FEMA is here, but did anyone know it? - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

FEMA is here, but did anyone know it?

By Donna McCollum

DIBOLL, TX (KTRE) - The FEMA disaster recovery mobile center is in Diboll after Hurricane Ike devastated the area in September. The trouble is no one knew it was there, unless they drove by and saw it. Angelina County Judge Wes Suiter said it's obvious FEMA knew they were coming after Ike. "We've got the bus sitting here, porta potties sitting here, water sitting, but nobody here knows you are here," said Suiter to a FEMA public information officer at the site.

Judge Suiter was expecting to meet with an advance team to set up a list of sites and schedules, so the visits can be be publicized. At least that was the original FEMA plan. "Then you (KTRE) called today wanting to know about this DRC in Diboll and that was the first I heard about it," said Suiter.

FEMA's public information officer Peter Lembessis says FEMA goes where the state sends them and in this case there was little advance notice. He knows eventually the workers will make it north of Diboll. "It will be there," Lembessis assured.  But he doesn't know when. "No, but I know the next few days we'll be able to announce when the mobile disaster recovery center like this will be there." FEMA will be in the Diboll Dollar General parking lot through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.. If you have pre registered, please bring your information.

In Diboll Guadalupe Perez and his wife made their way to a short line that was forming. The hurricane victim said, "We heard about it by friends about this deal here and here we are." Suiter wonders how many more people would have come if they knew about it. "It's truly unacceptable. People here in diboll don't know anything about what's going on. They drive by and see a FEMA truck sitting here. Now they're going to pull up and say is this where we need to be," said Suiter.

Meanwhile, in Nacogdoches County, a similar miscommunication is occurring. An advance FEMA team was making arrangements to set up shop in the courthouse annex. County officials chose not to sign the contract because of one contractual clause that would have allowed walls to be torn down. County Judge Joe English says he didn't want to take the risk, even though FEMA isn't making the request for structural changes. "FEMA representatives are coming out of the woodwork. They each have a different job and responsibility. The only thing is they don't know what each other is doing," said English.

Advance notice is important. There are more than 5,000 pre registered claims in the area.

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