Last September, just weeks after Katrina devastated the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi, Hurricane Rita, the third most powerful storm on record, a category 5 killer, roiled across the Gulf of Mexico forcing a million people to flee the Texas coast. Rita came ashore as a category 3 storm but still brought death and destruction to more than a score of East Texas counties. When the counting was done 120 people lost their lives to Rita and damage to property exceeded $10 billion according to the National Hurricane Center. This week the Federal Emergency Management Agency said over $950 million in disaster relief has been provided to those who suffered damage from Rita. The Federal disaster support is only part of the recovery story. Today, SUSRIS is pleased to present for your consideration another story about Rita recovery.
SUSRIS wishes to thank The Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise for permission to reprint this article which originally appeared on June 17, 2006.
Saudi Arabia Gives Tyler County the Power
By F.A. Krift, “The Enterprise”
The way Tyler County Emergency Management Coordinator John Paul Feeley sees it, all the “cussing and discussing” of Hurricane Rita-related problems doesn’t need to be rehashed again.
Instead, a little celebration over a long-awaited donation’s arrival was needed Friday.
Via the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Tyler County received two 150-kilowatt generators late Thursday night. Feeley filled out the proposal, which resulted in the $100,000 donation to the rural county that couldn’t otherwise redirect funding for lavish disaster-relief tools.
“I am so tickled,” Feeley said of the brand-new generators. “I’m hanging from the ceiling that (the proposal) worked, and they understood what we were trying to do.”
But Saudi Arabia?
Seems unusual to some, but the country assisted the Hurricane Katrina-ravaged shrimping industry in Bayou La Batre, Ala., and also donated to Deep East Texas Council of Governments to help rebuild 300 blue-roofed homes to date. According to an Associated Press article, millions of Saudi Arabian dollars have been donated to hurricane victims.
In Tyler County, the multi-purpose generators can be used to power water systems or sewer systems. They can sustain emergency shelters in a power outage. If a big rainstorm knocks out electricity in Colmesneil, Feeley said, roll in the generators and voila.
“They aren’t limited to hurricanes. With two of them, I can run the spectrum from 50 KW to up to a 300-KW water system that feeds like half the city of Woodville,” he said.
The emergency management coordinator for the last six years, Feeley said he heard about the possible Saudi grant money through the council of governments.
The guidelines read stereotypically, Feeley said. Apply for grant to supply food, water or clothes. In Feeley’s opinion, the local churches and non-profit aid had covered the immediate needs, and what Feeley wanted was a gift that kept on giving.
“My thought was rather than look at something to benefit us short term, look at something that will keep on giving down the road,” Feeley said.
His November 2005 proposal was accepted by Saudi Aramco, the government-owned petroleum company that the nation’s donations have been funneled through. By March, officials placed the purchase order. Then the generators arrived.
“They’re beautiful. This is another thing that I am very proud of: The Saudis, they never looked at dollar figure per se. They looked at the merit of the project,” Feeley said.
The council of governments Executive Director Walter Diggles said a Saudi Arabian representative toured the Jasper and Newton county areas and determined East Texas could use support.
How about $2.5 million?
About $300,000 has been spent to rebuild roofs on the 300 homes so far; Diggles said the blue-roof repair list is 3,000 names long and grows daily.
“It’s a tremendous amount of work done. People are so grateful and thankful for it,” Diggles said.
Copyright 2006, The Beaumont Enterprise. Reprinted with permission.
Photo provided courtesy of TexasCourthouses.com