WILLIAMSON COUNTY (KXAN) — Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) joined Williamson County leaders Wednesday to discuss the preliminary damage assessment process for those affected by last week’s tornado.
FEMA held a press conference at 1 p.m. Wednesday in Taylor to discuss the damage in Williamson County and how a partnership with the county and Texas Department of Emergency Management will help people rebuild.
According to the City of Round Rock, the tornado caused more than $32 million in damage to 680 homes in its area. Of the 680 homes, city data shows that 13 were “destroyed” and 93 sustained “major damage.” The neighborhoods impacted included Kensington, Windy Terrace, Greenlawn Place, Windy Park, Turtle Creek, South Creek, Concord at Brushy Creek, Forest Grove and Forest Bluff.
One family on Oxford Boulevard told KXAN Wednesday that it could be up to a year until they get back in their home. While they appreciate food and water donations, they say financial assistance is what they need to start rebuilding now, as many of the homes in their neighborhood are unlivable.
The Trissel family is staying in a hotel until they can get back in their home and they don’t know when that will be. They tell KXAN insurance adjusters are facing a backlog because of the widespread damage.
“We have a crack in the brick and they think that’s evidence the house was lifted up during the tornado. The roof also has structural damage,” Kitty Trissel said.
Homes across Williamson County have either a red, yellow or green tag posted on the front door. Officials say these tags show homeowners and first responders the level of safety and damage sustained. The Trissels’ tag is yellow, which indicates the safety of their home is questionable or hazardous conditions my exist and warrant restrictions.
“That’s why we were trying to get the motorhome ready…to get it set up and stay in it,” said Raymond Trissel.
Fortunately, they have insurance, but they don’t know if it will cover all the damages. They say some of their neighbors don’t have insurance and that’s why they are hoping FEMA steps in to help.
FEMA tells KXAN Governor Greg Abbott has up to 30 days (or more time if needed) to submit a request for a federal disaster declaration. The agency says the approval process could take an additional 30 days or more.
In order for federal help, state and federal officials say homeowners must report damages at the state level first. The best way to do this is through the Individual State of Texas Assessment Tool (iSTAT) Damage Surveys website through the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM). Homeowners can scroll down to “March Severe Weather” under current active incidents and fill out the survey.
“It’s really essential we get all of the details and damage so FEMA has the full picture and can maximize our opportunity to get full support,” said Bruce Clements of TDEM.
FEMA says once the governor determines the need for federal resources and its approved by the White House, it will work with the state to create a formula, based on various factors, for how much money is doled out and which homeowners can get it.
“We look at a variety of factors. The number of substantially damaged homes is a primary factor but there’s no one number because we have to parcel that out to the uninsured, so it is very important to understand that FEMA cannot duplicate insurance benefits that are paid out on the private market,” Ben Akers of FEMA explained.
FEMA says its just one piece of the recovery process, providing grants to homeowners who qualify. The U.S. Small Business Administration is also providing loans to homeowners in need of relief.
KXAN will continue to track relief efforts at the federal level and post that information to KXAN.com once it becomes available.