Texas Flood Death Toll Hits 20

H O U S T O N, June 12, 2001 -- Dayon Kane spent the day spraying his home with

disinfectant, pulling up soggy carpets, and carrying soaked clothes

and furniture to the street curb.

A respite from the rain Monday gave Kane and thousands of other residents a chance to return to their homes, some of which were almost completely submerged a day earlier.

"Mud is just everywhere," Kane said. "All of our furniture is in different rooms of the house. I don't know how to describe it. It's eerie."

Flooding caused by remnants of Tropical Storm Allison had forced some 20,000 Houston-area residents to flee as nearly 3 feet of rain swamped parts of the city in less than a week. The storm has been blamed for at least 20 deaths in Texas and Louisiana.

"When you get 28 inches of rain like most areas of Houston got and you live by one of the creeks or bayous you're, well, up a creek," said John Siggins, manager of Eagle Transmission in Friendswood, a repair shop that has taken in a number of flooded-out cars.

The bulk of the residential damage was on Houston's east side where Greens Bayou and Halls Bayou had strayed far from their banks and swamped neighborhoods.

Power of Water

Kathy Vossler, a Houston attorney, found insulation from her second floor hanging down into the first. Her ceiling is now the floor. Her refrigerator is on its side in the middle of the kitchen floor.

"It's amazing what the power of water can do," Vossler said Monday, holding back tears as she sat on the back of a pickup truck, waiting for insurance adjusters to show up at her home not far from Greens Bayou. "You walk in and the ceiling insulation hits you in the face and it smells like bad fish."

Most of the rest of the nation's fourth-largest city, however, appeared near normal on what Mayor Lee Brown declared a "day of recovery." Freeways were open. Water was back within the banks of bayous.

The storm caused more than $1 billion in damage in Houston, said Harris County Tax Assessor Paul Bettencourt.

"What you see here is tremendous flood damage," Bettencourt said, referring to 5-foot-high piles of debris he saw outside wrecked homes.

Twenty-eight counties in southeast Texas were included in a state and federal disaster declaration, and federal disaster teams were converging on the area.

Looking for Higher Ground

Insurance adjusters from around the country were arriving to handle claims. An insurance industry estimate suggested there could be as many as 50,000 claims for property damage not covered by federal flood insurance and for losses to cars and trucks.

"From our perspective, it's going to be an insurance nightmare," said Jerry Johns, president of Southwestern Insurance Information Service, an industry trade group.

In Louisiana, the total damage was "$15 million and counting," said Ken Johnson, a spokesman for Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La. The storm left an estimated 3,500 homes muddy and water-logged.

"Two major floods in six years is enough for me," said Slidell resident Myron Miller, 58. "I'm going to fix this place up, sell it and buy a house on stilts somewhere."