Texas continues to clean up after flooding damaged streets and structures in numerous towns and cities from Dallas onward to south Texas. Local governments are also on guard every time the summer forecast calls for rain.
The biggest post-flooding problem facing Texas now are high levels of fecal bacteria down the coastline caused by floods and Tropical Storm Bill. The situation happened when rain dumped upstream waste into the Gulf of Mexico over the past several weeks. High levels of bacteria were found on 17 beaches in Galveston County this week, but another series of tests showed the number declining to three.
Health officials said local residents are affected because the flooding caused sewers to overrun and septic systems to fail. The other dilemma for health officials is that tourists are stilling going into the coastal waters.
Those particularly vulnerable to disease caused by high levels of fecal matter are children and the elderly. Those with an open cut or compromised immune systems are also at risk, according to health officials. Although a healthy adult would typically not be affected, officials warn swimmers in the coast to be careful as Texas continues to clean up after flooding.
The Galveston County Health District is performing daily tests when any sample comes back positive; the protocol continues until the water comes back within proper safety standards. Normally, that takes two or three days. Waters should return to pre-flooding data levels within the next week, according to officials.
The area was blasted again in mid-June when storms pushed through, causing tide waters to rush in the storm’s advance. This flooded parts of Texas 87 on the eastern end of the Bolivar Peninsula. Galveston officials initiated a voluntary evacuation. The evacuation was necessary because officials feared ongoing flooding would prohibit emergency responders from being able to reach people. Power outages could have been a problem also, officials said.
Concerns over storms continued on to Brazoria County and in Austin, where Gov. Greg Abbott activated the state’s emergency operations center. Houston also went into a prepared stance with staging high-water rescue teams throughout the city in areas prone to flooding.
Arlington felt the results of May’s flooding well into mid-June. Visitors to various parks, including River Legacy Park, routinely saw “Park Closed” signs as the Arlington Parks & Recreation Department closed off parks to work on cleanup. Crews worked to clear water and debris from trails, all of which sustained significant damage in the flood. The parks are open now, but with ongoing maintenance and cleanup.
Arlington was hard hit by the floods. There were more than 140 drainage and flooding calls and city crews distributed more than 22,000 sandbags. Crews also barricaded more than 25 roads. Residents sustaining damage during the May floods waited out June’s rains before trying to make major repairs on their homes. They said the floods caught them by surprise because they expected only a typical downpour.
Texas is recovering in terms of its crops too. Those monitoring crop yields said pastures still needed to dry out. There was wind damage, ranging from slight to severe, to some crops like grain sorghum and corn. Cows, which are calving now, are in good condition. Officials said there is plenty of grass for livestock. Cotton yields are also positive, even though some plants are yellow from too much water.
So, while Texas continues to clean up after flooding, residents are on guard about future summer storms. Any rain could prevent ongoing efforts to repair their homes and businesses. Reports of bad weather will also send local communities into a high-alert mode so the weather will not fool them again. It will likely take the rest of the summer for the state to get back to normal, according to officials.
By Melody Dareing
My San Antonio: Texas Crop Report
USA Today: Fecal bacteria high at Texas beaches following flooding
NBC 5 Fort Worth: Arlington Still Recovering From Flooding
Photo Courtesy Norm Lanier’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License