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Clean-up efforts begin following Tx floods

BY GEORGE PIPER | SEGUIN, Tx | October 22, 1998

SEGUIN, Tx (Oct. 22, 1998) -- Faith-based agencies are preparing a

response for flood-ravaged Texas as residents attempt to dry out from the

record water levels.

Representatives from Lutheran Disaster Response, the United Methodist

Committee on Relief and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance met with the

Guadalupe County Ministerial Alliance in Seguin on Thursday to coordinate

recovery efforts there. Another meeting is scheduled for Friday.

The sun shined on south Texas for the first time in nearly a week. That

alone was enough to lift spirits in communities where flooding caused at

least 22 deaths and has left hundreds homeless.

Adventist Community Services (ACS) is distributing relief supplies in

New Braunfels and Seguin as well as in several San Antonio communities. On

Monday and Tuesday ACS had provided food, clothing, cleaning supplies and

personal hygiene items to more than 1,300 people.

Seguin residents who avoided the flood are pitching in to help disaster

survivors by doing everything from cleaning homes to just listening to

flood stories, said the Rev. Bill Lange, pastor of Faith Lutheran Church.

Red Cross shelters are still operating, as there is no available housing

in Seguin, said Lange. Crews are working hard to make homes livable, but

parts of the city are still without electrical, water and telephone


The ministerial alliance will be working with city, county and other

disaster relief agencies to avoid duplicating services, said Lange, who

attended Thursday's meeting.

The Guadalupe River is back within its banks and flowing deep green in

New Braunfels, said the Rev. Charles DeHaven of St. Paul's Lutheran Church.

But downed trees, parts of homes and other effects of the flood's power

scar the landscape.

"Our churches are geared for disaster relief in a big way," said

DeHaven, adding that former New Braunfels' residents are returning to aid

the recovery. . . "That's the thing we're experiencing here."

At a funeral on Monday, DeHaven told the estimated 500 in attendance

that it takes a storm to have a rainbow, and he predicts several rainbows

occurring from this disaster. "These people here are not going to stay down

long, and they're going to learn from this," he said, adding that the faith

community must fulfill its role to provide spiritual, emotional and

financial help in this crisis.

In Cuero, where up to two-thirds of the city was under water, churches

are providing shelter and are working to get food and other supplies to

residents, said the Rev. Glenn Robertson, pastor at the First Baptist


He foresees a major rebuilding effort in Cuero, especially for

low-income people who lost their homes. DeWitt County has an estimated

1,000 homes destroyed, including 300 in Cuero alone. "It's a slow process

getting them back into their homes," Robertson said. "We're still just

trying to put the pieces together."

Texans from Austin to the Gulf of Mexico are trying to dry out from

record flooding that has claimed 22 lives and impacted some 60 counties

across the Lone Star State.

Churches in Gonzales are working independently and with the Gonzales

Crisis Assistance Ministry are administering aid in the form of food,

clothing and cleanup kits for its drenched residents.

"We're still quite upset about the whole thing," said Phyllis Oncken, a

secretary at the First United Methodist Church of Gonzales. "There were so

many places that were flooded that have never been flooded before."

Church members headed to the Rivercrest neighborhood on the city's south

side on Sunday morning to help residents move furniture to higher ground,

said Oncken. The efforts proved in vain in some case as water either moved

structures off foundations or covered them completely.

The story was much the same in Victoria on Monday night when the

Guadalupe River left its banks and fire and emergency management officials

began rescuing residents from flooded areas.

The southeast Texas city of 62,000 as the last major population area

between the swollen river as it sloshed its way toward the Gulf of Mexico.

The city's worst previous flood was on July 3, 1936, when the Guadalupe

rose to 31.4 feet.

When storms hit over the weekend, Victoria officials were told the

Guadalupe would jump its banks on Thursday. By early Monday, weather

officials moved the timetable up to late Tuesday. But the river ran ahead

of scheduled and struck the city Monday night.

"Our emergency services are really overloaded now," said Charles

Windwehen, Victoria assistant city manager, who was busy helping other

officials coordinate emergency efforts.

Hundreds of homes and business were affected by the flooding, and the

entire city could be without power for two or three days, added Windwehen.

Salvation Army representatives in Victoria opened a shelter and mobile

food canteens for flood survivors, said Maj. Wilma Harwell. The

organization's shelter can hold more than 100 people, and she noted two

other churches also are serving as shelters.

Acting on a request by Texas Gov. George W. Bush, President Bill Clinton

has declared the affected area as a Disaster Area. The state already has

two disaster areas in Del Rio and Houston as a result of tropical storms

Charley and Frances.

San Antonio reported its wettest month ever, while the Guadalupe County

Sheriff's Department estimates that hundreds of homes were washed from

foundations. Shelters across the area accommodated hundreds while emergency

officials used fire trucks, helicopters, boats and personal watercrafts to

rescue people.

Posted Oct. 22, 1998

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