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TX damage reported less than expected

BY GEORGE PIPER | LAREDO, Texas | August 25, 1999

LAREDO, Texas (Aug. 25, 1999) -- With few exceptions, the first

hurricane of 1999 spared Texans the catastrophic nature that most

Category Four storms bring ashore.

Instead of 80,000 homes damaged or destroyed in Corpus Christi alone,

initial assessments report few than 1,000 structures sustaining major

hardship when the storm roared into Texas late Sunday night. Injuries were

few, and a quadruple fatal auto accident on rain-slicked roads on Monday are

the only deaths attributed to Bret.

Officials with faith-based disaster relief organizations and the Federal

Emergency Management Agency canceled a Wednesday afternoon meeting in

response to relatively light damage, although the agencies still are

assessing Bret's aftermath to determine an appropriate recovery response.

Most the damage occurred in Falfurrias, where scores of homes were damages

when the storm passed directly over the town of 6,000. American Red Cross

and Salvation Army teams concentrated relief efforts there early this week

as electrical power and fresh water were in short supply.

On the agricultural scene, some farmers around Corpus Christi reportedly

lost cotton fields, although exact losses were not available from state

officials.

By Tuesday, a fading Bret spit showers across south Texas and northern

Mexico. The storm's quick movement across the state eased major flooding

concerns, although flash flood warnings remained through parts the Rio

Grande Valley.

The biggest area of concern lay between San Antonio and Del Rio, home to

headwaters of the same rivers that caused deadly flooding after Tropical

Storm Charley last year. But with only four inches dumped there through

midday Tuesday, state emergency officials are reporting localized flooding

instead of widespread and dangerous levels throughout the valley.

Up to seven inches of rain could fall in south central Texas tonight,

necessitating the calls for flash flood warnings along the Nueces River

southwest of San Antonio and spreading west to Del Rio.

"We're just waiting it out," said Alan H. Ritson, state disaster coordinator

for the Salvation Army in Texas. The disaster relief organization has four

units stationed in Laredo, ready to move to flooded locations. But for now,

the plan is to send the teams home Wednesday if the situation gets no worse.

That's good news for Eva Tannehill, a case manager for Seguin Area Recovery,

an interfaith formed to deal with 1998 flooding in the community northeast

of San Antonio. The agency is still tending to unmet needs and clients get a

little frightened when flood warnings arise.

If the area does flood, however, Tannehill said the infrastructure and

expertise now exists to help flood survivors. "We wanted to keep something

going here anyway even though we were coming to what we saw as the end of

the tunnel," she said.

But although Hurricane Bret has disappeared, three other tropical storms appear

ready to take its place.

Dennis is the closest to the United States and could reach the Carolinas by

Friday as a hurricane, forecasters say. A midlevel trough over the Eastern

U.S. may serve as a buffer to Dennis and push the storm north.

A hurricane only last weekend, Cindy fell to tropical storm status but

continues to push east. Officials say it's too early to predict possible

land threats.

The third storm, Emily, is stationed in the Eastern Caribbean. It is not

expected to move much over the next day.

Posted Aug. 25, 1999


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