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Tuesday, June 24, 1997

Central Texas hit by flood waters

By CHIP BROWN Associated Press Writer

LAKEWAY, Texas (AP) - A tearful Tammy Keller helped move a television set, her daughter's pink bicycle and racks of clothes out of her two-story home near Lake Travis and into a rented trailer Monday.

Nearly everything was out of her house except a collection of porcelain figurines high on a shelf on the second floor.

That part of the house was expected to be spared as water continued rising from driving weekend rains. The downpour turned peaceful creeks into white-water rapids, killed three people in Bandera County and left another missing in Brown County in Central Texas.

"Thank God for family and friends," Ms. Keller said through tears. "Everyone in the world has called to help us."

The Kellers, who were told water likely would fill the first floor of their home and six inches of the second floor, were among hundreds of families who evacuated homes along swollen river and lake beds from Hondo, west of San Antonio, to Lakeway, just west of Austin.

Austin's Lake Travis was expected to be the hardest hit because it is the primary downstream repository for the Colorado River basin.

Although skies were sunny much of the day Monday, scattered showers were in the forecast for the next several days.

The Lower Colorado River Authority, which provides water and electric service to about 1 million residents in 58 counties, projected that water levels in Lake Travis would rise from a normal of 685 feet above sea level to 710 feet by Tuesday morning as upstream rainwater pours in.

That would match a record level following Christmas Day flooding in 1991 that damaged approximately 300 homes on the Lake Travis shoreline.

LCRA officials estimate that roughly 400 homes on Lake Travis will be damaged by the most recent flooding, as well as 80 homes near Marble Falls and 80 more near Llano. Both towns are along the swollen Colorado River. Water levels in the Llano River were the highest since 1952.

The floods left little question that last year's drought, which cost the state $5 billion, had been broken.

Robert Cullick, an LCRA spokesman, said, "If you look back in history, droughts are always broken by floods. Texas just doesn't know how to be moderate.

"We got enough water in Lake Travis in the last 24-hour period for about 60,000 families for a year," Cullick said. "I would say the drought is definitely broken."

The identities of the three killed in Bandera County and the man still missing in Brown County weren't being released by local authorities Monday afternoon.

A woman was killed after she and her husband were washed off State Highway 16 early Sunday. Her husband was rescued after being found clinging to a tree branch in flood waters, authorities said.

A man was also killed after his vehicle was swept away at a low-water crossing, said Jo Schweikhard-Moss of the Division of Emergency Management.

Another person was killed in a traffic accident blamed on wet streets in Bandera County, Ms. Schweikhard-Moss said.

Emergency shelters were set up in six counties. Gov. George W. Bush said eight Blackhawk helicopters operated by members of the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard were used to save some 100 citizens stranded by rising waters.

"It's amazing how extreme the weather patterns have been," Bush said. "A year ago, we were worried about (supplying) drinking water for a lot of citizens. Now we're worried about flooding."

The Kellers, who operate a marina on their property, were praying for rain last year when they had to move their boat landings 400 yards into the lake bed.

"We wished for rain last year and got it all this year," said Keller Bradfield, 29, a relative helping the family evacuate. "There's nothing you can do. It's part of living on a lake."

Several homes were completely submerged in a flood plain along Lake Travis known as Graveyard Point.

Linda Wheeler used a small raft to reach her home, which stands on stilts about 15 feet above the ground, in that area.

"You move everything from the first floor to the second floor and pray - a lot," Ms. Wheeler said. Send a Letter to the Editor about This Story | Start or Join A Discussion about This Story
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