ORANGE, Texas (AP) — Gov. Greg Abbott is scheduled Wednesday to tour flood-ravaged communities in Southeast Texas where swollen waterways have displaced thousands of people and floodwaters are forecast to rise even more.
Joe Mires, spokesman for the Orange County emergency management office, said the Sabine River could rise by another 6 inches near Interstate 10 along the Louisiana border.
The Sabine’s flood stage is 4 feet and the National Weather Service said it was cresting Wednesday at 7.5 feet. Mires said the river should recede later in the day, but that forecasts for rain on Friday or Saturday could complicate relief efforts.
The floods have forced thousands of people from their homes in a region that was slammed by up to 20 inches of rain over four days last week, including hundreds who have evacuated their homes in the town of Orange, about 100 miles east of Houston. No deaths or serious injuries have been reported.
Paul Craycraft, who ranches near the Trinity River west of Orange, said the river has overflowed its banks over the past year, causing difficulty for ranchers who have been forced to move livestock to higher land. He said drought has prevented any flooding over the past several years, but “six times in the last year the Trinity has flooded.”
Craycraft, who operates East Texas Livestock in Crockett, said pastures along riverbanks are attractive to ranchers because the rich soil allows for the thick growth of grasses for livestock to feed on. He said the land, often called river bottom, “is some of the best land in terms of grazing.”
The American Red Cross said encroaching floodwaters in Orange forced the closure of two shelters. People are being sent to another shelter opened at Lamar University in Beaumont, where about 200 people stayed Tuesday night.
Authorities have warned people to watch for wildlife looking to escape the water for high ground, often in residential areas. Poisonous snakes such as cottonmouths are found in the area and alligators reside in the bayous, according to Lori Ardoin, with the Orange County emergency management office.
Large rodents known as nutria rats are commonly found and people have reported seeing wild hogs in populated areas, she said.
While the bayous and other swampland are home to myriad wildlife, they’ve also helped lessen the impact of the flooding, Ardoin said. They act like a sponge in absorbing runoff, lessening the flooding in some areas.
Emergency personnel went door-to-door in Orange on Tuesday, encouraging residents to leave.
But one resident, Richard Cook, told the Beaumont Enterprise he planned to wait out the flood on the second floor of his two-story home. The 77-year-old said this is the highest he’s seen the water since 1954.
“I’m a little concerned, but many of these things can be replaced,” Cook said. “We’re just trying to protect life and limb.”
The flooding has led to intermittent closures of I-10, one of the country’s major transportation arteries. More than 48,000 vehicles travel that portion of the interstate each day, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.