high as six to twelve feet. The United Way also provided education services to victims filing claims with FEMA. "They may end up not getting what they potentially could get. There’s an appeals process," says Masters. "Unless they've ever been through a disaster and dealt with FEMA, they don’t know the processes."
All of these long-term services can be costly and are not part of the United Way’s regular budget that supports day-to-day needs. What has been assessed as unmet financial needs from the June flood is $3.4 million, nearly the same as the organization’s regular annual budget. "We went to the community and asked for donations for flood recovery," explains Masters. "We have great community partners, companies that always step in: Freeport LNG, Dow, BASF. Freeport LNG itself, the company, donated $50,000.00. And the CEO felt inclined to make a personal $50,000.00 donation to help flood recovery efforts. We’re so blessed in Brazoria County to have companies and CEOs who are vested in the communities where they do business and work and play. That money will go a long way."
"We have not had a flood of this magnitude since I was born in 1974," remembers Masters. "There are over 300 homes in Holiday Lakes, which was one of the worst affected areas. Ninety-eight percent of those homes were either destroyed or had some significant damage to them. So, you’re talking about everything in that community: the city hall, the local churches, the police department, the local grocery store."
In the aftermath, United Way immediately dealt with many short-term needs of the flood victims: shelter, utilities, food, clothing and medical attention. It not only coordinated county organizations but legions of volunteers and nonprofit groups who helped.