Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on Friday and wreaked havoc on the state over the course of the weekend. Harvey, which has now been downgraded to a tropical storm, still remains a threat to Texas as it lingers over parts of the state and threatens continued rainfall and flooding. As Harvey continues to affect Texas, people are also trying to deal with Harvey's aftermath, which unfortunately has revealed that post-Harvey recovery could take years.
On Sunday, the National Weather Service noted that Hurricane Harvey's effect has been "unprecedented" and “its impacts beyond anything experienced." As a result of the severity of the storm, which has pounded some parts of Texas with up to 50 inches of rain and resulted in extensive flooding, William "Brock" Long, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has reported that, sadly, a full recovery from the storm could take a very long time. As Long told the Washington Post on Sunday,
The recovery to this event is going to last many years to be able to help Texas and the people impacted by this event achieve a new normal.
Presently, FEMA, as well as other federal agencies, are most focused on immediate response to the storm. As USA Today reported, White House Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism adviser Tom Bossert noted on Sunday that these agencies were highly concerned with ensuring that Texas' residents are safe and provided with rescue if necessary. FEMA's director Long also added to NBC that, "...Right now we are deep into the life-safety mission of helping people be rescued through swift water rescue, search and rescue."
However, while addressing immediate rescue needs, federal agencies are also already looking ahead to long-term recovery and taking immediate note of the storm's devastating impacts. Bossert stressed that the federal government was focused on ensuring long-term care to those in vulnerable positions, saying “We’re going to posture ourselves for the long-term care of the medical needy, of the elderly, of the weak and then we’ll put ourselves in the position to provide the resources to rebuild and recover."
Long, the FEMA Director, also noted the agency is already putting measures in place to prepare for long-term assistance, particularly regarding processing flood insurance claims and securing long-term housing for those affected by the storm. Indeed, Long noted to NBC that his agency is poised to "process all claims" through its national flood insurance program and he is actively encouraging people to reach out to their insurance holders as soon as they experience flood damage. Moreover, as USA Today reported, FEMA has a multi-year process for reconstructing houses and public infrastructure in the aftermath of a disaster.
Long spoke in further detail on CNN's State of the Union about what Texas residents can expect from FEMA right now as it operates both rescue and recovery missions simultaneously, saying,
While we’re focused on the response right now and helping Texas respond, we’re already pushing forward recovery housing teams, we’re already pushing forward forces to be on the ground to implement national flood insurance program polices as well and doing the inspections that we need ... So we’re setting up and gearing up for the next couple years.
Tragically, the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey has revealed such destruction and displacement that a full recovery could take several years. Thankfully, federal, state, and local agencies seem dedicated to helping Texans recover for the long-haul. Hopefully these agencies will continue to provide residents of the state with the services and supplies they need over the next few years to recover and heal from this tragic natural disaster.