Texas governor pledges to pray for flood victims; disaster relief volunteers mobilized

by Joni B. Hannigan |

(REUTERS/Harris County Flood Control District/handout via Reuters)Flood waters cover Memorial Drive along Buffalo Bayou in Houston, Texas May 26, 2015 in a photo provided by the Harris County Flood Control District. Torrential rains have killed at least eight people in Texas and Oklahoma, including two in Houston where flooding turned streets into rivers and led to nearly 1,000 calls for help in the fourth-most populous U.S. city, officials said on Tuesday.

HOUSTON (Christian Examiner) -- Pledging prayer for the families impacted by deadly flooding across the state of Texas -- Governor Greg Abbott added Houston to counties where he had already declared a state of emergency following 11 inches of rain Sunday night.

"My prayers go out to the families that have been impacted by the flooding," he said.

Meanwhile faith-based groups continue to assess damage and are offering clean-up and assistance to the storm weary.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz joined Abbott and Houston's Mayor Annise Parker for a news conference Monday afternoon following flash floods which drove over 700 Houstonians to abandon their cars on public highways and streets. Large parts of downtown were still under water Monday afternoon.

Four people were confirmed dead in Houston and several missing, Parker said. She urged residents to stay in their neighborhoods in the fourth most populated city in the nation.

"[I]f you're high and dry and you just have water around, be patient and stay put. Don't try to walk out, don't try to get out, just stay put. That's the first thing -- making sure the people are safe."

Gov. Abbott said in other parts of the state there are still grave conditions from flash floods and tornadoes -- and many are still missing after a "tsunami style" rise of water on the Blanco River in Central Texas.

"There is a significant loss of life from the Red River to the Rio Grande," Abbott said. Reuters is reporting 12 confirmed missing and about another 30 unaccounted for due to flooding on the Blanco River.

In Houston, Parker said of the 26 bayous holding water, 14 were still flooded, but gauges showed the water was receding, while 12 already were within their banks.

Two shelters operated by the Red Cross were housing those in need and distributing supplies, Parker said -- and an estimated 4,000 homes and businesses had been affected, although those numbers could change radically after waters recede and officials were able to get "boots on the ground" for door-to-door assessments.

Parker said 130 "high-water" rescues over night Monday "all involved" people who drove into flooded underpasses and had to be rescued from their vehicles.

"The challenge is that most of the city is fine and the streets are clear," Parker said. "Most people don't realize that just a mile away that they have a dangerous condition."

The Boston Herald reported firefighters carried out 500 water rescues and that Rick Flanagan, Houston's emergency management coordinator said there were at least 2,500 vehicles abandoned on the streets.

Cruz -- a candidate for the 2016 presidential election who lives and has his campaign headquarters in Houston -- said he is holding onto hope for those who are missing and their families.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those who have lost their homes or have had damage to their homes," Cruz said. "Both Republicans and Democrats will stand united ... to take care of those Texans in need right now."

FAITH-BASED DISASTER RELIEF MOBILIZED

Southern Baptists of Texas Disaster Relief has already been activated to Wimberly, Texas where 20 volunteers at First Baptist Church are serving in operations, clean up and recovery, shower/laundry, chaplaincy, and assessment -- according to an update by Scottie Stice, director of Disaster Relief Ministries for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

News reports show 350 homes were destroyed in Central Florida, with about 1,200 homeless -- and numerous homes flooded.

SBTC is still assessing the need in Houston and waiting for the water to subside.

As a result of roads and bridges damaged or destroyed by the flood, SBTC reports its disaster relief crews are working on the west side of the Blanco River in Wimberly, while Texas Baptist Men is working on the East side of the river in San Marcos.

There is also an SBTS clean up and recovery crew working at the campus of Jacksonville College in Texas, according to the update.

For more information on how to contribute to SBTC Disaster Relief ministry, go to an online giving link.

Samaritan's Purse, an international relief organization, is also assisting with the historic floods in Texas, with a disaster relief unit working out of Promiseland Church in San Marcos. Crews will begin mud out -- a process that includes tearing out damaged sheetrock, insulation, and flooring, and spraying for mold.

Teams work with chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to bring the hope of Christ to the storm victims.

For more information on how to support this organization and how to volunteer, go to Samaritan's Purse.

Abbott said it has been good to see Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and New Mexico come alongside and assist during the storms.

"It's heart-wrenching when you see homes [impacted] -- the way in which [people's] dreams or lives are completely disrupted or washed away," Abbott said.