Texas flood forces thousands from homes

July 5, 2002 at 8:01 PM
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NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas, July 5 (UPI) -- Thousands of people were forced out of their homes in central and south Texas Friday as rivers fed by record rains threatened to overwhelm several towns.

Comal County Judge Danny Scheel toured flood damage around the New Braunfels area where 5,000 people were evacuated and he was amazed by the sight.

"What I saw was very devastating," Scheel said.

Entire towns have been evacuated as the Medina and Guadalupe rivers, charged by up to 42 inches of rain in the Texas Hill Country in the past week, overflowed their banks. Both Medina Lake and Canyon Lake were at record levels with Canyon flowing over the spillway for the first time in 45 years.

"People need to get out of their homes if they live anywhere near the Guadalupe," Guadalupe County Sheriff Arnold Zwicke said late Friday afternoon.

"We think we have managed to get out everybody who needs to get out," New Braunfels Mayor Adam Cork said.

The Army Corps of Engineers, which operates Canyon Lake on the Guadalupe, said the dam was secure.

"It can take 10 times the level of water it's getting now," Col. Gordon Wells told a news conference, but he said the level of flooding would cause major damage along the shores of the lake, one of the state's major recreational lakes.

The entire town of Medina on the Medina River was ordered evacuated, as were the communities of Pipe Creek and Mico along Medina Lake. Most of the communities of LaCoste and Castroville, on the Medina below the dam, were also evacuated.

Medina Lake is about 40 miles northwest of San Antonio and Canyon Lake is about 40 miles northeast of the city which has also been hard hit.

Engineers also checked two dams along Chiminea Creek in northwest Bexar County near San Antonio after a small dam failed, sending water cascading a quarter mile down the creek and forcing the evacuation of the towns of Helotes and Grey Forest.

"Pray for us in Grey Forest and Helotes," said Joan Farias, who evacuated her home with only the clothes she was wearing. "We just hope we can see the sun again soon."

Many evacuees said they lost everything in the flooding.

"We just took whatever we could on our bodies, and that's it," Farias' father, John, said.

More than 20 emergency shelters were operating on Friday to take in refugees but many evacuees were staying with friends and relatives. The high water has claimed at least seven lives since last Sunday.

President Bush Thursday declared 10 counties in the region disaster areas, making residents and businesses eligible for federal aid.

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