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Cleanup progresses in TX

Hurricane Claudette, now a trickling of rain across the northern wastes of Mexico, left behind quite a wreck in the state of Texas.


"Just about every house in town has damage."

—Roy Childs

Hurricane Claudette, now a trickling of rain across the northern wastes of Mexico, left behind quite a wreck in the state of Texas, bad enough for Gov. Rick Perry to declare 15 counties disaster areas, and to ask President Bush for a federal disaster declaration.

Now faith-based disaster response groups are working to restore order to the areas wrecked by high winds and coastal flooding.

Most of damage caused by Claudette was caused mainly by powerful wind gusts, which in some cases were stronger than 100 mph, said Bob Dixon, executive director emeritus of the Texas Baptist Men.

While Claudette didn't cause as much havoc as Hurricane Hugo or Andrew, it made a mess of coast towns like Victoria, Bay City, Port Lavaca and Palacios, where the response groups have set up meal stations, and inland communities like Goliad, where the volunteers have dispatched chainsaw crews.

Aubrey Mathis, a volunteer at the Victoria station (set up in the parking lot of the First Baptist Church of Victoria, said his group of seven volunteers started cooking Thursday morning, and whipped up 1,500 meals in the first batch. He expected more than 2,000 meals to be cooked for dinner, and said the local American Red Cross was helping distribute the food.

Meanwhile, volunteers were working to fix the roof of the Central Baptist Church of Port Lavaca, which had a hole punched in it "the size of a car," Dixon said.

Another piece of property, the Texas Baptist Encampment Palacios By the Sea, also took a big hit and incurred millions of dollars worth of damage, according to Dixon. The site was also the home of a summer camp and 400 kids who had to be evacuated to the First Baptist Church of Bay City. Despite the evacuation, Dixon said, the camp continued, and volunteers have been preparing meals for the children until the camp session is finished at the end of this week.

Fixing up the Encampment, however, is going to take a lot of work. "Half of it just blew away," Dixon said. Baptist chainsaw crews from Decatur are currently cleaning up damage there and elsewhere in Palacios, he said.

A more numerous groups of chainsaw gangs is beginning work in Goliad, Dixon said, where "all the trees are down in practically every yard."

Roy Childs, the leader of the chainsaw teams, arrived Thursday afternoon with a team of four people, and he expected between 30 and 40 volunteers to show up by Friday night.

Childs said the damage in Goliad, with a population of about 3,000, was spread all over the town.

"Just about every house in town has damage," Childs said. "This could go on for weeks, but I don't know."

Thursday afternoon, however, Childs' main concern was helping out a 91-year-old man who had two trees on his house. After that, he intended to perform a more thorough damage assessment of the town.

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