Storms inflict Tx devastation

BY GEORGE PIPER | SEGUIN, Texas | October 19, 1998

SEGUIN, Texas (Oct. 19, 1998) -- The Rev. Bill Lange looks around Seguin

and sees one thing: devastation.

A pastor at Faith Lutheran Church for 32 years, Lange has never seen

such widespread flooding -- and that includes 1972, when the Guadalupe

River crested to 32 feet and left widespread damage in Seguin, located

about 37 miles east of San Antonio.

"It's just devastating. Everything is covered with mud," said Lange, who

said 35 families in his congregation sustained flood damage in their homes.

That includes 10 homes where rushing waters broke through walls and washed

away much of the structure. "It's going to be a long cleanup job. There were

some families who just lost everything."

Flooding at the water treatment plant left the city's 20,000 resident

without tap water. Rain is expected in the area throughout much of the

week. "It's raining now, and we're under a flash flood watch," Lange said.

Northeast of Seguin is New Braunfels, where St. Paul's Lutheran Church

senior pastor Charles DeHaven reports 20 to 30 of his members' homes were

swallowed by floodwaters.

"Water cut through some of these subdivisions and made a 20-foot hole in

brick walls," he said.

Seguin and New Braunfels are just two of several communities struck by

deadly storms that stretched from San Antonio to Galveston. At least 15

people are reported dead as fierce weather brought up to 20 inches of rain

and spawned at least three tornadoes across the landscape. Thousands sought

shelter as rising floodwaters forced people from homes in Bexar, Comal,

Guadalupe and Travis counties.

Twenty miles north of Seguin, some 3,500 San Marcos residents fled homes

when the Blanco and San Marcos rivers and area creeks jumped their banks

late Saturday. Officials there report more than 200 water-damaged homes.

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. The National Weather Service also issued flood warning

downstream from San Antonio and predicted record flooding in those areas.

The storm took six lives in San Antonio, three in Guadalupe County, at

least two in Comal County, and one each in Waller and Travis counties, as

communities from the Hill Country east of Seguin felt its wrath.

Just west of Corsicana, 220 miles northeast of San Antonio, a man was

killed when a tornado slammed into his mobile home and ripped it apart

Sunday morning.

In Waller County, 35 miles west of Houston, a twister swept through just

after sunrise on Sunday, demolishing mobile homes and snapping trees in

Brookshire, killing one.

Southwest of Waco, a tornado in Oglesboy destroyed two brick homes, and

a house and three mobile homes were destroyed in Harker Heights. No other

injuries were reported.

Lange attributed the extent of Seguin's damage in part to development

near the city's waterways. "Homes that were not there 20 years ago are

there now and they are severely damaged," he said.

Lange and DeHaven reported local emergency response efforts are

beginning to assess damage and needs. Both congregations are working with

its members to help clean homes and distribute food and clothing to

affected families.

St. Paul's was one of the few New Braunfels churches with a Sunday

service, said DeHaven. And although only 30 people attended, it was an

emotional outlet for them. "People were just in a daze," he said. "Some of

them just needed to come in and cry and pray."

While it appears the flooded areas are in for a long recovery, Lange is

optimistic that things will work out for the best.

"Our faith is strong," said Lange. "We know our Lord is with us through


Posted Oct. 19, 1998

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