For the people living East Bernard, Tex., a river town just forty miles southwest of Houston, it's as if the water came out of nowhere. After a few inches fell early Monday morning, their town is now an island, and many of their lives are in ruins. CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod reports.
To indicate how much rain has fallen, the bridge into town, normally 30 feet above the San Bernard River, is now five feet under it.
Across the state, at least 14 people have died in rainstorms and tornadoes that began over the weekend and continue to flood towns and threaten lives. Thousands of residents have been forced to evacuate, and with more record flooding Monday, the death toll is expected to climb this week.
Emergency workers were rescuing people by the truckload in south central Texas Monday night. A half dozen rivers from San Antonio to Houston are approaching record heights.
"This is the worst thing I've seen in fifty-some years," one resident attests.
Near Houston, rescue efforts on wheels have been nearly futile. Boats are going door to door, with homeowners allowed only minutes to choose what to cram into a single suitcase.
New Braunfels near San Antonio was drenched by more than two feet of rain in 36 hours. The resulting floods ruined homes and ended lives.
"When we got married, we didn't have anything," one man says. "A little bit of clothes -- about what we got now. I don't have another 37 years to invest, but I guess we'll survive."
A few months ago, a drought was strangling the region. On Monday night, cows that had been dying of thirst were swimming for their lives. Thousands of animals were set loose by a rain-swollen San Marcos River that washed away pens, barns and hundreds of miles of fences.
"The last two years have been just unbelievable," one
Texan says. "You know, we had a lot of rain -- it just came at the wrong time."
The worst is yet to come, forecasters say, as rivers move south through town after town on their way to the Gulf of Mexico.
While President Clinton vowed Monday to help communities in Texas that were devastated by the floods, Gov. George W. Bush sent out officials to assess the damage as quickly as possible. Bush said he planned to apply for federal disaster aid.