The seemingly ceaseless rain swept across areas of soggy Texas again on Saturday although new serious flooding appeared to be avoided.
At least 31 people have been killed in storms that began in Texas and Oklahoma over Memorial Day weekend. Twenty-seven of the deaths have been in Texas alone, and 11 people were still missing Saturday.
As much as 3½ inches of rain fell Saturday afternoon and evening in Houston, feeding fears of renewed flooding. Officials said bayous were responding well and no new evacuations were ordered or recommended in low-lying and riverfront areas of Southeast Texas outside the nation’s fourth-largest city.
The Brazos River southwest of Houston was the main area of concern as floodwaters moved from North and Central Texas downstream toward the Gulf of Mexico. Floyd Preston’s home in the Houston suburb of Rosenberg is about 100 yards from the flooded river and three houses from a police barricade marking the evacuation zone.
“I’m going to stay for the time being. This is not the first time for a flood. One way or another, when your time comes, it could be on dry land or water,” the 66-year-old said as he was trimming his lawn, adding that the closest floodwaters had gotten in the past was about 50 yards away.
A creek that empties into the Brazos River — which reached 49 feet and is expected to rise until Monday morning and crest at 50 feet — went up 4 feet between the time Ricky McCullough, 47, and a friend measured it on Friday night and Saturday morning. An alligator poked its snout above water as he talked, followed by a black water moccasin slithering along the muddied water.
“I’m concerned about it enough, but I’m a lot more concerned because we have a lot of older people living down here,” he said.
Former NFL running back Earnest Jackson, who played for San Diego, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia after his time at Texas A&M, has lived in the neighborhood for 45 years. His take: “I ain’t afraid of it.”
About 60 miles southwest of Houston in Wharton, an evacuation order for about 30 homes in a low-lying area along the west bank of the Colorado River was lifted Saturday evening after the river crested about 3½ feet above flood stage.
Earlier in the week, the Colorado River in Wharton and the San Jacinto River near Houston were threatening homes, but the National Weather Service said both are expected to recede below flood stage by Sunday.
In Central Texas, about 2,000 volunteers and 100 members of an elite search and rescue team looked for a group of people whose vacation house was swept away in a massive flood on the Blanco River.
The bodies of two women were found Saturday along the river. Autopsies will be needed to identify them. Hays County officials said they weren’t sure if they are among six people still listed as missing in the county from the flood.
Toby Baker, a commissioner with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, had come in an unofficial capacity, as a childhood friend of one of the missing. “I’ve got a young family,” he said Friday while leading a group of volunteers in a search. “I’d like to think someone would come out and do the same for us.”
Among the missing is 6-year-old William Charba, the son of Randy Charba, 42, and Michelle Charba, 43. Michelle’s body was found Wednesday. Michelle’s mother, Sue Carey, 71, is still missing, but officials said late Friday they had identified the remains of her father, retired dentist Ralph Carey, 73.
Jonathan McComb, the lone survivor from the house, and his family had joined the Charbas and the Careys for the holiday weekend, all coming from Corpus Christi. McComb’s wife, Laura, 33, and 4-year-old daughter, Leighton, are still unaccounted for. The body of their 6-year-old son, Andrew, was found Wednesday in the river.
This week’s record rainfall in Texas eased the state’s drought and swelled rivers and lakes to the point that they may not return to normal levels until July.
Associated Press reporters Seth Robbins in Wimberley, Texas, and Allen Reed and Terry Wallace in Dallas contributed to this report.
SOURCE: Michael Graczyk