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Trinity River Cresting At Liberty, Receding Elsewhere

May 24, 1990

LIVINGSTON, Texas (AP) _ Floods from torrential rains three weeks ago 200 miles to the north pushed the Trinity River toward a crest Wednesday in Liberty, the last sizable Texas city before the Gulf of Mexico.

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials began distributing relief funds to flood victims in the Livingston area, 50 miles north of Liberty.

″Everything I’ve got is under water. I can’t even find my house,″ said Joe Tomlinson, 35, of Goodrich, just south of Livingston. He was applying for federal aid.

An estimated 10,000 Texans have been forced from their homes by flooding, Laureen Chernow of the Texas Division of Emergency Management said. Forty-one Texas counties are eligible for disaster assistance.

Elsewhere, flood waters started to recede in southern Indiana, and Louisiana officials said flooding there wasn’t as bad as expected, causing about $10 million damage to farms.

In Arkansas, tourism officials assured travelers that holiday weekend visits to state parks shouldn’t be cancelled for fear of flood damage. They stressed that the weekend’s flash flooding, while serious in some places, was localized.

In Texas, federal and state officials in Livingston and Liberty briefed local agencies about programs available to people displaced by the floods.

The Trinity River was expected to crest in Liberty at 30 feet, six feet above flood level and one foot higher than a record set in 1942, the Trinity River Authority said.

Liberty is about 16 miles from the Trinity Bay which feeds into Galveston Bay and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.

″I think we’re getting the worst of it now,″ said Jim Mitchum, Liberty County Emergency Management coordinator.

Water from rain-swollen Lake Livingston has been funneling at record levels through a 208-square mile area downstream, but the amount of water released from the lake’s dam dropped for a third straight day Wednesday.

Liberty city employees and volunteers continued a two-week-old effort to shore up a mile-long levee protecting high-priced lakefront homes.

″But as soon as we get one low spot fixed, the waters seem to come over someplace else,″ Liberty City Secretary Beth Staton said.

In Livingston, officials said it is too early to determine the extent of flood damage.

″One problem here is that the water is still up and we can’t get in to inspect,″ said Graham Nance of FEMA.

About $1 million in federal money already has been distributed.

Nance said flood victims should be able to get federal checks within four to six days. The agency had received 3,800 applications for help, he said.

In southern Indiana, the east fork of the White River continued to spill over its banks from Petersburg to the Indiana-Illinois state line, the National Weather Service said. At the Indiana Route 57 bridge, the river was more than 1 1/2 miles wide.

The Wabash River along Interstate 64 stretched from Graysville, Ill., to near Griffin, Ind. - nearly 3 miles wide. Water covered much of western Gibson County, the weather service said.

More than 10,000 people in Pike and Gibson counties remained without drinking water, which was lost Saturday when the White River tore through a section of levee and burst the town’s main water line.

In central Louisiana, Farm Bureau president Ronnie Anderson said that more than 100,000 acres of cropland have been flooded and more are expected to go under.

″There’s no doubt that this can be considered a disaster and we’re going to ask Congress, as well as Secretary of Agriculture Clayton Yeutter, to declare it so,″ Anderson said.

But Arkansas tourism officials sought to downplay reports about flood damage.

″I think a lot of people are taking it that the whole state is under water,″ said Richard Davies, interim state Parks and Tourism Department chief,

Flash flooding occurred Saturday night in Hot Springs - one of the state’s top tourist areas - but the water was gone 24 hours later. Much of the flooding earlier along the Arkansas and Red rivers involved farmland.

Joe Rice, state tourism director, said employees in Little Rock have fielded about 200 calls a day from tour operators and potential tourists. People want to know if they should cancel their holiday weekend plans at state and national parks because of flooding, Davies said.

″I’ve never seen it like this,″ he said. ″We’re trying to get the word out that flooding is localized. That’s not to say that some places weren’t hit hard, they were; but others are completely unaffected.″

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