Texas welcomes sunshine after days of floods that killed 25

Reuters News
Posted: May 31, 2015 8:43 PM

By Lisa Maria Garza and Jim Forsyth

DALLAS/SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - Sunshine and drier weather were forecast for most of flood-weary Texas after days of heavy rain, giving swollen rivers a chance to recede and relief workers and residents time for assess the damage and start a massive clean-up, officials said on Sunday.

Severe flooding has killed at least 25 people and prompted U.S. President Barack Obama to declare a disaster in the state, which has endured record rainfall in May.

Flooding this week turned streets into rivers, ripped homes off foundations, swept away thousands of vehicles and trapped people in their cars and houses.

"We should dry out and have nice weather for the first time in about a month," said National Weather Service forecaster Rich Thompson.

Rivers and lakes in the Houston, Dallas and Austin areas were still hovering at dangerously high levels, and first responders were still fielding emergency calls.

An 8-year-old girl drowned in Dallas County on Saturday when her family's vehicle hit an embankment from a highway and plummeted into flood waters, Raul Reyna, a spokesman for the county sheriff said, pushing the death toll from flooding to 25.

Two adults plus three other children were rescued in the incident and taken to a local hospital in stable condition, he said.

On Sunday, two kayakers were rescued from Dallas' Trinity River, which has crested at 43 feet. Outside of Austin on Saturday, the bodies of two women were removed from the Blanco River in Hays County.

The warmth and drier conditions could allow the Trinity, the Blanco and other rain-swollen rivers gradually to recede over the next week, Thompson said.

In the Houston area, the cost to clear debris from neighborhoods, bayous and other areas will reach about $15 million, and more than 1,400 homes so far have sustained flood damage to some extent, Harris County emergency management spokesman Francisco Sanchez said.

Estimates also show more than $25 million in damage to critical infrastructure and utilities, with more than $4 million to public buildings, Sanchez said.

Southeast of San Antonio, more than 160 homes near the city of Victoria have been flooded or threatened by rising waters, though there have been no injuries, the county sheriff's office said.

A Facebook page has been set up to link Hays County area residents with missing household items.

"We have reunited about 100 lost items with their owners," Wimberley resident Dustin New said. "This is helping bring the community closer together."

(Reporting by Lisa Maria Garza in Dallas and Jim Forsyth in San Antonio; Writing and additional reporting by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Diane Craft)