HOUSTON (KTRK) --FEMA inspectors on Wednesday walked around over and through dozens of damaged homes assessing damage left over from the April 18 flood.
Nearly 150 homes in the Timber Lakes Timber Ridge neighborhood were damaged or destroyed by flood waters two and a half weeks ago, but FEMA has not yet added Montgomery County to the federal disaster declaration. It means victims here are not yet eligible for aid. Just miles away in Harris County that aid has been flowing for days.
FEMA staff told U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, County Judge Craig Doyal & Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack the assessments in area counties would continue until Friday. A decision to add Montgomery could come over the weekend or early next week.
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As he stood in front of neck high debris piles, Noack told abc13, "I can't think of a community in greater need."
"Step in and help the people," flood victim Ivan Militiev told abc13 when asked what FEMA should do.
Eyewitness News broadcast live from Militiev's flooded house on April 18. That morning the water was up to his waist, floorboards were floating, entire beds lifted off the ground.
"I lost everything," he told us Wednesday.
His house is in better shape than most. Militiev spent his own savings to gut the floor and cut out wet drywall. He took 11 trailer loads of trash to the dump and has crews working on his home. He hopes to be back in within 30 days. He expects to spend upwards of $36,000 to do it. His flood insurance has not paid out yet. A $33,000 check from FEMA (the most allowed) would help a great deal he told us.
Like others in this flooded neighborhood, Militiev is rebuilding for the fourth time. After the most recent flood in 2012, his federal flood insurance premium rose 30 percent from $2,000/year to $2,700. He expects it to go up again, but will pay it and is determined to rebuild.
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"(The flood) will not chase me away," he said.
Militiev said he is not interested in a buyout, but the county will pursue the option according to the county judge. During the tour Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal told abc13, "We are looking at the potential of buyouts. We have to see where FEMA falls in the participation they will require from the county."
Federal programs will sometimes purchase homes that flood repeatedly. The land typically becomes part of the flood zone and must remain unoccupied. Past programs require a local financial match from 10 to 25 percent. That may be the sticking point. The county is hoping unspecified grant programs may pick up the local portion.
Rep. Brady, who lives just a mile away from the neighborhood, encouraged the judge to make it work.
"The families keep getting hurt over and over and what the county is considering in a buyout to solve this problem is really important," Brady said.
In the short term, flooded residents and county leaders are waiting for word to find out if flooded residents will get some help. If an answer comes next week, residents will first have to register with FEMA, but once that is complete, the agency says aid could flow within 24 hours.