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New TX floods provoke old memories

BY LARA BRICKER | SAN ANTONIO, TX | August 31, 2001


"It's getting serious, their houses are a mess and they're still living in them and are just trying to make do."

—Kathie Mann


Residents in the San Antonio-area have been deluged with as much as 13 inches of rain in some places this week, bringing back memories of massive flooding that devastated the area in October 1998.

“Everybody around here kind of panicked,” said Kathryn Kech, the Director of Communications for the San Antonio Chapter of the American Red Cross. “The rain we were getting was reminiscent of what we got in ’98.”

Areas of southern and central Texas were continuing to see heavy rains Friday and 12 counties were under flash flood warnings, according to the Texas Division of Emergency Management. It’s coming through in pockets right now,” Kech said. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”

Friday a shelter had been opened in the community of Stockdale, where 20 homes were evacuated because of high water. The Red Cross was planning to provide clothing, food and furniture to flood survivors. “We’re doing damage assessments right now,” Kech said.

A handful of homes in Temple were evacuated on Thursday after the Salvation Army reported that eight homes had been flooded with up to 5-feet of water in them, according to the Division of Emergency Management. A shelter was opened in the local elementary school.

On Thursday night, two people were rescued from their van when waters from the Leon Creek, which swallowed up the road, trapped them.

Twenty-five residents in Skidmore, north of Corpus Christi, were evacuated with the help of helicopters and rescue boats, after the Aransas River backed into a subdivision. Shelley Parks, the Communications Director for the Corpus Christi Red Cross, said her office was ready to help if needed in Skidmore. “In those smaller communities like that, most people will stay with friends or family,” she said. “We are standing by and just waiting for the word.”

The rains have also drenched the Houston- area this week, where residents are still drying out from Tropical Storm Allison, which hit the area in June. As of Friday, the rains had not caused further damage to homes flooded by Allison, although some streets were closed due to high water.

"We've had a lot of rain over the past few days, but the rain has been spread out and we can handle that," said Roger Sweny, the Volunteer Coordinator for the Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Sweny said the rains this week are manageable, unlike Tropical Storm Allison, which dumped over a foot of water on the area in a short period of time.

Volunteers from the Texas Conference of the UMC are still receiving new calls for help daily and are beginning the rebuilding stage of recovery, Sweny explained. The conditions in some homes, where people have been living since the flooding in June, are beginning the cause health problems.

"Here in Houston, we're battling mold and mildew and the mold and mildew has gone crazy," Sweny said, adding walls in homes have turned "black and fuzzy. Anybody that hasn't had their homes cleaned out yet has had respiratory problems."

Relief workers have been watching the weather since Allison passed through in June, as they don't feel the Houston-area can deal with any more flooding. They were relieved when Tropical Storm Chantal changed course last week and headed to Mexico.

"I was real concerned for a while," said Kathie Mann, the Director of Missions for the Texas Conference of The United Methodist

Church. "We can't handle another storm through here, we've got people who are still in hotels."

Shirley Norman, a Regional Disaster Facilitator for Church World Service, recently returned from Houston, and echoed Mann's sentiments. "We can just pray that anything (storm) that comes across the Gulf doesn't come near Texas this year."

Faith-based disaster recovery groups are working in conjunction with state and federal disaster officials to assist those left homeless by flooding associated with Allison. People are still coming forward daily that have not been assisted since the storm flooded their homes.

Federal and state disaster officials reported Tuesday that

50,000 residents had visited disaster recovery centers in

the Houston-area, according to the Texas Division of

Emergency Management. "This truly is an extraordinary

number," said Duke Mazurek, state-coordinating official

for the recovery effort. "People sometimes need to talk to

disaster representatives face-to-face and this is their

opportunity."

According to the latest update from the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Federal Emergency

Management Agency on Tuesday, 107,000 people have

registered with FEMA for assistance. More than $650

million has been earmarked for flood survivors to assist

in the recovery process.

Tropical Storm Allison, which drenched the

Houston-area in June, caused an estimated $1 billion of

damage in Texas and killed 20 people. So far in Texas,

the American Red Cross has reported 318 homes were

destroyed; 13,244 homes had major damage; and 21,163

homes had minor damage.

More than 200 volunteers from the United Methodist

Church have been trained as case managers and will

work with the same families for at least the next year,

Mann explained. "It's real intense, they're the ones who

help them walk through the system. That's a real

important part of the recovery," Mann said, adding new

flood victims are still coming forward.

Some people have been living in their flooded homes

since June, despite the water damage. Some are only

now realizing they need help.

"It's getting serious, their houses are a mess and they're

still living in them and are just trying to make do,"

Mann said.

The Greater Houston Interfaith Ministries is working

with the Interfaith Disaster Recovery Assistance to help

the local Vietnamese community. Volunteers from

Lutheran Disaster Response and Presbyterian Disaster

Assistance are also assisting flood survivors.

Clarence Van Dyke, a Church World Service volunteer

and member of the Christian Reformed World Relief

Committee, said volunteers from across the country are

signing up to help with the long-term recovery process.

Van Dyke, who lives in Harris County (which includes

Houston), said he is working with local faith groups to

make sure all those in need are found. "There are people

that have been helped and people who, certainly feel

very helpless," Van Dyke said. "Interfaith is cranking up

and ready (to help)."


Related Topics:

Solutions for flood insurance

How US flood insurance works

Atlantic storm morphs into Javier


More links on Tropical Storms

More links on Flooding

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