Flooding, wind damage reported from hurricane

BY GEORGE PIPER | CORPUS CHRISTI, TX | August 23, 1999


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Aug. 23, 1999) -- While many people in

southeastern Texas expressed relief Monday that Hurricane Bret chose

to blow ashore in a sparsely settled part of the coast, emergency

officials are concerned that severe flooding will be the storm's

major legacy.

The fallout from 10 to 30 inches of rain may be extensive flooding

from Del Rio to Corpus Christi to the Rio Grande Valley.

A dam above Corpus Christi is overflowing, and the city is expecting a river

crest of 25 to 27 feet by Wednesday, said Chris Lawrence, Nueces County

Emergency Management coordinator. The city's flood stage is 8 feet in most

areas, and citizens have been warned.

Much of the rainwater from the storm that is still making its way

across Texas, flows into the Rio Grande. More water than that river

can handle, could cause flooding from Laredo to Brownsville, warns

the National Weather Service.

The storm, a powerful Category 4 storm in the Gulf of Mexico, picked the

best possible location to enter Texas: Kenedy County, which is home to about

500 people and an immense King Ranch operation. By Monday morning Bret fell

to tropical storm status, but continued to dump rain across south Texas and

Mexico and heighten flood worries.

Initial damage reports indicate widespread wind damage to homes up and down

the coast, flooded roads and power outages to some 16,000 residents, said

Terry Hadley, spokesman for the Texas Division of Emergency

Management. However, no one area was reported to have sustained

extensive damage.

About 40 homes -- up to 15 of them severely -- sustained wind damage in

Falfurrias, where Bret's eye passed over about 3 a.m. (CDT) Monday, said Mayor

Michael Guerra. About half of the town remained without electricity

late Monday and the water supply has been declared unsafe.

"It was scary," he said. "You can't go through something like that and not

have respect for Mother Nature."

Representatives from the faith community and the Federal Emergency

Management Agency are scheduled to meet Wednesday in Corpus Christi to

discuss damage reports and assistance. Relief teams from Texas Baptist Men

(Southern Baptist Conference), Adventist Community Services (Seventh-Day

Adventists) and United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) have

people and supplies ready to go to impacted areas.

So far, a presidential declaration includes money for debris removal and

emergency assistance to local governments in seven counties -- Aransas,

Cameron, Kenedy, Kleberg, Nueces, San Patricio and Willacy.

Depending on damage assessments, FEMA may designate funds for family and

individual disaster assistance, and that would help the faith community in

its relief and recovery efforts. And if federal funds are not available?

"That means the communities and the faith-based groups are going to have to

do it themselves," answered Norm Hein, Church World Service disaster resource

facilitator.

A similar instance occurred a few years ago in Jerrell, TX, when

tornadoes killed several people and destroyed 30 homes. No federal

declaration arose from that disaster, but the national reporting of

death and destruction brought in donations that helped the faith

community and the American Red Cross rebuild Jerrell.

With initial damage reports light so far, Hein said that scenario may repeat

itself, although without much of the nation's attention and dollars.

Posted Aug. 23, 1999


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