Storm slams small TX town

BY PJ HELLER | ALBANY, TX | April 26, 2002

Torrential rains -- with reports of up to 12 inches falling in seven hours -- caused an estimated $3 million in damages to this small Texas town, authorities reported Friday.

One person, a 19-year-old woman, was reported missing and police said they were continuing their search for her. No other injuries or fatalities were reported.

City Manager Bobby Russell estimated that some 140 homes in the North Hubbard Creek area were damaged and that four residences had been destroyed. The north and west sections of this town of 2,200 people were hardest hit by the floodwaters.

Russell said Albany officials were requesting the governor to declare the town a disaster area and to seek a federal disaster declaration, making it eligible for federal relief funds.

Temporary shelters were set at the First Christian Church and at a local motel, Russell said. An estimated 150 people had taken shelter there, he said. Roads into town which had been closed on Thursday were cleared of debris and reopened, although Russell said they were "not in real good shape because a lot of the asphalt had been washed away."

The Salvation Army's Texas division was providing meals for flood survivors and rescue workers. The Salvation Army was also sending cleanup kits.

Russell said 8.5 inches of rain was recorded at the city's water plant between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday. The town's wastewater plant, where another rain gauge was located, was washed away by the floodwaters, he said.

Other estimates put the rainfall total at up to 12 inches.

"The deluge was so heavy they (rainfall estimates) could all be accurate," Russell said.

Residents were advised to boil water before drinking it. The sewage treatment plant, which was totally submerged, was operating at 50 percent, he added.

Skies cleared on Friday afternoon but heavy rains were forecast for the evening.

Clear weather was forecast after that storm front moved through.

Albany saw flooding in 1978 and 1990. In the August 1978 flood, 34 inches of rain fell in a 34-hour period, Russell said.

Nine people were killed in that storm, which caused an estimated $4.2 million in damages. Russell said residents who survived that storm reported that the water level in the creeks was actually higher during Thursday's downpour, mainly due to the amount of rain which fell in a shorter time period.

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