DALLAS -- Faced with record floods in southeast Texas, state and local officials waited yesterday for waters to recede from hundreds of streets and roads made impassable by torrential rains before assessing infrastructure damage in 26 counties.
"A lot of the structures are partially under water, and we won't know the damage until the water goes down," said Alan King, spokesman for the Texas transportation department. "We can't estimate the damage because so much is under water."
King said he did not know of any major bridges or roads that were completely washed away, but he said problems would become more evident once the water receded and debris was cleared from homes, buildings and infrastructure.
During the past few days, many regions in southeast Texas have received from 10 to more than 30 inches of rain, displacing more than 10,000 people and closing many businesses and schools.
By yesterday morning, seven people had been confirmed dead and at least three people were reported missing after flash floods submerged many areas.
Property damage had already mounted into the tens of millions of dollars, emergency officials estimated, and President Clinton declared 26 counties in southeast Texas as federal disaster areas, clearing the way for federal aid. Gov. Ann Richards said that every state agency had been mobilized to bring relief to the flood victims.
Texas residents jammed a state toll-free line on road closures and conditions while the Texas transportation department moved rapidly to compile a list of impassable streets and highways and bridges.
"Right now, we are scrambling to keep up with what is closed," King said.
In the meantime, weather was clearing in some areas of southeast Texas, including Houston, where businesses were reopening yesterday. Rain continued to fall in other regions.
Montgomery County, north of Houston, where more than 30 inches of rain has fallen since Sunday, was one of the hardest hit.
Other affected counties that have been declared federal disaster areas are: Angelina, Austin, Bastrop, Brazos, Burleson, Chambers, Fayette, Galveston, Grimes, Hardin, Harris, Houston, Jasper, Jefferson, Lee, Liberty, Madison, Nacogdoches, Polk, San Jacinto, Trinity, Tyler, Washington, Waller and Walker.