Rain compounds post-storm misery

BY PJ HELLER | SAN ANTONIO, Tex. | October 10, 2002

"There will be a high amount of unmet need across the affected region."

—Lura Cayton, Church World Service

People trying to recover from recent storms in Texas and Louisiana are now coping with more heavy rain.

Sever storms Wednesday set off flash flooding in Texas while more rain continued to cause misery for residents of Louisiana still trying to recover from Tropical Storm Isidore and Hurricane Lili.

The National Weather Service said up to five inches of rain could soak southeast Louisiana by Thursday night. The forecast for the weekend was no better, with meteorologists warning of a "prolonged threat" for flooding rains through Sunday, when a cold front was expected to move into the area.

The storms prompted flash flood warnings for Terebonne and northern Lafourche parishes in Louisiana, both of which were pounded by Isidore and Lili.

Thunderstorms and rain also prompted flood watches Wednesday night for portions of west and southwest Mississippi. More rain was forecast through the weekend.

In Napoleonville, La., a tornado ripped through a residential area damaging as many as 30 homes. No injuries were reported.

The American Red Cross set up a shelter at the local middle school for residents affected by the twister. The storm ripped the roofs off of some homes and downed trees.

The state of Louisiana received two separate federal disaster declarations from President Bush as a result of Isidore and Lili, which struck the Gulf Coast area less than a week apart.

More than 47,000 people have since applied for federal assistance between the two disasters.

Representatives from Church World Service (CWS) have been assessing the impact of both storms, and working with religious, community and government agencies to plan a long-term response.

"There will be a high amount of unmet need across the affected region," said CWS Disaster Response and Recovery Liaison Lura Cayton.

Cayton and others were particularly concerned about Terrebonne Parish (county) as well as areas surrounding Slidell, Alexandria and Lafayette. All have significant populations of elderly, uninsured and/or low-income households and, with the exception of Terrebonne, have limited disaster recovery structures in place.

CWS plans to send cleanup kits and blankets to the Terrebonne Readiness and Assistance Coalition (TRAC) for distribution in Terrebonne County.

Meanwhile, in Texas, one person died after his car was swept away by floodwaters that hit the San Antonio area. The victim was identified as a 61-year-old security guard who was on his way home from work when his car was swept away as he drove through a low water crossing.

Other high-water rescues were reported but no other fatalities or injuries were reported.

The storm, which dumped up to six inches of rain, forced more than 25 streets in the city to close.

Meteorologist Larry Eblen of the National Weather Service said rainfall in the San Antonio area has been above average this year. He said the area has already received more than 35 inches of rain, about 10 inches above normal.

Officials in Texas were also keeping a wary eye on the Rio Grande between Del Rio and Eagle Pass. The river was expected to reach or rise above flood stage sometime early Thursday. Moderate to low land flooding was predicted.

The rising river was caused by heavy rains -- up to eight inches in some areas --which fell Monday.

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