Valley Metro donates buses for FEMA officials

WESLACO — Fallout from the Valley’s biggest rain event in years continued Wednesday, with Valley Metro providing buses for FEMA officials to tour areas to assess flood damage.

“We have two buses transporting not only elected officials but FEMA and government officials touring those different sites across the region,” said Tom Logan, director of the Valleywide bus and transportation service. “We just provided a unit and a driver and they’re directing them to different locations.”

Logan, speaking Wednesday, following a meeting of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council which oversees Valley Metro, said the broad flooding problems across the area presented unusual logistical difficulties.

“We started receiving notifications of where places were flooding, and we had to adjust service, and at the same time we started getting calls from like Cameron County Emergency Services requesting transportation for people who were relocated due to the flood, from La Feria to Los Fresnos, in the emergency zone,” he said.

Once Valley Metro buses brought displaced families to shelters in the Mid-Valley, the transportation service found yet another job.

“We also started transporting people to get groceries just to get out of those shelters, like to Wal-Mart or shopping locations, and we were there to assist them,” Logan said.

Logan said Wednesday they were realigning some routes, including Farm-to-Market Road 506 from La Feria to Santa Rosa.

“That road’s still blocked by DPS (Department of Public Safety), so we have to find an alternative alignment to get that route going,” he said.

However, as of late afternoon Wednesday, the road had been reopened.

Logan said the flooding across the Valley provided some important real-life training from which his agency expects to benefit.

“We learned that as far as communications, we have to have an alternative mode of communicating,” Logan said. “The office phones were down, so Plan B was the radios and cell phones, but then the cell phones were also kind of overwhelmed.

“And then finding alternative routes to the worksite,” he said. “Believe it or not, my managers were stranded on the frontage roads with their vehicles flooding so we had to send our tow truck, which is a high-clearance vehicle, to retrieve people not only from their houses but also from the roads that were flooded in order to get them to the office.”

rkelley@valleystar.com