Waves of rain inundate parts of Texas, leaving homes flooded and forcing daring rescues

Saturday, November 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ As some central Texans picked through muddy debris in their homes, survivors of heavy rains that swept away cars and killed seven people told of hours spent clinging to trees and praying they would be rescued.

Torrential rains that pounded areas around Austin and San Antonio on Friday were moving out of the region, but more rain hit areas to the south, and the showers were expected to continue Saturday.

Rescuers scouring the banks of a creek north of Austin on Friday found the body Chau Do, who hadn't been heard from since calling his girlfriend on a cell phone as he stood on top of his car in the raging water Thursday night. He was swept 6.5 miles downstream.

Sharon Zambrzycki, 54, who was in a car in front of Do, survived by clinging to one tree and then another with a rope from firefighters as a lifeline. A heavy log pushed her under at one point.

``Several times, I thought I would I drown,'' she said in Saturday's San Antonio Express-News. ``There was no doubt in my mind I was going to make it. I'm an obnoxiously positive person.''

The body of another woman who had been at the same spot as Zambrzycki was pulled from the creek Friday. At least seven people have died in the storms.

Earl Hughes, 62, was rescued from a tree in the middle of the swollen Guadalupe River late Thursday after spending almost five hours there.

``He was cold and anxious to get out of the tree,'' Volunteer Fire Chief Danny Morales said. It took a rescue boat about 45 minutes to get to Hughes because of all the debris in the river.

On Friday, Hughes' wife, Carolyn, said her husband was in good spirits. ``He just had a five-and-a-half hour, hanging-in-the-tree experience,'' she said.

Austin residents spent Friday cleaning up after the rain and high wind toppled road signs, wrecked mobile homes and houses and left cars and toys buried in branches and mud.

At one badly damaged mobile home park, Carmen Acosta had tears in her eyes as she searched through what remained of the home she had lived in for only five months.

``There is so much water, I don't know what I'll do,'' she said.

As much as 13 inches of rain fell in parts of Texas on Thursday, breaking daily records in Austin and San Antonio, the National Weather Service said. Areas in the southern part of the state saw as much as 8 inches of rain Friday.

In Gonzales, which three years ago sustained severe flood damage but no loss of life, officials kept a wary eye on the rising Guadalupe River. It was expected to crest sometime Saturday at about 40 feet, 8 feet over flood stage but still almost 10 feet beneath its peak in October 1998.