WHARTON, Texas -- Some southeastern Texas residents headed for higher ground, and others waited it out at home today, as rain-swollen rivers threatened more destruction in the region declared a disaster area by President Bush.
Bush flew over some of the areas hit hardest by flooding this morning, including Travis and Bosque counties, before landing at Chase Naval Air Field in Beeville, 60 miles from this hard-hit town.
Floods caused by record-breaking rainfall over the past week have killed at least 15 people across Texas, swamped farmland, drowned scores of livestock and caused millions of dollars in damage. More rain was forecast for most of the state today.
Yesterday, 1,800 residents of Wharton who live near the Colorado River were urged to flee. But only 85 had arrived at a shelter by early today, and many said they wanted to stay in their homes as long as they could.
"I have my exit planned in case things go bad," said Benny McDonald, 59, as he and his dog watched the river's raging waters.
"Our main worry is that people will be waiting too long," said Larry Hollingsworth, the city's director of emergency preparedness.
Rick Warren said he was staying to keep away the looters he said preyed on homes during floods last year.
"They came in air boats and broke into our places," he said. "We had a lot of thefts."
Wharton sheriff's dispatcher Tonya Castro said early today that several streets were closed because of high water. "The water's not up in the houses or anything like that. Just in the yards so far," she said.
Linda Gage, a volunteer at an emergency center at City Hall, said water was expected to be 4 to 5 feet deep on the west side of town by midmorning after the Colorado River crests.
The river was expected to crest this afternoon at 48 feet, about 9 feet above flood stage. By this morning, it was nearly 7 feet above flood stage.
Weather officials said flood damage is likely throughout southeastern Texas during the next several days from the region's lattice of rivers that carry water to the Gulf of Mexico. Yesterday's rain, including more than an inch at Houston, fell on saturated ground.
A week ago, a downpour that dropped more than 4 inches of rain on central Texas made this December the wettest on record for the area, with more than 14 inches. It also made the year the wettest on record, with more than 52 inches.
Flooding along the Colorado River has caused an estimated $40 million damage to more than 200 homes.