By Beth O’Brien, reporting for Bluebonnet News of Montgomery County
A month after Tropical Storm Imelda dumped heavy rains across Southeast Texas, Montgomery County officials are continuing to work on recovery efforts. On Oct. 16, Montgomery County and FEMA officials met at the Bull Sallas Fair Association Building in New Caney where the County’s Disaster Recovery Center opened its doors on Wednesday.
Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough toured the Kingwood/Elm Grove area before arriving at the Disaster Recovery Center.
“Literally, we went to ground zero. Let me just say this, my heart breaks for these people. This is somewhat of a complicated issue. I can tell you this, though, for the people of the Kingwood/Elm Grove area and also Montgomery County, is that Montgomery County will do everything we can to work together with the communities that were affected,” Keough said. “We’re contiguous to each other. We’re bound at the waist. We are together.”
Keough said 2,900 homes in East Montgomery County were damaged in the storm.
“It started out with 600, 800, then it was 1,500.” “I just learned today that it was 2,900 homes,” Keough said.
Keough said that FEMA and the SBA (Small Business Administration) arrived Wednesday, providing an opportunity for Montgomery County residents to come and start filling out applications now.
There are four ways to get registered with FEMA if you were affected by the storm. You can call 1-800-621-3362, register online at https://www.fema.gov/individual-disaster-assistance, download the FEMA mobile app on your phone or come in person to the disaster recovery center.
“You can register before you come here, because once you do it on the phone, what happens is within the next three to five days an inspector will call you to make an appointment to go see the damaged dwelling,” said FEMA spokesperson Alberto Pillot. “That’s the process. Once that happens, then you may come here (disaster recovery center) to follow up.”
Pillot said the inspector will make an appointment, assess the damages within the next five to 10 days and make a determination of what money is available if you qualify.
“The important thing to qualify for FEMA grant dollars is number one, you have to live in a declared county,” Pillot said. “Number two is it has to be your primary home and number three is you have to have damages.”
Pillot encourages people to call their insurance companies first if they have homeowner’s insurance and then apply with FEMA if it is still necessary.
“What happens is that FEMA is going to look at what the insurance companies don’t cover, and that gap they’ll try to fill whatever is eligible with FEMA grant dollars,” Pillot said.
Pillot said renters of homes are also eligible for FEMA grant dollars, not just homeowners. He said anyone in the area counties can come to the recovery center in Montgomery County, not just local residents.
“The important thing is the documentation,” Pillot said. “So basically if you have homeowners insurance, have your insurance policy. Number two is the address of the damaged dwelling, your Social Security number, and they’ll ask for phone numbers in case you have to move or be displaced so they contact you.”
Pillot said you should also have bank routing information, just in case FEMA needs to deposit money into your account, and a bill of receipt of homeowner occupancy to prove you live in the home.
“If you receive a letter that you’re ineligible, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road,” Pillot said. “It could be that something is missing, some information is missing or your insurance information isn’t submitted.”
Pillot advises anyone who receives letter of ineligibility to come to a Disaster Recovery Center and speak with someone in person.
Brenda Coon, whose home was damaged in the storm, dropped by the Disaster Recovery Center in East Montgomery County on Wednesday.
“We live off of FM 1485, and I’ve got several inches of water in my home,” Coon said. “All my appliances, everything, was flooded and my furniture. I can’t live in my house, it’s completely gutted. We’re staying in an RV on the property, my sister’s RV.”
Coon said everyone at the DRC was helpful.
“I had already applied by phone, but I came to check and make sure I had followed all the procedures and done everything I needed to do,” Coon said. “They were very helpful and gave me another number for the state of Texas that’s going to handle the personal property.”
The Disaster Recovery Center in Montgomery County is located at the Bull Sallas Park Fair Association Building, at 21675 McCleskey Road in New Caney, and is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 7 days a week.