HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — On Wednesday, Judge Lina Hidalgo made her first public comments after severe weather battered Harris County a day prior.
Hidalgo said had just returned from a pre-planned, 10-day vacation in Thailand.
Prior to that, on Jan. 4, Hidalgo's office said she would be taking a leave of absence to visit her sick grandfather in Colombia.
"As folks know, I was in Colombia with my grandfather, and the last 10 days I was in Thailand taking a vacation that I planned a few months back," Hidalgo said during Wednesday evening's news conference. "I landed at 3 o'clock, 3:30 this afternoon from Vancouver and immediately came by to see the damage, to visit with community members, to hear first hand what they're hearing, what they were thinking."
Hidalgo said the main request she's heard from the community is for debris pickup.
"We're working very hard. The county working with the cities, Commissioner Garcia, Precinct 2, is also leading there to get this debris picked up as soon as possible," Hidalgo said. "Nobody wants to see their business out there like this."
On Tuesday, severe weather raced across the county. Multiple tornadoes were reported and communities across the Houston area sustained catastrophic damage. No major injuries were reported.
"In my absence, the team has been completely on top of it. I'm very grateful for that, for the emergency management team, for my team at the county," Hidalgo said.
She said the county is working to request aid from the federal government for both residents and businesses.
"We can't guarantee that we'll receive that from the federal government, but we can absolutely ask and be very, very clear with our request," Hidalgo said.
As county judge, Hidalgo has been at the forefront of the local response to several disasters -- including Hurricane Harvey and the COVID pandemic.