Erin downgraded to a tropical depression

Storm dropping heavy rain in coastal Texas.

BY HEATHER MOYER | EDINBURG, Texas | August 16, 2007

The National Hurricane Center downgraded Tropical Storm Erin to a tropical depression Thursday morning as it came ashore in southeast Texas.

Erin has been dumping heavy rain across the region since Wednesday, prompting flash flood warnings. Isolated tornadoes were also possible.

The depression had winds of 35 mph and was expected to bring 3 to 6 inches of rain, with isolated amounts of 10 inches. Erin came ashore at Capano Bay, just north of Corpus Christi.

Some flooding was reported in Houston, causing traffic headaches as it covered roads. Harris County reported that its bayous are nearing its residents.

Residents along the Texas Gulf Coast prepared for what was Tropical Storm Erin Wednesday.

Many areas of the state are already saturated from heavy rains the past two months. Some areas received heavy rain as recently as Monday.

"We had 4 inches on Monday," said the Rev. Laura Brewster of First United Methodist Church in Edinburg. "Our ground is fairly well saturated."

Brewster has assisted with disaster response in south Texas, including helping residents recover from flooding in past years in some of the low-income Hispanic communities in the area, called "colonias." She said those same areas will again be at risk from rainfall from Erin.

"Frankly, most of the concern at this point is for people in low-lying colonias and in Mexico," Brewster said. "Those areas are prone to flooding and there's very little they can do."

Brewster and her fellow church staffers encouraged the congregation and everyone else to stock up on sandbags from the city and to be ready.

"It's really just a wait and see," she said. "Aside from that, there's not a whole lot you can do."

Texas Gov. Rick Perry activated all state resources Wednesday, including search-and-rescue teams, emergency equipment and vehicles and National Guard troops. Perry said all state resources were ready for rapid deployment and that the public should pay attention to storm advisories.

"I urge all Texans to heed the warnings of their local leaders and take all possible precautions to stay out of dangerous situations as this severe weather continues," he said.

In addition to the state resources, members of the Texas Interagency/Interfaith Disaster Response were ready to respond, said executive director Amy BeVille Elder.

"The whole key in lessons learned is that we stand ready for the next time," Elder said. "Then we hope we don't have to use all our resources, but by being ready - should we need to respond - we're prepared and we can move quickly.

"We're connected to all of our (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) partners, the American Red Cross and the offices of emergency management," she said. "Congregations know they can call us for information."

Elder said she was concerned about the high levels of rivers and creeks from the wet summer.

She said a network of private and government organizations in the Austin area was well prepared.

The faith community was ready to respond to specific needs appropriately, Elder added. She said her organization hoped to avoid the "second disasters" of excessive material donations and spontaneous untrained volunteers.

"Through this preparedness piece and through these relationships we've built, when a need is identified, we can respond in a coordinated way and provide assistance efficiently," she said.

The agency also maintains a phone bank that can be staffed by trained volunteers when needed, she said.

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