Texans face flood damage

BY PJ HELLER | TEXAS | August 26, 1998


Remnants of Tropical Storm Charley swamped the southern Texas towns of

Del Rio and Eagle Pass on Monday (Aug. 24) prompting an immediate interfaith

disaster response effort to help residents on both sides of the

U.S.-Mexican border cope with severe flooding there.

At least 14 people were believed to have died in

southwestern Texas and across the border in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico,

making Charley one of the deadliest tropical storms to hit the region in

recent years.

The storm unofficially dumped up to 20 inches of rain on Del Rio on

Sunday and Monday, causing flash floods and forcing hundreds of

residents from their homes. At least 400 homes were seriously damaged and

dozens were destroyed.

As the tropical storm stalled over the region, heavy rain was expected

to also produce flooding downstream in Laredo and more than 600 residents

of Eagle Pass were evacuated Monday night.

Upstream in the desert town of Del Rio, where more than 18 inches of

rain was recorded in 24 hours on Aug. 24, officials said the flooding has

created new records as nearly a year's worth of rain fell in a single day.

Some of the roads in and out of Del Rio, a town of some 34,000 people

about 150 miles from San Antonio and three miles from the Rio Grande,

remained

impassable Wednesday. Texas Air National Guard helicopters and members of

the state's National Guard helped rescue stranded residents.

Water and sewerage services were knocked out by the high water,

officials reported. The Salvation Army in San Antonio said it planned to

ship water and food to the town.

American Red Cross shelters were set up at four locations in the town,

housing hundreds of residents. Schools, churches and the local civic center

were pressed into service to provide emergency shelter, officials reported.

An interfaith response to the flooding in Del Rio was being coordinated

through the Bethel Center, an ecumenical emergency assistance program,

according to Norman Hein, a regional facilitator with Church World Service

(CWS).

The center, located in De Rio, sustained water damage from the flood but

hoped to open on Tuesday after making emergency repairs funded by CWS. Some

250 CWS health kits were distributed to area survivors, Hein

added.

Lutheran Disaster Response also provided funds for local Lutheran

churches to assist individuals affected by the high waters, Hein noted.

Hein said a meeting of area religious leaders will be held Thursday to

begin to map long-range interfaith response plans.

Three people died in Ciudad Acuna after they were washed away while

trying to cross a swollen river on their way to work at a shopping center,

the Mexican news agency Notimex reported.

Elsewhere, four people, including two young children,

were killed Sunday and six others were injured when their pickup truck was

swept into a creek in Real County about 100 miles northwest of San Antonio.

A 65-year-old man died of a heart attack Sunday while being evacuated from

Garner State Park, located along the Frio River in Uvalde County.

Also in Uvalde County, a woman and her one-year-old child were rescued

after they were swept from a vehicle by high water. Neither was injured.

The flooding in Texas comes on the heels of a four-month drought that

saw the temperature soar to more than 100 degrees for 36 days.

Before the fierce downpour, officials had welcomed the rain.

International Amistad Reservoir on the Rio Grande had been 60-feet below

average prior to

Saturday. Since then, the reservoir has risen more than 10-feet, Del Rio

officials said Monday.

The last tropical storm to hit Texas was Tropical Storm Dean in 1995.

That system rolled into Texas in late July. Heavy rainfall caused some

$500,000 in damage, according to local weather service forecast offices.

At least one prognosticator expects 10 tropical storms before the end of

the hurricane season on Nov. 30. The Atlantic Basin averages 9.3 tropical

storms, 5.8 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes a year.

William Gray, a professor at Colorado State University, predicted that

six of the 10 tropical storms will become hurricanes and affect the U.S.

Updated August 26, 1998


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