SAN ANTONIO – Heavy rains that have pounded parts of Texas for weeks were leaving the state Friday, but the fast-moving currents they left in the Brazos River hampered the search for a boy swept from his father's arms.
Police and fire officials have been searching with helicopters and boats since Tuesday for 6-year-old Cesar Aparicio. The boy was at a family gathering at a beach the Brazos feeds into the Gulf about 60 miles south of Houston, when he was swept into floodwaters, Freeport Police Chief Jeff Pynes said. The boy's father and another relative were found clinging to trees and rescued Tuesday afternoon.
Searchers have been hampered by intermittent heavy rains and a river that, at 47 feet, was 4 feet above flood stage, Pynes said.
He said searchers would continue to look for the boy and no timetable was set to end the operation, which has involved 25 to 30 people a day. There was little hope of the child's survival, and he could have been propelled far into the Gulf by tidal currents, Pynes said.
"We're just not ready to tell the mother we're going to give up looking for her little boy," Pynes said.
Meanwhile, rivers in Oklahoma and Kansas continued to recede, revealing millions of dollars in flood damage to at least a few thousand homes and businesses. Authorities found a man believed to be the flood's first fatality in Kansas.
The region may get some relief beginning this weekend. Much of Texas may get some daytime showers and isolated thunderstorms over the weekend, but the large swaths of pounding rain were expected to dissipate, forecasters said.
"You're going to see less and less," National Weather Service meteorologist Cristy Mitchell said.
But river waters could keep rising in some places. Forecasters warned that the Trinity River in East Texas would crest near 43 feet on Sunday — well above the 28-foot flood stage. Flood warnings were in effect for rivers in Oklahoma, including the Neosho River.
The waters of the Brazos River in East Texas were moving so fast that it was pushing out 20 miles into the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, and taking everything caught upstream — from cars to refrigerators to trees — with it.
While much of the West has been parched under record temperatures and drought, Texas has been drenched day after day since late May, filling lakes and rivers, washing out bridges and roads, and damaging 1,000 homes. Since May 23, there have been 13 weather-related deaths in Texas.
In Oklahoma, water threatened to overflow from swollen Lake Texoma into a spillway Friday.
The lake, which straddles the border between Oklahoma and Texas along the Red River, stood about one inch below the top of a 640-foot-high concrete spillway, said Ross Adkins, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman.
"It's lapping over the spillway now," Adkins said.
The Corps is pumping an estimated 27,000 cubic feet per second of water into the Red River to help steady the lake's level. Water levels in the river have fallen following heavy rains that swelled it and other streams.
In Coffeyville, Kan., search teams going door-to-door found a man dead late Thursday in a motel room, city clerk Cindy Price said.
The cause of the man's death wasn't immediately available, but authorities said he had apparently ignored warnings to leave the southeast Kansas town, where a flash flood triggered a 42,000-gallon crude oil spill into the Verdigris River.
Officials encouraged city residents who had come in contact with the contaminated water to get tetanus shots but said the supply was low. State officials said the flooding has left about 3,150 homes damaged or destroyed.
Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius wondered what had befallen her state this year — flooding, a winter ice storm and May tornadoes.
"The locusts may come next," she said. "We hope not."