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Texas Flood Victims Are Rescued

October 21, 1998

VICTORIA, Texas (AP) _ Perched on the roof of his home while the Guadalupe River swirled menacingly around him, Larry Crisp stepped without hesitation into a nylon rope basket dangling from a helicopter.

``I was thinking, `There sure is a lot of water,‴ he said. ``They put the basket down, I just got in.″

Crisp was among scores of trapped residents rescued by helicopters and boats Tuesday as rain-swollen waterways spilled across southeastern Texas, carrying off homes, cattle and lives in the coffee-brown floodwaters.

The bodies of a 6-year-old boy, a 37-year-old man and a 10-year-old girl who had been swept away by the floodwaters were found Tuesday. In all, 22 people have died in Texas since weekend storms swamped 60 counties, or nearly one-fourth of the state. A 7-year-old boy remains missing.

Gov. George W. Bush asked President Clinton to declare 20 counties disaster areas.

Up to 5,000 cattle, many without brands to identify them, were roaming free because of washed-away pens and fences near San Antonio.

But much of the misery was flowing downstream Tuesday. Nearly 2 feet of rain around San Antonio sent torrents of water toward farm towns and cities along the Guadalupe and other rivers.

In Cuero, 90 miles southeast, three-quarters of the town of 7,000 was under water after the Guadalupe crested at 49.78 feet, more than double its 20-foot flood stage. At least 2,000 people were left homeless.

``We’re just taking it a minute at a time,″ city Secretary Nancy Gips said. ``Until the water recedes, we can’t do much of anything except make sure everyone’s safe and dry.″

At the state prison near Cuero, officials had some of the 1,300 inmates pumping water from the first floor and said the prisoners would probably be moved up to the second floor.

More than 20 miles downstream in Victoria, a town of 60,000 people, locals called it the worst flooding since 1936. National Guardsmen flying over the Guadalupe said the river was nearly four miles wide at some points. It usually is 150 feet across.

``I’ve seen some trailers floating, a couple of motor homes floating,″ said Pete Durbin, a chief warrant officer aboard one of the choppers. ``It’s ugly.″

As bad as things are, some flood victims refused to be rescued, even as they sought refuge on their rooftops.

``They just waved us off,″ Durbin said. ``I think I’d be gone.″

Hundreds of Victoria residents made plans to spend the night away from home after being evacuated on short notice.

``I had to move everything upstairs and then I left,″ said Erlinda Lencon, who sought shelter at a church. ``Last night the water was coming up. To me, it’s scary. I’ve never seen anything like this before.″

Insured losses related to the storms were expected to exceed $90 million, the Southwestern Insurance Information Service estimated Tuesday. A group spokesman said losses would likely end up being higher.

``These could be the most costly flood losses for insurers in decades,″ said spokesman Jerry Johns.

Kenneth Langston worried his mother and 90-year-old bedridden grandmother were still trapped in their flooded home without power or a phone.

But firefighters using boats believed they had most people out of the worst-hit neighborhood, where at least 500 homes were damaged.

``It’s just an act of God,″ said Margie Martinez, whose resale shop was under water. ``You’ve got to be strong.″

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