ROSENBERG, Texas » The seemingly ceaseless rain has ended in North Texas and Oklahoma, but residents in the greater Houston area warily eyed the swollen Brazos River and the skies, which threatened to drop up to 5 additional inches of rain late Saturday afternoon and evening.
At least 31 people have been killed in storms that began in Texas and Oklahoma over Memorial Day weekend. Twenty-seven of the deaths have been in Texas alone, and 11 people were still missing Saturday.
The Brazos River southwest of Houston was the main area of concern Saturday as floodwaters moved from North and Central Texas downstream toward the Gulf of Mexico. Floyd Preston’s home in the Houston suburb of Rosenberg is about 100 yards from the flooded river and three houses from a police barricade marking the evacuation zone.
"I’m going to stay for the time being. This is not the first time for a flood. One way or another, when your time comes, it could be on dry land or water," the 66-year-old said as he was trimming his lawn, adding that the closest floodwaters had gotten in the past was about 50 yards away.
A creek that empties into the Brazos River — which is expected to rise until Monday morning and crest at 50 feet — went up 4 feet between the time Ricky McCullough, 47, and a friend measured it on Friday night and Saturday morning. An alligator poked its snout above water as he talked, followed by a black water moccasin slithering along the muddied water.
"I’m concerned about it enough, but I’m a lot more concerned because we have a lot of older people living down here," he said.
He’s also worried about the forecast of heavy rains — about 1 to 2 inches projected for the greater Houston area, according to the National Weather Service. But lead forecaster Scott Overpeck in the Houston office said the storms are expected to be slow-moving, and if they stall out, portions of the area could receive between 4 to 5 inches in just a few hours.
Former NFL running back Earnest Jackson, who played for San Diego, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia after his time at Texas A&M, has lived in the neighborhood for 45 years. His take: "I ain’t afraid of it."
Earlier in the week, the Colorado River in Wharton and the San Jacinto River near Houston were threatening homes, but the National Weather Service said both are expected to recede below flood stage by Sunday. Wharton authorities said Saturday they were considering lifting a mandatory evacuation; residents from 30 homes were ordered to evacuate Friday.
In Central Texas, about 2,000 volunteers and 100 members of an elite search and rescue team looked for a group of people whose vacation house was swept away in a massive flood on the Blanco River.
Toby Baker, a commissioner with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, had come in an unofficial capacity, as a childhood friend of one of the missing. "I’ve got a young family," he said Friday while leading a group of volunteers in a search. "I’d like to think someone would come out and do the same for us."
Among the missing is 6-year-old William Charba, the son of Randy Charba, 42, and Michelle Charba, 43. Michelle’s body was found Wednesday. Michelle’s mother, Sue Carey, 71, is still missing, but officials said late Friday they had identified the remains of her father, retired dentist Ralph Carey, 73.
Jonathan McComb, the lone survivor from the house, and his family had joined the Charbas and the Careys for the holiday weekend, all coming from Corpus Christi. McComb’s wife, Laura, 33, and 4-year-old daughter, Leighton, are still unaccounted for. The body of their 6-year-old son, Andrew, was found Wednesday in the river.
This week’s record rainfall in Texas eased the state’s drought and swelled rivers and lakes to the point that they may not return to normal levels until July.
Associated Press reporters Seth Robbins in Wimberley, Texas, and Allen Reed in Dallas contributed to this report.