George West, TX – The area along County Road 303 is green, lush and deceptively peaceful as it winds down into the Nueces River bottom in Live Oak County. Rounding a corner into flood-stricken neighborhoods is like suddenly descending into a wasteland.
When the residents of Old Swimming Hole subdivision came back to their homes during the past week, they were faced with devastation. The high water mark inside most of the homes is 4 to 5 feet up the walls. Many of the homes marinated in filthy, stinking floodwaters for more than a week. When the water receded late last week, homes were filled with oozing mud, slime, mold, mildew and massive water damage. Possessions were either washed away or are unrecognizable. Yards are obliterated. The people cleaning up move around their property in shocked silence.
“It is awful and eerie,” Michael Smith said. “It looks like this neighborhood has been deserted for years. It looks like a war zone.”
Sandy Smith surveyed 18 years of her life’s work – her flood-stricken home and what used to be her yard – and melted into tears.
“We are just reminiscing about the stuff we used to have,” she said. “Now we will have to clean up and start over.”
In response to the disaster cleanup, the Red Cross set up shop Wednesday at the Methodist Church Fellowship Hall at 509 Crockett St. and prepared to pitch in. Twenty volunteers, including mental health workers and nurses, will man the George West Service Center from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays until they are no longer needed.
“We will be here until it is over,” Red Cross spokeswoman Nicolle Farrell said. “We will do what we can to help sustain them until they can get back on their feet.”
The Red Cross is distributing supplies, including mops, brooms and disinfectants to help with cleanup efforts, and keeping the victims fed and clothed in the interim. It is helping with rent, long term medical care, food, vouchers for clothing and baby care supplies. At a table in the service center, volunteers handed out literature on how to clean up the flooded homes. The Red Cross is even offering a shoulder to cry on for distraught victims in the form of mental health support.
If You Need Help
Red Cross volunteers including mental health workers and nurses will man the George West Service Center, 509 Crockett St., from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Supplies, including mops, brooms and disinfectants, are being distributed.
Stress and Frustration
There is a lot of stress and frustration in a situation like this,” Farrell said. “A lot of times it makes all of the difference in the world just to talk to someone.”
J.J. LeBlanc, directed sons, daughters and in-laws in their cleanup efforts in his yard down the street from the Smiths. They (Red Cross) just left,” LeBlanc said. “I don’t know what we would have done without them because they have been a big help.”
LeBlanc’s mobile home had four feet of water flowing through it during the worst of the flooding. On Friday, mud in the carpet sucked at his feet. Ruined mattresses sat stacked against a wall. Mold had crept up the walls and a large puddle of water on the kitchen cabinet is a vivid reminder of the water that washed away a chunk of his life.
LeBlanc said the meals delivered from Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles twice a day are good and filling. He has had snacks and water they have delivered and the Red Cross supplied the disinfectant his family is spraying on the porch. He said help from agencies like the Red Cross will allow him some time to rebuild.
For the Smiths, Red Cross aid has included medicine and doctor bills. In the back of Michael’s truck, empty cans of water bear testimony to the fact that the aid organization has been there.
They have been tremendous,” Sandy Smith said. “They have helped me with medicines and doctor bills and everything else.”