Eintime Conversion for education and research 10-20-2007 @ 07:24:18
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Floods have destroyed at least 1,000 homes in Texas

By Jim Vertuno, Associated Press Writer

AUSTIN — Floodwaters across the state have severely damaged or destroyed 1,000 homes, and that number is likely to rise, state officials said Thursday.

Storms have pounded the state since May 23, causing widespread rainfall and flooding that's been blamed for at least 11 deaths over the past 2½ weeks. The cost of the property damage has not yet been assessed, said Jack Colley, chief of the state's Division of Emergency Management.

With more rain expected through much of the state Thursday, emergency officials were braced for even more damage. Colley said the state has already mobilized its largest ever flood response efforts of search and rescue teams and aid for flood damaged areas.

Assistance has come from government agencies helping in search and rescue and cleanup operations, as well as private charities such as the American Red Cross and Salvation Army operating shelters and feeding centers.

"Unprecedented," Colley said at a news conference. "Mostly this time of year we're fighting wildfires ... The problem with this is, the water won't go away."

The impacted area covers 49 counties and 48,000 square miles from North Texas to the Rio Grande Valley, a section roughly the size of the state of Mississippi.

And with the National Weather Service expecting much of the area to get 1 to 3 inches of rain Thursday — with heavier localized storms — even the slightest amount could cause flash flooding where rivers, lakes and reservoirs are already full to the brim.

Areas of concern with Thursday's expected rain included the Brazos, Sabine and Trinity rivers and Nueces River near Corpus Christi, Colley said.

"I urge all Texans to heed the warnings of their local leaders and take all possible precautions to stay out of dangerous situations as this severe weather continues," Gov. Rick Perry said.

Perry has activated more than 250 Texas National Guard soldiers to help response efforts. President Bush has already declared Cooke, Coryell, Denton, Grayson, Lampasas and Tarrant counties as federal disaster areas.

Perry also requested federal disaster declarations for Burnet, Eastland, Parker, Starr, Webb and Wichita counties.

Storms and floodwaters dampened Fourth of July celebrations in many areas of the state Wednesday.

"Rather than celebrating Independence Day at backyard barbecues with families and friends, many Texans spent the Fourth of July holiday battling the dangerous weather events that continue to impact their communities," Perry said.

(Original Len: 2971 Condensed Len: 3055)

10-20-2007 @ 07:24:18