Flooding Overburdens Texas Emergency Responders The sustained rain in Texas has taxed emergency responders across the state and diminished their ability to deal with the crisis. Officials say conditions in some areas are the worst in 50 years.
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Flooding Overburdens Texas Emergency Responders

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Flooding Overburdens Texas Emergency Responders

Flooding Overburdens Texas Emergency Responders

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

It's raining again today in Texas. In fact, it's been raining in Texas for 45 days in a row. Every river basin in the state is at flood stage, 13 have people have drowned, including several children. There have been hundreds of water rescues and the extent of the emergency response is being called unprecedented.

From Dallas, NPR's Wade Goodwyn has our report.

WADE GOODWYN: It's been as if Mother Nature wanted to prove to Texas that irony is also strongly in her nature. For the last three years, the state has been suffering through a nasty drought - severe water restrictions, lake levels receding so fast it looked like Moses at the Red Sea. From Dallas to San Antonio, East Texas, South Texas, the state was parched. And the end of spring came the rain. For the first couple of weeks, it was a blessing. But then, surprisingly, the rain stayed around for June and then it turned mean.

Mr. JACK COLLEY (Chief, Governor's Division of Emergency Management): It's tragic. It's absolutely tragic.

GOODWYN: Jack Colley heads the Governor's Division of Emergency Management. A cruel aspect of this floods have been the number of children who've drowned in front of their parent's eyes. One 10-year-old boy near Dallas drowned when he lost his footing trying to grab a rescue line. Everyone including the boy's father watched in horror as the child was swept away.

Mr. COLLEY: Thirteen citizens have died. We have three or four missing this morning. Now, stay away from these rivers. They're dangerous.

GOODWYN: Colley says the number of rescue personnel that have been put into action is unprecedented.

Mr. COLLEY: It's the largest search and rescue organization we've ever put into the state. For example, today, we have 187 search and rescue boats, 28 aircrafts, 71 of what we call high-profile vehicles with evacuation teams. Now we have 16 swift water rescue teams. These are all highly trained professionals.

GOODWYN: Some parts of Texas got incredible rainfall amounts. The town of Marble Falls and the Hill Country, west of Austin, got 18 inches of rain in just a few hours. The Weather Service calls these events rain bombs, where massive thunderstorms squat down and drown everything below. The city of Gainesville near the Oklahoma border knows a little about that. Seven inches came down in about two hours, a grandmother and her two granddaughters, ages five and 2 years old, drowned when their mobile home was swept into a creek.

Gainesville Mayor Glenn Loch reports 375 other homes were also severely damaged or completely destroyed.

Mayor GLENN LOCH (Gainesville, Texas): We've rescued a lot of people from rooftops. We had tremendous cooperation from the Dallas Metroplex area along with many of the small towns around here.

(Soundbite of news report)

Unidentified Man: A flashflood warning remains in affect until 10:30 a.m. Central Daylight Time for southeastern Ellis County.

GOODWYN: Following weeks of rain is coming to an end. After today, the low-pressure system is finally expected to move east. That's the normal pattern, but Gary Woodall with the National Weather Service says the last few weeks have been anything but normal.

Mr. GARY WOODALL (Warning Forecaster, National Weather Service): We basically have had weather systems that have spun in place, kind of like gears in a machine basically where they remain stationary, they spin around and don't move much. And unfortunately, we, here in Texas, have been caught under the wet part.

GOODWYN: Day after day, the stationary low sucked water out of the Gulf of Mexico and dumped it all across Texas turning drought in flood. With the lakes overflowing and no one needing to water their lawn anymore, the water restrictions are being lifted.

Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas.

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