By Tommy Mann Jr. – The Record

Flood waters began receding over the weekend and now Orange County officials begin the next task which is damage assessment.

Flooding from the Sabine River has left an unidentified number of property and structures damaged. As citizens begin the unenviable task of cleaning up, Orange County officials will be assessing the damage and preparing to make the necessary arrangements to get help for those impacted.

“Those affected by the flooding will be able to met with FEMA very soon,” said Orange County Judge Stephen Brint Carlton. “We don’t have any idea on the exact number of residents who have water damage or the number of homes or businesses flooded yet. FEMA will come in and do an assessment and help determine what funds are available for those affected. There’s been no conversations yet of long term housing or debris cleanup, but that will be part of our discussions with FEMA.”

Carlton said he felt the process went as well as can be hoped for in such a devastating event and that the work is really getting started now.

“Our various law enforcement agencies across the county have done a great job,” Carlton added. “The Sheriff’s Office, along with the local law enforcement agencies did a great job of patrolling the affected areas, keeping people out and making sure everyone was safe. Property can be replaced, but lives cannot.”

According to Ryan Peabody, Orange County Emergency Management Coordinator, dozens of Orange County residents are still utilizing temporary shelter.

“We have 55 people from Orange County in shelter at the Montagne Center at Lamar University in Beaumont,” Peabody said. “But we are going to be moving them back to Orange. We are setting up a shelter at a church on Sixth Street in Orange so those residents can be closer to there homes.”

Peabody and Carlton both confirmed there have been no cases of looting reported in Orange County during the flooding conditions when submerged parts of Orange, Little Cypress, West Orange, Pinehurst and northwest Vidor.

Peabody said after meeting with FEMA, debris assessment will be one of the next issues to be tackled by his department.

“We will have a better idea of what will need to be done after meeting with FEMA,” he explained. “Once we know, we will get that information out to the public as soon as possible so those affected will know what they need to do.”

Although exact numbers are not available on the number of homes or businesses which sustained water damage, Peabody issued a press release this past week which detailed the amount of people and structures impacted inside the evacuation areas, which included areas north and south of Interstate 10 and east of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks which run parallel with 16th Street and State Highway 87.

An estimated 2,394 structures are in the areas inundated with water, while a total of 14,777 structures with 9,100 residents were reported to be in the areas under evacuation orders.

The Orange County Appraisal District placed a projected value of more than $627 million on the property of the structures in the evacuation area, although the value of the property damaged by water has not been established.

At 4 p.m., Sunday, March 20, Orange County and the City of Orange lifted its evacuation order for residents impacted by the Sabine River flood after waters were reported below major flood stage.

The City of Pinehurst lifted its mandatory evacuation order at 9 a.m., Friday, March 18, once officials had determined Adams Bayou was no longer rising and ceased to be a threat to homeowners and businesses in the community.

The historic flood also shut down Interstate 10 for nearly two full days. The Louisiana Department of Transportation reopened Interstate 10 West at 5:30 p.m., Friday, while Interstate 10 East reopened at approximately 7:30 p.m., Friday, which was several days earlier than initially reported.