Federal aid sought for Texas flood victims

July 3, 2002 at 6:57 PM
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SAN ANTONIO, July 3 (UPI) -- Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, Wednesday sought federal disaster assistance for 29 counties in central and south Texas hit hard by five days of flooding that forced hundreds from their homes.

"They want to get back into their homes and be able to economically weather this storm as quickly and as efficiently as they can," Perry said after making a helicopter survey of some of the hardest hit communities in the San Antonio, Woodlawn Lake and Leon Springs.

Perry said he would seek an expedited response from President Bush to release federal aid for Texas flood victims. The assistance would include grants for family housing and disaster loans for businesses.

The death toll stands at three, with one still missing, after some parts of the region received 18 inches of rain, turning streets into rivers and isolating entire communities and neighborhoods.

Heavy rains continued falling across much of the region Wednesday, adding to the misery of people who have been out of their homes, or in some cases, unable to leave their homes, for days.

In the town of Boerne, northwest of San Antonio, Mayor Patrick Heath said two entire neighborhoods were inaccessible because of flooding on Cibolo Creek.

"We do have a national guard helicopter that is flying in there now to take some food supplies in, and take out any persons needing medical attention," Heath said.

In Bandera, west of Boerne, State Highway 16 was re-opened Wednesday morning, allowing residents to get out of the community for the first time in 24 hours.

"In the Hill Country we do experience quite a bit of this, and anybody who lives here comes to expect it once and a while," Bandera resident Bobby Wade said from his cell phone. He said he "hoped" to be able to get out of town sometime Wednesday.

Further north along the Guadalupe River, operators of summer camps housing hundreds of children were nervously watching the rising Guadalupe River. In 1987, a summer flood killed 10 teenagers who were leaving a Hill Country camp when their bus was washed into the Guadalupe.

"No camp has been evacuated," said Dick Eastland, president of Camp Mystic in the small Guadalupe River town of Hunt. "We're very fortunate that all the camps are located on high ground."

State officials said it was too early to tally up an estimate of damage from five days of flooding.

American Red Cross volunteers were being recruited from across the state to help out because many of the state's regular relief workers were already assigned to help out with wildfires in Colorado and Arizona.

"Our resources are slightly stretched right now because we have 41 of our best volunteers assigned to Colorado and Arizona," said Tim Kidwell, director of disaster services for the Greater Houston Area Red Cross. "However, we expect the job to be fully staffed as soon as it is safe to send volunteers into the area."

The Red Cross provided shelter to about 360 people in 10 shelters in the greater San Antonio area Tuesday night. Another 104 flood refugees spent the night in a shelter at San Marcos.

Although the heavy rains have been costly in terms of lost lives and property damage, they have been beneficial for many Texas farmers and ranchers who have already lost $316 million this year because of the drought.

Dr. Travis Miller, Texas Cooperative Extension program leader for soil and crop sciences, said rainfall was widespread throughout most of the state's drought-stricken regions, although some areas of far West Texas remained dry.

"The crops that this rain is going to impact the most, I would say, are in the Rio Grande Valley, the irrigated crops like sugarcane and citrus," he said. "They will get good benefit from this rainfall."

In central Texas, he said, the moisture may still benefit the cotton crop but it's too late for the corn and sorghum crops in that area. He said the rain would also benefit Texas cattle producers.

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