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Obama Issues Disaster Declaration for Austin's Halloween Flooding

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News
Maria Isabel Fabian sorts through clothes salvaged from her Dove Springs home which flooded when record rains hit the Austin area on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013.

Nearly two months after devastating floods impacted Southeast Austin, President Obama has signed a disaster declaration for Travis, Hays and Caldwell Counties. The declaration offers federal help with recovery from the Halloween floods that rocked the region earlier this year. 

Pete Baldwin, emergency management coordinator for Travis County, says he’s still waiting for a list of categories the federal money will cover, but he says it could address everything from debris removal to roads and bridges. “Until we get those spreadsheets,” Baldwin says, “we won’t know which categories that we were awarded.”

The findings will be sent to the state and then be sent on to the local level; Baldwin says it’s unclear how soon that will happen.

The news is a reversal of early reports the Austin region wouldn’t receive any federal assistance.

Baldwin delivered an initial estimate to the Travis County Commissioners Court last month of roughly $14 million in damage – far below the threshold for federal assistance. But subsequent assessments of damage have lifted the total above the $35 million benchmark for FEMA assistance.

"I think at the very beginning there was some doubt because we weren’t able to get to all of the places to see what damage had been done and our initial numbers were low," Baldwin says. "But when our state assessment team came in and we were able to get in and take a better look at it, we knew we had met the threshold of over 35 million.” 

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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