By Valerie Reddell
After a week of tumult from Hurricane Harvey, Tyler County buckled down and focused on recovery for the Labor Day weekend.
At the Emergency Operations Center, County Judge Jacques Blanchette and Emergency Operations Coordinator Ken Jobe focused on sharing information with the public and a lengthy roster of agencies to move residents out of harm's way and shift supplies and services to those who had been displaced by the storm.
On Aug. 31, Blanchette found himself on the phone with a reporter for CNN explaining his dire warning to residents along the Neches River to, "get out or die."
Blanchette explained that property owners in that region are accustomed to river levels rising and falling, and many are self-sufficient and don't like to leave their homes when conditions might be frightening to newcomers.
He wanted to be certain that all those experienced storm-watchers got the word that this storm was very different.
At one point Congressman Brian Babin was stuck at his home by water flowing across the road to his home outside Woodville.
Babin found himself having to set the record straight with one nationally televised interview when the reporter claimed his house had been destroyed.
His home wasn't damaged and Babin had been focused on talking to the White House to expedite a federal disaster declaration for the last two counties in his district — Tyler and Polk.
Meanwhile John Stagg led a corps of volunteerstasked with opening shelters.
"Shelters were set up at True Vine Baptist Church, Woodville First Baptist Church and Woodville United Methodist Church," Stagg said. "These shelters were directed by The American Red Cross with a host of volunteers. While many others helped on their own, the Red Cross's expertise helped organize, track and prioritize beds and other resources for those seeking shelter."
Stagg reported that since the number of evacuees was never great enough to require FBC to be used as a shelter, that church acted as a supply distribution site. Both FBC and UMC served hot meals throughout the week.
Church members opened an independent shelter at Camp Ta-Ku-La near Chester. For more on that effort, visit tylercountybooster.com.
A number of community organizations including Lions Club and Rotary helped alongside a number of individuals.
"Many people loaded supplies and generators onto their own boats to deliver to areas cut off by the storm water," Stagg said.
The Tyler County Sheriff's Office, Woodville Police and Texas Highway Patrol coordinated efforts and provided additional security and support throughout the county.
"I am extremely proud of my officers and the citizens who really came together during the storm," Sheriff Bryan Weatherford said.
"The whole department worked 24/7," he added. "We increased patrol day and night and officers were staged in each area of the county."
Weatherford said county officials will hold a debriefing session later in the week.
"We couldn't do what we do without our volunteer firefighters, TxDOT and the county employees at the precinct barns," Weatherford said. "When the lights went out, we flooded the county with officers."
Weatherford said he and both police chiefs were working patrol during the power outage.
"Knock on wood, we had no burglaries, no break-ins, no looting," Weatherford said. "I'm really proud of how everybody came together. It brought out the best of Tyler County."
Tyler County Emegency Management announced late Tuesday that FEMA will have a Disaster Survivor Assistance Team would tour Tyler County Wednesday.
Anyone with storm related damage should apply for FEMA assistance and apply for an SBA loan right away. Visit www.disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-FEMA.
For more about recovery efforts, visit www.tylercountybooster.com.