Gov. Rick Perry has declared Ellis County a disaster area as a result of flood damage.

Ellis is one of 37 counties listed by Perry in a declaration of disaster issued Friday. Last week, Perry issued a declaration for six counties.

Also on Friday, Ellis County Judge Chad Adams issued a declaration of disaster, noting widespread damage and activating the county’s emergency management plan. The declaration is in effect for seven days unless otherwise continued.

The good news is that a potential levee-breaking situation with the Trinity River has been avoided.

“We’re very fortunate,” county spokesman Diana Buckley said Saturday afternoon. “The Trinity crested this morning at about 36 feet instead of the predicted or worst case scenario of 38 or 39 feet.”

Although the river may experience another rise, officials believe the danger has passed, she said.

“They’re expecting it to rise again late today (Saturday) to about 36.7 feet, but that’s not a levee failure expectation,” she said. “We’re looking good.”

At 2:30 p.m. Saturday, the water level in the Trinity River measured at 36.06 feet at the Rosser gauge, compared to 36.04 feet at 11:30 p.m. Friday and up from 35.92 feet at 7:20 p.m. Friday.

This is slightly less than the previous forecast, which had estimated the level would reach about 36.7 feet at 7 a.m. Saturday. That was down slightly from a prediction of 37.6 feet late Friday or early Saturday, June 30. Cresting is characterized as a broad, flat crest.

Historically, the levee has been breached at 37.5 feet.

County officials also had set up a shelter in Ennis for people evacuated from near the river. The shelter went unused, however, and was closed Friday.

“When you have enough time to plan, most people have another place to go,” Buckley said. “But it was available.”

Buckley praised the efforts of Sharon McKinney, the county’s director of homeland security.

“She did a really fine job,” Buckley said.

The biggest reason for the disaster declaration in Ellis County is because of road damage, Buckley said.

“There’s a lot of it,” she said. “The county commissioners are tallying up that damage and making estimates of what needs to be repaired.”

Ellis County road closures as of Friday evening included: Precinct 1 - Neck Road; Precinct 2 - Oilfield Road, Walker Creek Road, Spence Road, Sandswitch Road and Armstrong Road; Precinct 3 - Cosby, Whiterock, Low Water; and Precinct 4 - Ray White Road.

In his declaration, the governor noted damage across much of Central and North Texas.

“Recent storms have devastated the communities in Central and North Texas, sadly taking lives, homes and livelihoods,” Perry said. “State resources and volunteer organizations are on site providing assistance, and we will continue to work with local officials in addressing the needs of these devastated communities.”

If the president approves the disaster declaration, residents in eligible counties can apply for individual assistance programs intended for losses by individuals and families that are uninsured. Individual assistance can include financial assistance, temporary housing, tax relief, legal services, crisis counseling and disaster unemployment assistance. As a result of this action, all 254 counties in Texas will be eligible to apply for assistance under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

The governor’s disaster declaration opens the door to a variety of assistance from state agencies, including the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, the Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Office of Rural and Community Affairs.

TDHCA administers emergency assistance through the disaster relief HOME program. This program can provide up to $500,000 per jurisdiction for distribution to qualified individual applicants. NRCS, which issues emergency assistance through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program, can assist communities with a range of projects such as debris removal, erosion control, and repair of bridges and culverts.

Upon request from the governor, qualifying communities with populations less than 50,000 and counties with populations less than 200,000 are eligible to receive up to $350,000 in emergency grants from ORCA for infrastructure losses.

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