Twenty Texas counties have been declared disaster areas and rivers continue to crest as the soaked state is still feeling the effects of this past weekend's torrential rains. Twenty-two people are now dead from the floods.
Flooding has submerged parts of 60 Texas counties, since weekend storms dumped record rain into rivers and streams across the central and southern parts of the state.
Hundreds of people have been forced to flee their homes by boat, on foot, and sometimes by helicopter. It was Wharton's turn on Wednesday; at least 100 people took refuge at the civic center in nearby El Campo.
|CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer Reports.|
The Colorado River was forecast to crest at near 50 feet by Thursday night. That would be 11 feet above flood stage and top the 1991 record of 46.1 feet. Just a few weeks ago, the river was so dry, residents could walk across it.
President Clinton declared 20 flooded Texas counties disaster areas, making those residents eligible for federal help. Texas emergency officials estimated that the damage will top $400 million.
In Victoria, 100 miles south of San Antonio, the mayor said up to 600 homes had water damage and about 100 people were staying in five shelters. Authorities said it was the worst flooding in the city in 60 years.
"They just told us it was going to be bad, and we'd be idiots to stay," said Charlie Wilkes, who nonetheless remained until he and his wife, Mary, were plucked from their home by a National Guard helicopter.
Wilkes carried a briefcase, and his wife put her purse strap around her neck as they rode in a nylon rope bucket suspended hundreds of feet above the swirling river.
"If you live on or near the river, please get out before it's too late," Mayor Gary Middleton pleaded. The river, usually 150 feet across, was six miles wide in places.