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Texas Lt. Gov. on flood disaster: ‘We are going to need help for this catastrophe’

Torrential downpours dumped as much as seven inches of rain in the Dallas-Fort Worth area overnight; rescue teams responded to more than 250 calls for help. So far, the death toll from floods in central Texas has reached 25. Hari Sreenivasan learns more from Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who toured the destruction in hard-hit Wimberley.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    More thunderstorms meant even more flooding in Central Texas today, as the death toll from storms over the last week rose to 27. Torrential downpours dumped as much as seven inches of rain in the Dallas-Fort Worth area overnight. Drivers were stranded for hours, as water covered highways and submerged cars. Rescue crews responded to more than 250 calls for help.

    For more on this, Hari Sreenivasan spoke earlier with Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who recently toured the hard-hit community of Wimberley.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Lieutenant Governor, you have had a chance over the past 24 hours to see some of the devastation on the ground and from the airport. Describe it to some folks in the rest of the country who might just be seeing these images for the first time.

  • LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK, (R) Texas:

    Well, Hari, we have been in the legislative session for the last five months.

    So, yesterday was the first day I was able to get down to the Wimberley are. And the pictures do not describe it. I want to give you this example. I was standing in front of a cliff that was about 40-feet high. That would be equivalent to a three- to 4-story building.

    The water is normally three-foot deep. When the floodwater hit those homes, that water was as high as 48 feet. It took out homes on top of 40-foot cliffs. It’s unimaginable, trees down everywhere down the entire river, trees that stood for 600 years, hundreds of homes, and most importantly the loss of life, 12 missing or lost.

    One body was found 34 miles downstream. If you can imagine the one home that was taken down, Hari, where we lost eight people, they’re still missing, a few bodies have been recovered, it was on stilts about 30 feet high. And the water just rushed down like a tsunami, a 40-foot — 48-foot wall of water, after dark, on Saturday night, in an area that had flooding~, but nothing even close to this in the past.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Now, given the disaster and the images that we have seen on TV, is this a federal disaster area? Does the state of Texas need help?

  • LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK:

    We do. We have already declared — Governor Abbott has declared has declared 70 counties as disaster counties just since the beginning of May, we have had so much flooding.

    This flooding, the focus has been on this beautiful town of Wimberley. For people around the rest of the country, this is just a beautiful area of antique stores and retirement places and vacation places, but it’s also known as Flood Alley, because it does flood, but normally three feet to maybe 12 feet. The highest was maybe 20 feet.

    So, again, this was at 48 feet at one point. Yes, I think we do need federal help. The state is stepping in, but it’s going to be millions and millions of dollars to reclaim the river and clean up the river. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed. We’re going to need help on this catastrophe.

    If you look at it, Hari, you would say it must have been a tornado or a hurricane, but it was literally a river tsunami that hit these people out of nowhere. We had a lot of rain falling upstream that came down. And the good news is hundreds of lives were saved because warning did go out to a number of people down in camps.

    About 150 people evacuated very close to before the water hit. The Department of Public Safety, along with the military, rescued a couple of dozen from the air. And the local on-ground fire chief and his team rescued about 115 people from rooftops, hanging on to satellite dishes.

    It’s a tragedy that we lost 12. It could have been hundreds.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Finally, Lieutenant Governor, I just want to ask, the weather forecast is not on your side. And there are still rivers above flood stage. It could be worse in parts of your state over the next few days.

  • LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK:

    Yes, it could be.

    My home is in the Houston area. And I have been there since ’79. I have seen a lot of flooding. I have never seen it as bad in Houston either as it was either over the last couple of days. Dallas was hit hard. Here in our state capital of Austin, buildings that have never flooded, flooded out. San Antonio has been hit hard. And San Marcos has been hit hard south of Austin.

    This is the worst flooding maybe in total that anyone can ever remember. And when you get 10 to 15 inches rain over a few hours, small creek beds suddenly becomes rivers, and rivers become tsunamis. And that’s what happened. And the rain continues to pour, and we’re watching it very closely and praying.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick of Texas, thanks so much for joining us.

  • LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK:

    Thank you.

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