New county judge KP George, while handling the first major public-safety event of his tenure, vowed to keep residents apprised. He preached dedication to striking a balance between real talk and being a beacon of light and information for the county’s residents.
“We are here – we are watching it closely, and we’re here to help,” he said last week. “Watch what is happening, and we will be there for you.”
In this instance, anyway, George and the county appeared to live up to those words.
Some neighborhoods in Sugar Land received 8-9 inches of rain in a matter of hours when storms first moved in May 7, which was more rainfall than they received in three days during Hurricane Harvey. Areas such as Needville, Simonton and Richmond, bordered by the San Bernard and Brazos Rivers, experienced some moderate flooding and related damage. As of the weekend, officials estimated at least 150 homes in the unincorporated areas of the county had been damaged, and that number has likely risen since then. Big Creek near Rosenberg surpassed levels not seen in almost 50 years.
This is not meant to minimize or downplay that damage. But what stuck out was George’s resolve to provide up-to-the-minute updates, no matter how minor they may have seemed, and not just via social media or the Office of Emergency Management websites, but by putting his face to the updates.
Every step of the way, George and other emergency management officials provided necessary updates, which is exactly how it should be. In times of potential crisis, we look to our leaders for guidance, reassurance and also truth.
On May 8, an alert came across my desk about a news conference scheduled for the next day at the county’s OEM headquarters in Richmond, with George set to address the media along with other emergency personnel. The area was just days removed from heavy downpours that caused minor street flooding, isolated flash flooding and school closures for Stafford MSD, Fort Bend ISD and other area districts.
Rainfall rates were higher than predicted and the Brazos River began to rise rapidly. George issued a disaster declaration on May 7 in anticipation of the continued heavy rainfall to come, while some low-lying areas of Fort Bend County had flooded by early May 8.
Then, another alert came across our desk the morning of May 10 – another press conference was scheduled for that afternoon for a status update. The day after that, another EOC update. They kept on coming.
“On Saturday afternoon, conditions had improved sufficiently to allow the Emergency Operations Center to return to Readiness Level III and demobilize additional resources in the Joint Information Center,” a May 11 EOC Facebook update read. “Fort Bend County Homeland Security and Emergency Management staff will continue to monitor weather and river conditions throughout the weekend and keep county residents updated on any new developments.”
Over the last few days, standing water has begun to recede, and the area is about set to begin the recovery process with debris removal and other recovery efforts getting underway May 20. And it appears that George kept his word to the residents of Fort Bend County.
Now, I can’t speak to how former county judge Robert Hebert handled these situations during his 16-year tenure as leader of Fort Bend county. But I remember the Tax Day floods, how they reached almost halfway up the driveway of my parents’ home in the Fort Bend County portion of Katy. I remember what happened to their home in Harvey.
I also remember Hebert, former Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and other emergency officials working overtime to be of service to the residents of their counties, providing small updates as they were made aware of them. Speaking from experience, I can attest to the comfort I took in knowing that our elected officials were truly there for their people.
Something that far too often gets forgotten by those elected is that their ultimate purpose is to serve those who elected them – not their own personal agendas.
I saw no personal agenda from KP George. I simply saw a man, in one of his first tests as county judge, passing with flying colors and keeping his word to the Fort Bend community.