Bridge City officials, residents determined to rebuild
There is a spirit of determination wafting through the air in Orange County. Mixed with the smell of must and mold, that determination can be felt strongest in Bridge City.
Ninety-nine percent of the town found itself underwater around 7 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 13 as the Sabine Lake and Gulf of Mexico pushed its way into the city that resides between bridges.
A lot of homes in Orange and Cove suffered the same fate when the levees were breached. Flooding was a problem in other areas of Orange County that have a tendency to take on water during heavy storms.
Bridge City Mayor Kirk Roccaforte, along with County Judge Carl Thibodeaux and other Orange County Mayors, has worked non-stop with federal and state officials to get housing and assistance for local citizens. Roccaforte is in the same boat as most of his constituents. His home was filled with several feet of water. “I closed the door and haven’t been back,” he said.
“Your first responders have the infrastructure up and running,” said Roccaforte at Sunday’s first ever Town Hall meeting. Temporary buildings have been put in place for the city and police departments to operate from.
Roccaforte has been pushing to get trailers into people’s driveways so they can stay in town to repair their homes and keep their children in the Bridge City Independent School District. He feels that is the only way the town will survive.
FEMA’s response is, “FEMA is no longer in the trailer business.” After many law suites concerning formaldehyde in travel trailers, they do not want to consider that solution. Instead, they offered vouchers to pay for apartment rentals.
Local officials have had difficulty making FEMA understand there are no places within a hundred miles to stay. A housing shortage has remained an area problem since Hurricane Rita. It would be impossible for the majority of the population to commute 100+ miles daily to go to work and repair their homes.
As the fight goes on, residents are not sitting around waiting on the government to do something.
The area looks more like a landfill every day, or a “flea market” as Roccaforte puts it. People’s lives are piled on the street curb as they try to start anew.
Even youngsters are finding ways to help as several girls gave away “free Kool-Aid” at a stand they set up.
Three buses of Orangefield students brought 2,000 meals door to door in Bridge City last week. Red Cross is doing the same in Orange today.
Cardinal athletes have practiced at Bobcat facilities.
Students and staff have helped in clean-up.
Orangefield’s generosity has spurred Mid-County to do the same. Plans were announced yesterday for Nederland, Port Neches and Groves to participate in “Mid-County Kindness.” Their hope is to gather 10,000 volunteers to converge on Bridge City in one day for debris removal and demolition. They are not doing any repair work, but will tear out dry wall and other items that need to be replaced and try to get the area cleaned up so the restoration of homes can begin. All a resident needs to do to get the assistance is put a sign that says “Need Help” in front of their house.
The day is planned for Oct. 5.
Neighbors helping neighbors are feeding that determination to rebuild the area. It’s not just something you can see, but something you can feel.
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