Remnants of Tropical Storm Charley swamped the southern Texas town of
Del Rio on Sunday and Monday (Aug. 23-24) 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 16 people were killed and more than 20 others were missing in
both south and central Texas and across the border in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico,
making Charley one of the deadliest tropical storms to hit that region in
The storm unofficially dumped up to 16 inches of rain on Del Rio on
Sunday night (Aug. 23), causing flash floods and forcing residents from
their homes. Several homes and mobile homes were reported washed away and
flash flood warnings were in effect through Monday night as the rain
continued to fall at up to 4 inches an hour in some places.
As the tropical storm stalled over the region, heavy rain was expected
to continue Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. Flooding is
also predicted downstream in Eagle Pass and Laredo.
Roads in and out of Del Rio, a town of some 30,000 people about 150
miles from San Antonio and three miles from the Rio Grande, were
impassable. Texas Air National Guard helicopters and members of the state's
National Guard were brought in to help rescue stranded residents.
"There's no way in or out of Del Rio," James Griggs, a spokesman for the
Texas Division of Emergency Management said Monday. "The whole city is shut
down at this time."
Helicopters plucked some of the survivors out of trees and off roof-tops.
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
who is based in Austin, Texas.
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 expected to be distributed to area survivors, Hein
"At least that will get us started with something to distribute," he said.
Lutheran Disaster Response also provided funds for local Lutheran
churches to assist individuals affected by the high waters, Hein noted.
Hein said he hoped to be able to travel to Del Rio on Thursdy to
assess the situation and to discuss what form an interfaith response should
He said he expected the situation is even worse across the border in Del
Rio's sister city of Ciudad Acuna, where most of the people are poor.
"We're trying to figure out now what to do across the border," he said.
Nine 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. Other reports put the death toll
there at seven and said 2,500 people had been forced from their homes.
Elsewhere, four immigrants from Mexico, 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 1-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. Amistad
Reservoir on the Rio Grande had been 60-feet below average prior to
Saturday. Since then, the reservoir has risen more than 30-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.
Posted August 24, 1998
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