DISASTER READINESSMore Than 100 Texas Counties Lack Plans to Curb Damage from Natural Disasters

By Jess Huff and Elijah Nicholson-Messmer

Published 8 July 2024

The plans, which are required by the federal government to access certain grants after a natural disaster, are laborious to assemble — especially for rural counties.

More than 100 Texas counties do not have a hazard mitigation plan, federal data shows, cutting off access to billions in non-emergency grants to help rebuild infrastructure after natural disasters.

Of 254 counties in the state, 103 counties lack plans approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Most of these are rural, with fewer than 50,000 residents, a Texas Tribune analysis of federal data found. A total of 3.5 million Texans — or about 12% of the state’s population — live in a county without a plan.

On average, counties with no hazard mitigation plan have a population of 34,315 people, roughly one fifth the population of counties with an approved plan. Most counties without a plan stretch from the Panhandle through West Texas and down to Rio Grande Valley.

Among the most populated counties with no plans are Midland and Ector counties, which anchor the state’s oil-rich Permian Basin. Officials in both counties told the Tribune they were working to submit plans for review.

This will be Midland County’s first hazard mitigation plan, county officials said. The county received an $88,000 grant to write its plan, work that is expected to take up to two years.

In neighboring Ector County, Emergency Management Coordinator James Wes Carta said the process to develop an updated plan demands cooperation from city officials, first responders and the public — a time consuming endeavor that could take more than a year.

“We want an accurate, realistic plan,” Carta said. “What do they see as being the issues that we can address through this hazard mitigation plan? Is it upgrading our building codes to help our buildings be more resilient for tornadoes or severe weather? Is it the flooding? Is it fire? It becomes very daunting.”

Without such plans, these communities are precluded from federal disaster preparation funding, further broadening the gap in infrastructure development between urban and rural communities. As these communities shrink, they face growing hurdles to rebuild and prepare for the future.