- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 8, 2007

DALLAS (AP) — The sky was mercifully clear over much of Texas yesterday after three weeks of drenching rain, as search teams combed the swollen Trinity River for a missing rafter.

The death toll from storms that have battered Texas since last month climbed to 15 with the recovery of two flood victims elsewhere in the state.

The 26-year-old missing man was on a rubber raft that capsized Friday on the Trinity.

“We don’t know if he’s still trapped in that low-head dam or whether he went downstream,” Fort Worth fire department spokesman Kent Worley said.

A companion had to swim about 300 yards against the swift current to safety, but Mr. Worley said that man never saw his friend after their raft flipped. Neither man wore a life jacket.

Elsewhere across the region, rivers in Oklahoma and Kansas have been receding, revealing millions of dollars in damage to thousands of homes and businesses, besides the 1,000 or so buildings damaged in Texas. Authorities found a man thought to be the flood’s first fatality in Kansas.

In hard-hit Coffeyville, Kan., authorities revoked all privileges for residents who were allowed back into their homes last week and again restricted access to the east side of the city of 16,000 persons because of high levels of fecal coliform bacteria in the floodwater. Emergency workers have reported experiencing rashes and diarrhea.

Yesterday, President Bush issued a federal disaster declaration for Oklahoma, freeing federal funds to aid two counties ravaged by the flooding.

Along the Oklahoma-Texas state line, Lake Texoma was about an inch below the top of a 640-foot-high concrete spillway yesterday, with waves lapping over the top, the Army Corps of Engineers said. The corps has been pumping an estimated 27,000 cubic feet of water per second into the Red River to help steady the lake’s level.

The lake, with a normal level of 619 feet, is expected to crest about 6 inches higher than the spillway tomorrow.

There is only a 20 percent to 30 percent chance of storms in Oklahoma today, forecaster Erin Maxwell said.

“The activity over the weekend probably wouldn’t impact Lake Texoma levels too dramatically, but there’s another low pressure system coming next week,” she said. “That’s just the way the weather pattern has been this year.”

In South Texas, the body of a 6-year-old boy swept away by the swollen Brazos River was found Friday on a beach about 15 miles from where he was washed into the Gulf of Mexico, Freeport Police Chief Jeff Pynes said.

The boy was at a family gathering on Bryan Beach, where the Brazos River feeds into the Gulf of Mexico, about 60 miles south of Houston, when members of the group were swept away on the river, Chief Pynes said. The boy’s father and another relative were rescued clinging to trees Tuesday.

The Brazos was carrying everything from cars to refrigerators to trees, and the current was so strong it was pushing 20 miles out into the Gulf on Friday, officials said.

The river is “in really bad shape and very, very dangerous,” Chief Pynes said.

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