EMILY GUEVARA, firstname.lastname@example.org
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called on Texans to come together and help their fellow residents rebuild their lives in the aftermath of multiple tornadoes that devastated East Texas communities this weekend.
Abbott, who spoke during a news conference Sunday afternoon in Canton, said the top priority at this point is to check the more than 5,000 homes for victims and bring as many people to safety and medical treatment as possible.
“We’re here today to begin the process of helping the people from across Henderson, Van Zandt and Rains counties begin to piece their lives back together,” Abbott said.
He said the state is taking the required steps to make a decision about a disaster declaration. He expected one to be forthcoming and said the state would move as swiftly as possible to declare it.
Some 300 state employees are helping in some form or fashion, including from the Texas Department of Emergency Management.
Abbott outlined several priorities including looking after the lives of affected people; safeguarding and securing the area; and restoring power as quickly as possible to the area.
In addition, he said they desire to assess damages and respond to those as quickly as possible.
He praised Texans for their desire to help in crisis situations. However, he said, it is important for donations to be made strategically and thoughtfully so they can be used by those in need.
Because of that, Abbott said the most effective donation is money. At this time, officials have not specified how or to what entity people should donate, but Abbott said that information would be forthcoming.
Donations of water and other supplies can be made at the EMS Station in Canton, 600 Industrial Blvd.
One specific need is for a warehouse or other large space that is centrally located where people could donate water, food, building supplies, etc. If someone has that kind of space and would be willing to donate it for this purpose, that would be a tremendous help, Abbott said.
At this time, volunteers are not needed in the heavily damaged areas because professionals are responding and working the search and rescue situation. However, in the coming days, volunteers likely will be needed, Abbott said.
In addition, there will be a need for housing.
“Some people are without a home right now, some people without a place to live,” Abbott said, adding they are looking for places where displaced families can live while their homes are being rebuilt.
This could include apartments or hotels that could offer up one or more units for individuals and families in need of temporary housing while their homes are rebuilt.
“You see the tragedy of what these tornadoes can do. I’ve seen the rubble of what use to be homes - not houses, but homes ... suddenly ripped away from them by wicked winds that are gone the next second,” Abbott said. “We as Texans come together to help our neighbors.”
KYTX contributed to this report.