High water rushes through Tx towns

BY GEORGE PIPER | VICTORIA, Texas | October 20, 1998


VICTORIA, Texas (Oct. 20, 1998) -- The question of when the Guadalupe

River would flood Victoria was answered late Monday as fire and emergency

management officials began rescuing residents from flooded areas.

The southeast Texas city of 62,000 as the last major population area

between the swollen river as it sloshed its way toward the Gulf of Mexico.

River crests reached 32.6 feet early Tuesday, and National Weather Service

officials in Corpus Christi predicted the water up to 34 feet between

midnight and 6 a.m. Wednesday

"That would sure be a record flood," said Peggy Smith, flood plain

administrator for the county of Victoria. "Anybody along low lying areas

needs to get out."

The city's worst previous flood was on July 3, 1936, when the Guadalupe

rose to 31.4 feet.

When storms hit over the weekend, Victoria officials were told the

Guadalupe would jump its banks on Thursday. By early Monday, weather

officials moved the timetable up to late Tuesday. But the river ran ahead

of scheduled and struck the city Monday night.

"Our emergency services are really overloaded now just to rescue

people," said Charles Windwehen, Victoria assistant city manager, who was

busy helping other officials coordinate emergency efforts. Evacuation

notices went out Monday to residents in the city's southeast side, which

borders the Guadalupe.

Hundreds of homes and business will be affected by the flooding, and the

entire city could be without power for two or three days, added Windwehen.

He had no estimate as to the number of people rescued through Tuesday

morning.

"I think our biggest concern is getting out in time to people who need

to be rescued," he said.

Salvation Army representatives in Victoria are preparing a shelter and

mobile food canteens for the expected glut of people needing services, said

Maj. Wilma Harwell. The organization's shelter can hold more than 100

people, and she noted two other churches also are serving as shelters.

Cleanup kits will also be available for people when they return home,

she said.

If Victoria wanted a preview of what would happen, it only needed to

look 120 miles to the northwest, where torrential rains south of Austin

started the Guadalupe and other rivers and creeks on its destructive path.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush is prepared to allocate disaster aid to some 60

counties affected by flooding from weekend storms. The state already is

operating two disaster relief centers in Del Rio and Houston as a result of

tropical storms Charley and Frances.

In Seguin, local clergy are meeting Thursday to discuss an interfaith

response to the flooding, said Norm Hein, a Church World Service Regional

Facilitator and official with Lutheran Disaster Response.

At least 17 people are reported dead as fierce weather brought up to 20

inches of rain and spawned at least three tornadoes across the landscape.

Thousands sought shelter as rising floodwaters forced people from homes

along the Guadalupe and other rivers and creeks..

Just west of Corsicana, 220 miles northeast of San Antonio, a man was

killed when a tornado slammed into his mobile home and ripped it apart

about 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

In Waller County, 35 miles west of Houston, a twister swept through just

after sunrise on Sunday, demolishing mobile homes and snapping trees in

Brookshire, killing one.

San Antonio reported its wettest month ever, while the Guadalupe County

Sheriff's Department estimates that hundreds of homes were washed from

foundations. Shelters across the area accommodated hundreds while emergency

officials used fire trucks, helicopters, boats and personal watercrafts to

rescue people. The National Weather Service also issued flood warning

downstream from San Antonio and predicted record flooding in those areas.

Posted Oct. 20, 1998


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