TX floods force evacuations

Churches are caring for stranded families.

BY HEATHER MOYER | EL CAMPO, Texas | November 23, 2004

"The entire city was flooded and some residents still cannot return home,"

—Andy Kirkland, Wharton County

After more than a foot of rain fell across middle and central Texas this weekend, more downpours continued this week.

Wharton and Jackson Counties continue to be hit hard. In the town of El Campo, many homes are flooded and authorities evacuated more than 250 residents Sunday.

“The entire city was flooded and some residents still cannot return home,” said Andy Kirkland, Wharton County emergency manager. “And we’re getting more rain right now.”

And while much of the city is still underwater, Rev. Joyce McCormick is calling the flood relief "phenomenal" so far.

McCormick, pastor of El Campo’s First United Methodist Church (FUMC), received a call at 10:30 Sunday morning from the local fire department saying they needed a place for evacuated families to stay. By the time afternoon hit, more than 100 people had been through the church's door for food, clothing, and shelter.

Members of the church, including those whose homes suffered flooding as well, have all been pitching in to make food and volunteer however they can at the shelter and with emergency officials around the city of 11,000. "We're just offering people whatever we can and trying to get them the basics of what they need," explained McCormick.

Some affected families were able to move into motels for the time being, yet one family of a single mother with five kids could not afford it. So McCormick and her church stepped in to offer the funds for their hotel stay and for food.

So far, as many as six families at FUMC were affected. "Some of them were substantially affected. One family had two feet of water in their home, and another woman who was recently trying to move had her storage unit with all her belongings flooded out."

Residents of El Campo are saying that this is the worst flooding the town's seen in 30 years. "We've had over 20 inches of rain since Saturday - there's no comparison to this in years. So people got complacent and didn't believe it could happen here."

With those thoughts, McCormick said she is sure the majority of the families she saw come through her church do not have insurance. "It's overwhelming, I think people are still in shock right now."

In the meantime, the community is pulling together. A Baptist church down the road from FUMC brought over homemade food, and McCormick said she received calls from churches from 40 miles away offering their help and their prayers.

McCormick added that the community spirit includes her church helping the Wesley Chapel Church across town, which suffered significant flooding. "We will do whatever we can to help them."

Don Jones, disaster recovery coordinator for the southwest Texas conference of the United Methodist Church, is on his way to El Campo today to distribute flood buckets. He's been in touch with McCormick and will offer assistance as requested.

Wharton County’s Louise Township also suffered from flooding this weekend as the county received up to 15 inches of rain. High water also closed several roadways through the county.

Jones said he's also heading to Jackson County, where the city of Ganado experienced weekend flooding as well. The city's mayor requested floodbuckets from Jones.

The Texas Division of Emergency Management (TXDEM) said Jackson County authorities performed as many as 60 water rescues of stranded people around Ganado. According to TXDEM, other counties affected include Victoria, Travis, Comal, Bexar, Bastrop, Gonzales, and Caldwell.

Authorities evacuated some residents in Bastrop County and Bexar County as well. Around San Antonio, Jones noted that high water is a problem in the Elmendorf area and that evacuations occurred in a trailer park in the Guadalupe County town of Seguin.

November has already been a soggy month for the state, yet this weekend’s rains pushed many totals to record amounts. November’s total rainfall for Victoria, Texas, is more than 13 inches – which is 11 inches over the average. In Lubbock and Houston, rainfall totals for the month are near five inches above average.

"We thought we'd dodged all the bullets with the hurricanes, and now we've got this," said Jones.

Aviation officials are also determining if the harsh weather was a factor in a plane crash in Houston Monday morning that killed three people. The small private jet is said to have clipped several electricity poles before crashing into a field south of Houston’s Hobby Airport.

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