Arlington townhouse residents left with little as floodwaters recede

ARLINGTON -- Holding a pack of cigarettes and fighting back tears, Karen Simmons sat on the steps outside her flood-ravaged apartment Thursday wondering how she will put her life back together.

While some of her furniture stood on the grass, most of her clothing -- as well as her food -- was lost Wednesday when Rush Creek rose out of its banks, engulfing the Willows at Shady Valley Apartments.

"Everything is gone," said Simmons, 44. "I lost everything. I had to bum this pack of cigarettes off of one of my neighbors."

Inside, the floors and part of the walls were coated in mud as the water rose to nearly 4 feet, tossing around furniture and even her refrigerator.

"This place was great," Simmons said. "It was quiet. It was peaceful. I work nights, and it was so quiet around here I could sleep during the day. But now, I just don't know."

Simmons was among countless people cleaning up after more than 6 inches of rain was dumped on North Texas on Tuesday and Wednesday, the remnants of Tropical Storm Hermine. Resulting flooding was blamed for at least four deaths in Texas and Oklahoma, including a Johnson County man. Three people were missing and presumed dead in Texas on Thursday night.

The storm also spawned six tornadoes in North Texas on Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. The largest touched down in Dallas near Mockingbird Lane and Irving Boulevard. The weather service gave it a preliminary rating of EF2, with wind speeds near 115 mph. It damaged several buildings, but no injuries were reported.

Wednesday's rain set a record for the day, at 5.24 inches. The two-day total at Fort Worth Meacham Airport was 7.94 inches, the weather service reported.

On Thursday, Gov. Rick Perry issued a disaster declaration for eight counties in North Texas: Tarrant, Johnson, Collin, Dallas, Grayson, Hill, Kaufman and Rockwall.

The Insurance Council of Texas estimated statewide damage costs at $50 million, with a projected 1,000 homeowner claims and 500 vehicle claims, a spokesman said.

Deeper and deeper

Most of the 100 units at the Willows apartment complex appeared to have flood damage, said Albert Gonzales, a community resources and development manager for the Red Cross, and up to 40 homes across Rush Creek were also affected.

The homeowners were required to have flood insurance because their houses are in a flood plain. But at the complex, the units are individually owned and leased out to renters, many of whom don't have insurance.

Officials were still conducting assessments to determine flood damage in Arlington, Mansfield and Johnson County, and no estimates were available. It will be a while before the apartment residents can return.

"The big issue is that this apartment complex is not going to have power for anywhere from two weeks to a month," Gonzales said. "This is a long-term recovery here."

Keith and Rochelle Bryant are another set of renters left in limbo.

They lost most of their belongings and are looking for a new place to live.

"It went from curb-deep to knee-deep in about 25 minutes," he said. "It just rose so fast there was little time to save anything. I just hope we can find an understanding landlord. We had just paid the rent, so it's going to be tough finding the money for a new place."

U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Arlington, contacted the Arlington city manager's office, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help in flood mitigation efforts along Rush Creek. Arlington had spent $2 million in FEMA money to buy and demolish six flood-prone homes along the creek.

After seeing the homes and apartment units near Pioneer Parkway and the Shady Valley Golf Course flood, Barton will do what he can to support Arlington if it applies for additional FEMA assistance, the lawmaker's chief of staff, Ron Wright, said Thursday.

"Those are very competitive, but having it all over nationwide television may have helped the cause," said Wright, whose southwest Arlington home was also damaged.

Deputy City Manager Fiona Allen said the City Council will determine whether the Arlington applies for further grant assistance.

Swept away

The Johnson County flood victim was identified Thursday as James Calvin Wright, 49. Public records show that Wright lived on County Road 508, about a mile west of where he tried to drive through a low-water crossing on County Road 607 on Wednesday morning.

Another motorist was reported drowned Wednesday in a swollen creek in Killeen. In eastern Oklahoma, a 19-year-old man died after his vehicle was swept off a road, the state highway patrol reported. And in New Braunfels, authorities reported finding the body of a 23-year-old Michigan man who had been swimming in the swollen Guadalupe River. A second swimmer was still missing Thursday night.

Searchers in Bexar County were still looking for a pickup driver who drove into a flooded low-water crossing through Cibolo Creek. And in Austin, a woman was missing after driving her black Lexus past a barricade and a police cruiser and into a low-water crossing on Bull Creek.

In Euless, about 40 homes sustained flood damage near Little Bear Creek and Bob Eden Park. City officials will try to direct homeowners to resources for rehabilitating their homes, said Joe Kraft, Euless emergency management coordinator.

At least two dozen homes and eight businesses in Mansfield were damaged, said Tom Legler, assistant fire marshal.

In Arlington, parks officials will assess next week how much damage was done to the $18.4 million in erosion and flood control improvements the city completed along Johnson Creek near Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and Cowboys Stadium last year.

The creek overflowed Wednesday, flooding the Meadowbrook Recreation Center.

Staff writers Bill Miller, Nathaniel Jones and Susan Schrock contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated Press.