Texas storms leave two missing and four dead

By Natalie Gott, The Associated Press
Saturday November 17, 2001

AUSTIN, Texas — Central Texas braced for more rain Friday after storms and flooding claimed four lives, left two people missing, turned streets into rivers and spawned several tornadoes. 

Three people drowned after their vehicles were washed away by floodwaters; a fourth died in a weather-related crash. 

Up to 13 inches of rain fell in parts of Texas, breaking daily records in Austin and San Antonio, the National Weather Service said. More rain was expected Friday. 

“The creeks are continuing to rise and flooding continues to be very possible,” said Patty Gonzales, an Austin city spokeswoman. 

Firefighters plucked stranded motorists from cars that bobbed on Austin streets. Businesses near the Capitol were drenched by a flow of muddy water that left about a 2-inch cover of thick mud across the road and parking lots. 

The body of Bertha Vargas, a 32-year-old pregnant woman, was found Thursday, more than four hours after the car in which she was riding was swept off a state highway near Rocksprings, about 90 miles northwest of San Antonio. 

A man called for help after seeing Vargas and three others hanging on to tree limbs above the waters, said Becky Kott, an Edwards County EMS worker. 

“When he went back to the scene, he saw the girl, (Vargas) and her father in another tree,” Kott said. “She was screaming for him to help, and he couldn’t do anything. The water was rising and she was swept away.” 

In Blanco County, 40 miles north of San Antonio, Santos Perez Lasoya, 64, drowned after his pickup truck was swept away as he tried to cross a flooded county road, officials said. His body was found downstream hours later. 

Jerry Shorten, 20, died after his pickup truck hydroplaned across the center line on U.S. 281 in Marble Falls, the Texas Department of Public Safety. The truck crashed into a sedan driven by 71-year-old Annie Mason, who was in stable condition Friday. 

A 30-year-old man, whose identity has not been released, was killed when he attempted to drive across a low-water crossing in Austin, said Kenneth Neafcy, spokesman for the city’s Office of Emergency Management. 

His vehicle stalled, and as he attempted to get out, he was swept underneath. 

Rescue crews searched for two people who were swept away in a car near Farm-to-Market Road 685 in Pflugerville, north of Austin. 

Two police officers were rescued Thursday after being swept into Onion Creek in South Austin, Austin Fire Department Lt. David Belknap said. 

About 37,000 homes were without electric power. 

Tenants in about 20 apartments had to be evacuated after high winds tore off parts of the roof from a building. 

Krista Pera came home from work to find water pouring through her kitchen. She stuffed as many of her belongings into her car as she could fit and headed for a friend’s house. 

“I don’t have renter’s insurance,” Pera said. “That’s why I’m taking everything I can.”