In late April, Trinity County, Texas, received 24 inches of rain in just three days, submerging the community of Trinity. This is a significant increase from the usual annual rainfall of 44-48 inches.

Locals in Trinity County, which is within the T.L.L. Temple Foundation service area, have been dealing with high water since late April, with some homes still flooded a month later. A tornado also struck the community, causing one fatality. A state of disaster was declared on May 7.

Three subdivisions—Deer Run, White Rock City Marina, and Dell Bell Road—were evacuated by fire and rescue boats. These neighborhoods have between 20-30 homes each. Jessica Hester, who works on the Environmental Services Team at Communities Unlimited (CU) and lives in Trinity County, has been actively involved in disaster relief efforts with County Judge Danny Martin.

"I grew up here. I left for a few years to serve in the Marine Corps and then came back, but I've never witnessed anything like this. We’ve had our share of rain and flooding, but nothing remotely close to this. It felt as if a hurricane had torn through our community. The devastation was beyond anything I've ever seen."

Jessica Hester

— Jessica Hester, CEMA, Communities Unlimited

Lake Livingston, the largest single-purpose reservoir in Texas, saw its dam reach a water level of 140 feet, 10 feet above the flood level. Many residents in the affected areas need boats to access their homes.

Camp Branch Acres’ Road was completely washed out, but a temporary road was built with help from a neighboring subdivision. On Farm-to-Market Road 356 near Skains Lane, people were stranded from their homes due to road destruction. In Westwood Shores, significant damage was sustained to its lift stations and water systems. Judge Martin is still awaiting a damage report from the Westwood Shores operator.

Additionally, a tornado wreaked havoc in the area, destroying one home. The powerful winds flipped the house upside down and snapped the tops of trees, causing extensive damage.

Hester and Martin are working with the USDA-Rural Development (USDA-RD) and the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) to secure financial assistance. CU’s Environmental Services and Community Sustainability Teams have been active in relief efforts. Director of Community Sustainability Martha Claire Bullen and Community Resource Manager Kristy Bice provided emergency supplies and are collaborating with the highway department on road repairs.

Bullen highlighted the importance of having local staff embedded within communities, which enables a swift response to immediate needs. She explained that with Bice from Community Sustainability and Hester from Environmental Services, they can quickly connect and assess what is needed.

“We understand there’s a long-term need for recovery after a disaster, but having local staff allows us to respond quickly,” Bullen said. “For instance, Jessica informed us they needed water and protein bars for cleanup crews. I ordered the supplies, and Kristy picked them up and delivered them. This support is possible because we invest in local people within the communities we serve, and that’s why our approach is effective.”

When the disaster began, Hester was already working in nearby Groveton. She coordinated with local officials and reached out to the USDA’s Lufkin office. She also shared information within the Trinity County community about CU’s loans and financial assistance programs, especially for homeowners with septic systems and private wells.

The county judge is collaborating with the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to prepare for funding. Although some areas have seen water levels recede, the Trinity River and Lake Livingston Reservoir remain swollen. Efforts are underway to start repairs and provide emergency assistance.

“Our primary goal has been to get out there and assist as many people as possible,” Hester said. “We’re doing our best to provide guidance and support to those in need.”

Kayla Mott, an emergency management assistant with Trinity County, described the situation as both busy and stressful. She has been in continuous communication with non-profit organizations to secure resources for rebuilding efforts in Trinity.

“We’re doing everything we can to connect people with the resources and organizations they need to start rebuilding and get the help they require,” Mott said.