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TX, LA face repeat floods

The past week of flooding in southeast Texas destroyed more than 50 homes.

BY HEATHER MOYER | BEAUMONT, Texas | November 1, 2006

Authorities estimate that the past week of flooding in southeast Texas has destroyed more than 50 homes in two counties, but damage assessments continued Tuesday.

A storm system dumped a week of heavy rains on the region, flooding roads and stranding residents. Emergency officials rescued some families from high water during the storms and now crews are cleaning up flood-damaged homes.

In Hardin County at least 19 homes were destroyed and another 26 had major damage according to the most recent estimates provided by the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TXDEM). Flooding in Orange County destroyed 30 homes and severely damaged another 10. More than 10 mobile homes were destroyed in both counties. The City of Beaumont in Jefferson County reported five destroyed homes and 35 others affected.

The National Weather Service reports that most areas received between one and five inches of rain from Oct. 25 to 27, yet a large area received amounts ranging seven to 16 inches of rain. That heavy rain added to ground already saturated by another heavy rain event in the region from Oct. 15 to Oct. 22.

Relief agencies are now checking in on local contacts to see what help is needed for the affected families - many of whom are still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Rita 13 months ago.

Board members for the Southeast Texas Interfaith Organization (SETIO) will meet Wednesday to discuss what help is needed and can be provided. The agency is the umbrella group for some long-term recovery organizations working on Hurricane Rita reconstruction.

Fred Taylor, SETIO's interim CEO, said that the agency is still very young and hopes to reach a point very soon where they can respond more quickly to immediate disasters. "Our vision right now is to become a network of at least 100 congregations where we can get people and churches ready to respond to crises like this," said Taylor.

Taylor said he anticipates this flooding disaster will only compound the emotional issues residents still face from Hurricane Rita. "We were fearful all fall because we all expected another hurricane to hit here," he explained. "We've been relieved that one hasn't hit, but this is that disaster for so many. This is the equivalent of what we expected. It's going to be the pattern of the future. If it's not a left hook, it's a right hook."

The Rev. Bernard Scrogin of Lutheran Social Services of the South (LSS) said he's been checking in with congregations across the affected areas. "I've made calls and sent out emails to see if anyone's in need of an emergency grant award," said Scrogin, LSS state coordinator for disaster response in Texas and Louisiana.

"We've only had one response for help so far. We're not sure yet if it was more localized flooding that happened to homes along creeks and rivers, or what."

TXDEM reports that Texas Baptist Men are on site in some affected southeast Texas communities helping "mud out" homes and do other cleanup work.

The National Weather Service reported rain totals ranging from five inches to 20 inches for parts of Louisiana from the same week-long weather system. Flooding washed out roads and prompted some evacuations.

Scrogin said he's also contacting the Hurricane Rita long-term recovery organization there and his local pastors. "No word yet from any of them."

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco declared a state of emergency for the parishes of Beauregard, Evangeline, St. Landry, Vernon, Allen, St. Helena, Sabine, Calcasieu and Jefferson Davis.

Last week's flooding problems contributed to ones lingering from mid-October, where several other counties and parishes in both states were under emergency declarations. The mid-October severe weather also included a tornado - and both flooding and tornado damages in southeastern Texas and Louisiana are estimated to total around several hundred homes damaged and more than 10 destroyed.

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