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Texas Gov. Tours Flooded Areas

Weather: He says he will seek federal disaster relief for 17 counties. Death toll is at eight.

July 08, 2002|From Associated Press

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas — From the air Sunday, Gov. Rick Perry saw firsthand the devastation that days of torrential rain have brought to Central and South Texas: houses surrounded by a sea of roiling, muddy water, uprooted trees and overturned vehicles.

And the bad news just kept coming. Flood waters that devastated the San Antonio area spilled into even more houses Sunday as they flowed toward the Gulf of Mexico.

"The devastation is extensive," the governor said after his helicopter tour. "Obviously, when the water goes down, we're going to see the impact on residential property is going to be substantial."

About 160 miles to the northwest, residents of Brownwood frantically piled sandbags around homes and businesses as water rushed through downtown. Lake Brownwood was 7.65 feet above its spillway Sunday and was expected to crest overnight a foot or more higher.

The flooding has been blamed for eight deaths and tens of millions of dollars in property damage.

In some places, the rivers have crested as high as 28 feet above flood stage.

Perry said he would seek federal aid for 17 counties. President Bush already has declared 13 Texas counties federal disaster areas.

Also Sunday, forecasters said the first tropical depression of the season could be forming in the Gulf of Mexico with the potential for additional rain in Texas.

Severe flooding hit the Abilene area after an unexpected storm that dumped a foot of rain Saturday. Most evacuees began returning to waterlogged homes Sunday.

Meanwhile, back in Brownwood, 75 miles southeast of Abilene, about 3 feet of water lapped up against dozens of motels, restaurants, drugstores and shopping centers.

"It'll hurt this area because it'll take several days for the water to recede," City Manager Gary Butts said.

In south-central Texas, where more than 30 inches of rain fell in places last week, water levels were dropping in the Hill Country and San Antonio.

In areas where evacuees were returning, the overflowing rivers were still a threat, William Ayres, a spokesman for the Texas Division of Emergency Management in Austin, said Sunday.

The Guadalupe and other rivers originating in the Hill Country were flooding cities and croplands across a low-lying coastal plain leading to the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday.

Large numbers of cattle were believed to be isolated or drowned along the San Antonio River, which was expected to crest 30 feet above flood stage by today at Goliad.

About 24 houses were expected to be flooded in Goliad County, a sheriff's spokeswoman said.

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