3 reported dead from flooding in Central Texas

Storm deluges homes, highways, dams

it brings up to 16 inches of rain

July 04, 2002|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

HOUSTON - While a drought continues to parch the West, a powerful summer storm stalled over Central Texas this week, flooding highways, creeks and dams with as much as 16 inches of pounding rain.

At least three people were reported dead and one was missing as a result of the deluge, which began Saturday and is expected to linger through today.

"We're not expecting a lot more rain, but the rivers are still at dangerously high levels," said Nezette Rydell, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in the Central Texas town of New Braunfels. "We're not out of the woods yet."

The storm paralyzed parts of San Antonio, where 9.52 inches of rain fell Monday, a record for any single day in July. Torrential rains submerged more than 100 sections of the city's freeways, causing traffic jams as thousands left work early before the roads became impassable.

More than 200 homes were knee-deep in murky water that quickly rose over lawns and seeped through walls. Residents clutching pets and photo albums made their way through the muck to waiting rescue boats, while others found refuge on rooftops. At least two people were injured by water strewn with debris and tree limbs.

In the northern parts of Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, overflowing creeks forced firefighters to jump on Jet Skis to rescue stranded residents. Gov. Rick Perry called out Texas Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopters to pluck motorists from as many as 150 cars stranded on Interstate Highway 10 west of San Antonio.

Perry declared parts of the rain-soaked state a disaster yesterday. After a helicopter tour of the hardest-hit areas, Perry said he had requested federal disaster relief. "Help is on the way," the governor said after touching down in San Antonio.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, three people drowned in high waters caused by the storm.

In Utopia, west of San Antonio, a man on a farm tractor heading out to help his neighbors was washed off the road and killed. On Sunday, an 18-year-old hiker from Austin drowned when he fell into a swollen creek. And Tuesday in Bandera County, a driver was killed when his pickup skidded in a pool of water and hit a tractor-trailer rig.

One man remains missing near Utopia after he was swept away from a car stalled in deep water Tuesday.

The storm caught hundreds of Fourth of July holiday campers by surprise. At Garner State Park, rangers woke hundreds of campers in the middle of the night Tuesday to warn of rising flood waters.

"You couldn't believe it. It was pouring rain, but we managed to get most of them awake to tell them to clear out," said Glenda Zorn, who works in the park. "They couldn't leave the park because the roads were flooded, but they were able to move their RVs to higher ground."

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