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Capital Highlights

Flooding prompts disaster declaration


Heavy rains through Texas last week caused flooding, particularly in the Dallas area, prompting Gov. Greg Abbott to issue a disaster declaration for 23 affected counties. Texans who were affected by the rain, which dumped more than 10 inches in Dallas, are encouraged to file insurance claims with their providers and to complete the voluntary Self Reporting Damage Survey issued by the Texas Department of Emergency Management by visiting damage.tdem.texas.gov. The survey helps the state identify damage across Texas to gain an understanding of what areas were affected during the recent severe weather.

Counties included in the disaster declaration are Camp, Culberson, Dallas, Duval, Ellis, El Paso, Henderson, Hopkins, Hudspeth, Kaufman, Kerr, Live Oak, Marion, Montague, Navarro, Pecos, Rains, Smith, Tarrant, Upshur, Van Zandt, Webb and Wood. Additional counties could be added as damage is assessed.


Burn bans lifted; fire danger drops

The heavy rains across a chunk of the state have reduced the wildfire risk, with the Texas A&M Forest Service for the first time in months not responding to any active wildfires. The number of counties with burn bans has dropped to 166. At its high point, 224 counties in the state were under burn bans.

The number of counties under extreme or exceptional drought has dropped as well. The percentage of Texas in the “exceptional drought” category dropped by more than half to 12.4%, according to kut.org.


Battleship Texas headed to Galveston for repairs

The Battleship Texas will leave its home at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site on Aug. 31 and make its way to the Galveston Shipyard for repairs, weather and tides permitting. A livestream video of the departure will be available to the public on the Battleship Texas Foundation’s YouTube channel and Facebook group page.

The former U.S. Navy battleship was launched on May 19, 1912, and saw action in World War I. It also escorted war convoys across the Atlantic during World War II, fought at Normandy on D-Day, and provided naval gunfire support in the Pacific during the Battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The ship was decommissioned in 1948.

While in dry dock, the ship’s hull will be repaired or replaced from four feet above the waterline down to the bottom, thanks to $35 million in funding provided by the 2019 Texas Legislature. The grand reopening of Battleship Texas is expected to be sometime in 2024.


Coastal policyholders
protected by emergency rule

An emergency rule issued by the Texas Department of Insurance will protect Weston Property & Casualty Insurance Company policyholders who live along the Texas coast. Weston, a Florida insurance company licensed in Texas, is in liquidation and has been ordered to end its operations by Sept. 7, possibly leaving Texas policyholders in danger of not being covered against wind and hail damage.

More than 23,000 Weston policyholders live in possibly affected areas, according to TDI. They will be eligible to be insured through the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association for free for three months, after which a payment plan can be set up. Homeowners are encouraged to work with their insurance agent to find coverage.


Conditions heating up for dove season

An especially scorching summer might make it trickier for dove hunters with the season opening just around the corner.

“Hunters will likely see larger concentrations of birds at watering holes and food sources than they have in the past due to limited resources,” said Owen Fitzsimmons with Texas Parks & Wildlife. “Agriculture production has been hit hard by drought so birds may be more reliant on native foods this September. Look for stands of common sunflower, croton and other native annual forbs and grasses.”

In general, dove season begins on Sept. 1, depending on the geographic zone. Go to the TPW website at tpwd.texas.gov for specific dates.


PUC creates Office of Public Engagement

The Public Utility Commission has created an Office of Public Engagement to “provide a single point of contact for consumers, stakeholders, legislators, and other affected parties to make their voices heard at the PUC.”

“We’re very excited to build a team dedicated to bringing together all the parties and all the resources necessary to resolve what are often complex issues in a way that emphasizes collaboration among everyone involved and ultimately benefits customers and rate payers,” Peter Lake, PUC chairman, said.


COVID-19 cases, deaths drop slightly

The number of documented COVID-19 cases during the past week in Texas dropped again, with 53,874 reported along with 192 deaths, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University. That number is almost certainly underreported with the prevalence of home tests, whose results are not usually included, according to numerous health officials.

The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 2,733 lab-confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations, down about 10% from the previous week.

Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches and Cedar Park. Email: gborders@texaspress.com.


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