‘We need help over here:’ Marion County declares a disaster for second time following winter storm

Marion County Judge Leward LaFleur gives a tour of the courthouse renovations.
Marion County Judge Leward LaFleur gives a tour of the courthouse renovations.
Updated: Feb. 24, 2021 at 6:27 AM CST
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MARION COUNTY, Tx. (KSLA) - Days after a historic winter storm knocked out water and power to thousands of Texans, Marion County Judge Leward LaFleur is working to make sure the needs of his constituents are met.

For the second time in just over a week, Marion County declared another disaster — with hopes of receiving much-needed federal aid.

“It’s pretty much like holding your hand up,” LaFleur said. “We need help over here, there’s residents in Marion County that need help.”

On February 13, Texas Governor Greg Abbott requested a ‘Major Disaster Declaration’ for all 254 counties in the state, which would open the door to individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Seven days later, the White House approved individual assistance for 77 counties in Texas, which included Nacogdoches, Panola, Sabine, Shelby and Upshur Counties.

Then, on February 22, 31 additional counties were approved for federal aid — including Bowie, Gregg, Harrison and Rusk Counties.

But, not Marion County. LaFleur is deeply concerned his constituents are being overlooked.

LaFleur said Marion County has an older population with residents living on a fixed income, who cannot afford to repair damage brought by the storm.

“They don’t figure out for this year’s budget that we’re going to have to factor in $50 thousand worth of repairs for pipes or roof,” he added.

According to LaFleur, Marion County is also reeling from devastation to its agricultural economy.

He says that after just a single day of reporting, he learned of dozens of acres of crops lost, including hundreds of thousands of dollars of livestock, which perished in the storm.

“When you wake up and it’s minus six degrees outside, none of us are ready for that kind of temperature,” LaFleur said. “Our water companies did a phenomenal job, we lost some water pressure throughout the county — some folks went without for an extended period of time.”

Governor Abbott stated counties can be re-requested for assistance from the federal government. But, LaFleur said there is no clear timeline on when Marion County could be seeing help.

Regardless, LaFleur says Marion County remains resilient and focused on taking care of one another.

“These folks here are very strong-willed, they are fiercely Texan,” he added. “Right now, they’re in help mode.”

Abbott is asking Texans to utilize the ‘individual assistance reporting tool’ from the Texas Division of Emergency Management. This assists the state in understanding the scope of the damage across the Lone Star State.

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