August 12, 2008 - 10:13PM
By Emma Perez-Trevino, The Brownsville Herald
When Hurricane Dolly hit the Rio Grande Valley, a distressed 69-year-old Hilda Cavazos watched her mobile home on FM 803 in San Benito through a window of her son's house nearby.
The majority of the uninsured mobile home's metal corrugated roof blew off, Cavazos said.
The wind was so strong that a tool shed atop concrete pillars to the rear of the mobile home was lifted and twisted, landing without three of its walls.
"She cried," Cavazos' daughter Esmeralda said Tuesday around the kitchen table of the mobile home that she and her son Omar share with Cavazos, widowed March 2 of last year.
Cavazos said she became emotional when she saw the damage that Dolly caused July 23. Most of the roof was gone, the railing under the mobile home buckled, personal belongings were lost, the ceiling cracked and water seeped past the ceiling, drenched the insulation and warped a doorway.
Daylight peers through a gaping hole in Esmeralda's bedroom caused when siding was blown off.
"It is the place where we live," Cavazos said. "My life is here," she added.
And she's trying to put her life back together - but it might be without assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA denied her claim.
"The damage in your home does not prevent you from living in the dwelling," FEMA determined Aug. 9.
FEMA would not comment on specific claims due to privacy concerns, but spokeswoman Patricia Brach said there is a "right to appeal." Anyone whose claims were denied can disagree and either call FEMA or visit a Disaster Recovery Center in Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy counties to process appeals.
A denial is, "not the last word," Brach said.
Cavazos' son Samuel placed a new overlay of corrugated sheet metal on the roof soon after Dolly.
"It is a quick fix. There is no money available," he said in a telephone interview from the Washington, D.C. area, where he returned to work. He has been trying to help his mother through the claims process.
"To me, you don't have to be an engineer to see that there is damage to the house or a genius to see that there is a need there," Samuel said. Instead, he believes that there was a language barrier between his mother, who knows a couple of words in English, and the inspector who spoke English.
Originally from Mexico, Cavazos has been a resident alien for approximately 45 years and said she has been a good resident: "Ni un tiquete," she said, noting that she has never even received a ticket or citation.