Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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Flood victims now facing tough decisions

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TWC News: Flood victims now facing tough decisions
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A constant stream of trucks has been hauling away flood debris and inspectors are finishing up their safety inspections—signs that Southeast Austin residents are working to put their lives back together.

Joe Mancias and his family have lost nearly all of their possessions, but that's not what worries them.

"My main concern is that red tag right there. What are they going to tell me? What is the state, the city, Travis County - who is going to tell me something?” Mancias said. "This is our home. You can't just leave it.”

Nearly a week after the rains first started, many neighbors are still waiting to decide what the next step is.

"We are in the process of reviewing on a daily basis all of our objectives, what we need to do and how quickly we can do it," Otis Latin with the Office of Homeland Security said.

The flood problems in this part of southeast Austin are well documented.

"We'd probably need another Canyon Lake in Hays County somewhere to solve this level of flooding. That is obviously not going to be feasible,” Jose Guerrero with Austin’s Watershed Protection Department said. “A buyout is the most feasible option for this area."

Buying housing in the area has been a priority for watershed managers.

"Three-hundred-and-twenty-two homes have been bought out already, 161 targeted for future buy out. The area is already prioritized," Guerrero said.

City leaders have been trying to buy many of the homes in the affected area for years, but the biggest problem has been the lack of funds.

"The goal has always been to buy out as many of the homes as we could,” Latin said. “But it comes down to funding."

Recovery managers hope this disaster will make more money available for the program.

"Currently we are assessing a strategy to accelerate the buyout process. Obviously a lot of folks are in a decision-making mode," Guerrero said.

Recovery managers say buyout is a long-term flood management solution. They stress that flood victims should continue their short term repairs if they are able to do so. It will take several weeks before details on potential buyout plans might be available.

Until other options are available, the Mancias' plan to stay.

"I'm hoping to rebuild it and fix it up,” he said. “Clean it all up and make it look new again."

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