SAN ANTONIO – Two more people, including a 6-year-old boy who was swept from his father's arms, were found dead Friday, bringing the weather-related death toll in Texas to at least 15 people in less than three weeks.
Heavy rains that pounded parts of South and East Texas earlier Friday were leaving the state, but the fast-moving currents they left behind in the Brazos River killed 6-year-old Cesar Aparicio. The four-day search for Cesar ended Friday when his body was found on a beach about 15 miles from where he washed into the Gulf of Mexico, said Freeport Police Chief Jeff Pynes.
A volunteer searcher in a private plane spotted the body on a remote stretch of uninhabited beach, Pynes said late Friday.
The boy's body has been taken to the Galveston County Medical Examination's office.
"The family has been notified and we believe this will be his son," Pynes said. "This is a pretty tough deal but it gives the family some closure."
The boy was at a family gathering on Bryan Beach, where the Brazos River feeds into the Gulf of Mexico about 60 miles south of Houston, when he was swept into floodwaters, Pynes said.
The boy's father and another relative were found clinging to trees and rescued Tuesday afternoon. Since then, Freeport authorities had been searching for the boy but were hampered by intermittent heavy rains and a river that, at 47 feet, was 4 feet above flood stage, said Pynes.
The river was moving so fast that it was pushing out 20 miles into the Gulf on Friday, and taking everything caught upstream — from cars to refrigerators to trees — with it. One rescue boat borrowed to aid in the search was damaged by the debris, Pynes said.
The river is "in really bad shape and very, very dangerous," he said. "That tree is a missile, essentially."
At Fort Hood, the body of a civilian worker was found Friday afternoon downstream from where his vehicle was pulled out of Cow House Creek, post spokeswoman Col. Diane Battaglia said. Isidro Felix Alicea-Acosta, 74, went missing Wednesday night after a fireworks show.
"An hour before he crossed it, the creek was fine," Battaglia said. "He was caught in a flash flood that he was not aware of."
In Fort Worth on Friday night, rescue personnel and divers called off a search for a missing 26-year-old man whose rubber raft overturned on the Trinity River. The search will resume Saturday morning.
A 23-year-old man who was also on the raft was rescued on the side of the river, Fire Department spokesman Lt. Kent Worley said.
The men had little experience rafting and were not wearing life preservers, Worley said.
"Right now the current is swifter simply because of all the water coming down the Trinity," Worley said.
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 and damaging 1,000 homes. Numerous roads, bridges and underpasses have been flooded or damaged.
Heavy rainfall was being blamed for causing a chunk of an Interstate 35 overpass in Waco to fall onto a car below on Thursday. Officials were repairing the breach Friday.
An electrical storm that brought roughly 6 inches of rain to the area around Valero Energy Corp.'s Texas City Refinery caused a plantwide power outage on Friday morning. There were no safety problems, however, and the production impact was expected to be minor, Valero officials said.
Much of the state was forecast over the weekend to stay under a tropical air mass, meaning possible daytime showers and isolated thunderstorms, but the large swaths of pounding rain were expected to dissipate, said Cristy Mitchell, meteorologist at National Weather Service in New Braunfels.
"You're going to see less and less (of the rainstorms) as the days go by," she said.
But river waters could keep rising in some places. The National Weather Service warned that the Trinity River would crest near 43 feet on Sunday — well above the 28-foot flood stage.
By Friday, there was some flooding along the river near Trinidad, but the affected areas were all farm and ranch land, not homes or buildings, said Lt. Pat McWilliams of the Henderson County Sheriff's Office.
Authorities got one other bit of good news on possible flooding. The Red River will remain full but was unlikely to cause flooding along the Oklahoma-Texas line as earlier feared, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said.