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'Devastating' Texas floods kill 9

flooded homes
Water from the Canyon Lake spillway near New Braunfels, Texas, rises to the rooftops of homes on Friday.  

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (CNN) -- An official in south-central Texas described the damage from this week's flooding as "very devastating" after conducting an aerial survey of the area.

One house was swept away, riding the flood water like a small ship leaving port, while dozens of others have been deluged. Several bridges are underwater and one town's drinking water has been contaminated by the floods that have killed nine people.

"I've been here my entire life," said Danny Scheel, emergency operations officer for Comal County, northeast of San Antonio. "I've been here for the '52, the '72 and the '98 flood, and I've never seen anything that would come close to comparing with what I saw today."

Floods have wreaked havoc across six central Texas counties in the last week, with some parts receiving as much as 30 inches of rain since Monday night. President Bush Thursday declared the counties disaster areas, making them eligible for federal relief funds. Authorities have said nine people have died in the flooding.

Aerial view of floods ravaging homes in Central Texas (July 5)

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Images of the flooding in Texas 
Map of the area 

Parts of the state have gotten as much as 30 inches of rain since Monday night.

Heavy rains have pushed water levels at the Canyon Lake Dam to record levels, sending water coursing over an overflow spillway for the first time in the dam's 45-year history. The water poured into the Guadalupe River, turning it into a powerful force that swept away a house in New Braunfels, a town of 36,000 residents about 16 miles downstream.

More rain is expected early Saturday.

More than 1,000 residents and hundreds of tourists visiting the lake for the holiday weekend were evacuated Thursday, New Braunfels Mayor Adam Cork said Friday.

"The dam is performing as designed and is structurally sound," the statement said.

Canyon Lake spillway
Water rages over the Canyon Lake spillway near New Braunfels on Friday.  

The spillway is emptying into the Guadalupe River at about 55,000 cubic feet per second, a rate that was expected to increase to 85,000 cubic feet per second by the end of the day, said Judy Marsicano, a Corps spokeswoman.

The spillway was designed to be able to discharge water in excess of 500,000 cubic feet per second.

"If we get significant additional rainfall, the spillway discharge could exceed 100,000 CFS by tomorrow," Marsicano said.

Officials said the earthen dam itself remains functional. The spillway, which drains water from the lake into the river below, is 31 feet below the top of the dam.

Flood waters washed away a bridge over the river carrying Farm Road 306, a major county thoroughfare 13 miles south of New Braunfels, and several other bridges are underwater.

Officials in Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, urged residents near the Medina River, in the southwest part of the county, to go to higher ground as a precaution.

"There's probably about 100 houses in the area that we're going to ask people to voluntarily evacuate," said Deputy Chief Dennis McKnight of the Bexar County Sheriff's Department.

Meanwhile, in Medina County, 41 miles west of San Antonio, about 3,000 residents were allowed to return to their homes after being evacuated Thursday night, Sheriff Gilbert Rodriguez said.

"We let the folks go home and get their affairs together," he said, adding that they may be required to leave again if the waters rise again at the Medina Dam.

Rodriguez said that the flood waters have contaminated drinking water in the city of Castroville, so 3,000 residents have been told to either boil their water or drink bottled water.


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