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May 28, 3:54 PM EDT

Storms ease in Texas, but runoff could mean more flooding


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HOUSTON (AP) -- Although the deadly thunderstorms that lashed much of Texas have tapered off, many cities were still in danger of flooding Thursday as heavy rain from earlier in the week poured downstream, swelling rivers.

The Houston area got a respite from the rain a day earlier, but runoff from earlier in the week lifted the San Jacinto River above flood stage, and it kept climbing. Nearby residents watched the high water with alarm.

"We came back out here today to get a few of our things that we had parked by the road," said Brian Harmon, who lives in suburban Kingwood. "The water keeps rising and rising. We didn't want to lose anything else."

Harmon's home had up to 2 feet of water. Nearby streets had water rushing over them.

"It's very stressful," he said. "I'm very tired of it."

About 60 miles southwest of Houston, the mayor of Wharton asked residents to voluntarily evacuate about 300 homes because of the predicted rise of the Colorado River.

And in the rural Parker County community of Horseshoe Bend, some 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth, officials asked people in 250 homes to flee from the Brazos River.

By early Thursday, Parker County Emergency Management spokesman Joel Kertok said the Brazos had almost crested, but officials had no immediate reports of flooded homes and were monitoring the situation.

He said the river, which has a flood level of 21 feet, was at nearly 24 feet.

This week's storms and floods in Texas and Oklahoma have left at least 21 people dead and at least 10 others missing.

In Miami, President Barack Obama said the flooding should serve as a reminder of the need to make the nation more resilient against natural disasters. He said climate change is affecting both the pace and intensity of storms.

"The best scientists in the world are telling us that extreme weather events, like hurricanes, are likely to become more powerful," Obama said during the first visit of his presidency to the National Hurricane Center.

"When you combine stronger storms with rising seas, that's a recipe for more devastating floods," he said.

In Central Texas, crews continued searching for eight people feared dead after the swollen Blanco River smashed through Wimberley, a small tourist town between San Antonio and Austin, over the Memorial Day weekend. Authorities there are concerned that more rain forecast for the region could hamper the search.

The Hays County emergency management coordinator, Kharley Smith, said more rain could shift debris fields and complicate efforts to find entangled victims.

A portion of the San Jacinto on Thursday was at nearly 53 feet, about 4 feet above flood stage, said Kim Jackson, a spokeswoman for the Harris County Flood Control District.

Joey Shedd, 23, didn't plan on evacuating his home in the Moonshine Hill neighborhood along the San Jacinto. Shedd said his home is safe because it stands on stilts, but he expected his parents' home next door to flood because it's at ground level.

"It hasn't been this bad since Hurricane Ike," in 2008, he said. The all-terrain vehicle he was using to ride across flooded roads "barely makes it to my house."

Chuck Bayne was among those who decided to follow authorities' advice and leave his North Texas home in Horseshoe Bend. On Wednesday, Bayne, owner of the Brazos RV Resort, headed to his second home in Arlington.

"Everybody on the river is leaving, except you have a couple dozen who aren't leaving," he said. "They're afraid of looters, and some are just plain stubborn."

Farther west, about 20 homes flooded after waters rose at Lake Leon. Fire Chief Darrell Fox said officials had asked for voluntary evacuations of 100 to 150 homes around the lake, which is 100 miles southwest of Fort Worth.

In Wharton, the Colorado River is expected to crest at about 45.5 feet, nearly 7 feet above flood stage, by Saturday.

"Our main concern was getting residents ahead of the game and giving them notice to voluntarily evacuate," said Paula Favors, city secretary in Wharton, which has more than 8,800 residents.

Other parts of Texas were being inundated Thursday, with flash flooding reported in the Lubbock area.

In Houston, 800 to 1,400 homes have already been damaged by the flooding. Thousands of homes were also damaged or destroyed in the Central Texas corridor that includes Wimberley - 744 of them in San Marcos alone.

This has been the wettest month on record for Texas, even with several days left. The state climatologist's office said Texas has received an average of 7.54 inches of rain in May, breaking the old record of 6.66 inches set in June 2004. While rain is in the forecast for many areas for the next couple of days, the chances for showers are greater during the weekend.

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Lozano reported from Houston and Robbins from Wimberley.

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Associated Press writers David Warren, Jamie Stengle and Terry Wallace in Dallas; John L. Mone in Wimberley; and Joshua Replogle in Houston contributed to this report.

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Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at www.twitter.com/juanlozano70 .

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