Floodwaters Submerge Texas Town
DEL RIO, Texas (AP) _ The remnants of Tropical Storm Charley caused flooding that washed away blocks of homes and killed 21 people in drought-stricken south Texas and Mexico. As many as 30 others were reported missing Monday in Del Rio.
Entire neighborhoods of this Texas border town of 34,000 were submerged as the floodwaters rolled across the parched land. Del Rio, whose center is three miles from the Rio Grande, got nearly 18 inches of rain in the 24 hours that ended Monday morning.
``The flood wave is about a mile wide coming down the Rio Grande,″ said Tom Millwee, state coordinator for the Texas Division of Emergency Management.
Police officer John Wilson said 20 to 30 people were unaccounted for.
``We’re still recovering bodies and all the low crossings, the creeks, have flooded,″ Wilson said.
Gov. George W. Bush sent 150 National Guardsmen, 25 trucks and nine Blackhawk helicopters to join the rescue effort.
Pools of water gleamed across the vast cactus-studded brush country surrounding the city. Creeks, gullies and rivers flowed out of their banks. Fields of crops were covered with water.
In one area, chunks of asphalt about three feet square were strewn a block away from a parking lot that had been ripped up by raging floodwaters.
And at Laughlin Air Force Base, a pilot training installation outside the city, rows of aircraft stood idle alongside lakes of water, which partially covered a runway.
There were seven flooding deaths in Del Rio, said U.S. Border Patrol spokeswoman Patty Mancha.
They included Border Patrol trainee David Pyatte, who died while searching for family members in the Del Rio area, Ms. Mancha said.
``It’s very bad,″ she said. ``It doesn’t seem like the same place we’re accustomed to. ... It’s pretty devastating.″
Elsewhere in Texas, at least four people, including two children, died Sunday when a pickup truck was swept into a creek in Real County about 100 miles northwest of San Antonio. The driver, who had tried to go through 4 feet of water, was missing.
Along the Frio River, a 65-year-old man died Sunday of a heart attack while being evacuated because of rising water.
The Mexican news agency Notimex reported nine people died in neighboring Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, after they were washed away while trying to cross a normally dry gully holding a rope.
In Del Rio, with rivers surging beyond their banks, law enforcement agencies closed nearly every highway leading into the town about 145 miles west of San Antonio.
Neighborhoods around the flooded creeks were submerged, and two or three blocks of homes were washed away along with several mobile homes, Wilson said. The northern- and southernmost ends of the city were without power. Hundreds of people were evacuated to shelters and churches.
Tess Casarez and her family were evacuated from their home through the kitchen window and spent the night at the Del Rio Civic Center.
``I remembered that the water was up to the door, and I called my mom and she told me to call 911 to get us out of there. And shortly after that it rose very quickly,″ Ms. Casarez said.
``I had other people’s furniture in my yard that was stuck on what was left of my fence, and the car was moved from one side of the carport to the other.″
Communities to the south were also preparing for flooding.
About 300 residents of Eagle Pass, about 50 miles southeast of Del Rio, were being evacuated as authorities expected the Rio Grande to reach its high point there Monday evening.
``We’re going to see water in downtown Eagle Pass,″ Millwee said.
The wall of water was expected to hit Laredo, another 125 miles down the river, by about Wednesday, Millwee said.
Tropical Storm Charley rolled ashore from the Gulf of Mexico late Friday and early Saturday. It quickly weakened into a tropical depression, but the remnants have been parked over Del Rio, pouring water on a region that had been suffering an extreme drought and record heat over 100.