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Texas Flooding Leaves at Least 7 Dead

Weather: In central part of the state, hit by five days of storms, hundreds are told to evacuate. President Bush approves aid for 10 counties.

July 05, 2002|From Associated Press

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas — Hundreds of people were urged to evacuate Thursday from homes and campgrounds near Canyon Lake, as water began trickling through a dam overwhelmed by five days of storms.

New Braunfels Mayor Adam Cork said he wasn't sure how many people had left the area around Canyon Dam, about 30 miles northeast of San Antonio.

Water from the 45-year-old dam began flowing out of its spillway--a 400-yard-wide earthen chute--and into the Guadalupe River, about three-fourths of a mile downstream.

"I'm not going to take any chances," said Al Rose, as he and his children loaded a van and two trailers with their belongings. "I'd rather spend a few hundred dollars and get everything out than spend thousands of dollars later."

Lake manager Jerry Brite said the overflow could dump as much as 50,000 cubic feet of water per second into the river--more than 100 times the normal flow rate.

South and Central Texas have been pounded by storms for almost a week. In San Antonio, officials discovered two bodies Thursday in a car in the Olmos Basin, bringing the death count from the storms to at least seven.

Also Thursday, President Bush approved federal aid for 10 flood-damaged counties.

"With this assistance, the recovery process can begin for families and businesses devastated by heavy rains and flooding," Gov. Rick Perry said.

Some areas have received as much as 24 inches of rain in the last week, and flood warnings were expected to be in effect through the weekend. Perry declared a disaster Wednesday for 29 counties.

Residents in neighborhoods along the Guadalupe and Comal rivers were advised to leave.

"It was a voluntary evacuation, but we thought it best to get out. There will be a lot of water in the river in a very short period of time, and they're not exactly [sure] where it's going to go, since it will go over the spillway," Paul Klein, who lives near Canyon Dam, told radio station WOAI.

The Army Corps of Engineers began opening the dam's floodgates Thursday morning to lower the water level, spokeswoman Judy Marsicano said. They would be closed once water begins to flow over the spillway.

In San Antonio, low-lying areas remained covered with brown, debris-laden runoff, but water levels were dropping steadily as rain tapered off. City Manager Terry Brechtel said more than 200 homes sustained flood damage.

All highways into Bandera County northwest of San Antonio were closed, Judge Richard Evans said. Hundreds of people were evacuated, but about 1,500 people were stranded in outlying areas.

"The city of Bandera is totally isolated," Evans said. "We can't get out."

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