FORT WORTH, Texas – Storm-weary residents back home after heeding evacuation orders this week kept watch Saturday night on the Brazos River, which officials expected to swell again Sunday after opening a fourth flood gate at a nearby lake.
And punctuating one of the wettest Junes in Texas history, in which storms are blamed for at least 11 deaths and two men who remain missing, was a warning from forecasters that the rain isn't over.
By opening a fourth flood gate at Possum Kingdom Lake on Saturday afternoon, authorities predicted the Brazos River to crest around 26 feet by Sunday, about a foot above the flood stage. The river peaked above 27 feet on Thursday, prompting Parker County to order a mandatory evacuation of 2,000 people.
All were allowed to return home by Saturday, but authorities encouraged residents to seek higher ground as the lake runoff moved downstream.
"The next crest doesn't appear that it's going to be as bad as the first one," Parker County spokesman Joel Kertok said. "We just need to keep an eye on it."
The National Weather Service expected rain to continue dumping on already sopped parts of North Texas, perhaps up through the July 4 holiday, because of a lingering tropical-like air mass. The agency has measured more than 11 inches of rain this month at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, about a half-inch shy of the 1928 record.
"I wish I could say something was going to kick this out in the next 48 hours, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen," said Eric Martello, a meteorologist with the agency in Fort Worth.
Storms have claimed 11 lives since last week in North and Central Texas. Authorities were also still searching for two 20-year-old men from Leander whose Jeep Cherokee was found submerged in a creek on Thursday.
Fort Worth officials closed Lake Worth and its public docks Saturday to boaters and swimmers because of high water and debris. Water level was at 596.28 feet, about two feet above normal, leaving several boat docks under water.
About 100 people in the Canyon Ridge subdivision near Marble Falls remained stranded for a fourth day. Flood and water damage made roads impassable, said Christa Bromley, a spokeswoman for Burnet County Emergency Management.
The residents, who had power and water, had been notified of the evacuation but chose to stay in their homes near Hamilton Creek. Authorities said all were safe. Texas Department of Transportation and county crews were trying to get them out, Bromley said.
Water levels at Lake Leon in Eastland County continued to recede on Saturday and energy companies were cleared to begin restoring power. But some flooded roads remained closed and only residents with proper identification could gain access to some areas, said Lt. Sam Williams of the Eastland Fire Department.
President Bush declared Texas a major disaster area on Friday after storms in the previous week. Bush ordered federal aid for Cooke, Coryell, Denton, Grayson, Lampasas and Tarrant counties.
Gov. Rick Perry declared disaster areas in 37 counties across Texas. Residents of those counties will have access to state assistance programs.
The declaration comes after Perry joined local officials in a National Guard Black Hawk helicopter to survey the wreckage in Marble Falls, where much of the heavy floodwaters had receded Friday.