County, area hammered by storm


Travis Neeley can’t remember a time when the county had this much water dumped on it in one rainstorm.

“I got elected in ’88 the first time, and I haven’t seen it this bad,” the 28-year veteran county sheriff said of the rainstorm on Thursday. “Even with Hurricane Ike, we got the traffic from people evacuating, but we didn’t get this kind of water.”

Emergency Management Coordinator for Madison County, Shelly Butts, said that on Thursday, the county received between 6 and 8 inches of rain, and another 2 inches fell on Friday.

Neeley said that even at 65 years old, this is the first time in his memory that Highway 21 at the Navasota River had been shut down.

“I was in the North Zulch area listening to Bryan and College Station chase a tornado,” Neeley said. “Within an hour, most of the west end of the county was under water.”

Numerous county and farm-to-market roads are washed out, Neeley said.

“It was a true mess, but everybody made it through it,” he said. “As soon as this stuff rolled in, we scattered to different areas of the county, and then started reacting as the situation dictated.”

That reaction included rerouting traffic, barricading roads, and even performing several high-water rescues — one at Burr Road, one on Highway 75 at Pee Dee Road and one on 90 near the county line.

“Everybody was soaking wet by the time this was over,” he said.

Neeley said that at least 85 percent of county roads were under water, and at least that many farm to market highways — and Highway 39 near the Precinct 3 dump was severely damaged, and Highway 90 and Union Road are washed out.

As of presstime Tuesday, the bridge on Bundic Road was still out, and Short Street still is washed out.

“It was something else,” Neeley said. “It didn’t take long for everybody to run out of traffic cones. Now, it’s damage assessment.”

Toward that end, Madison County Commissioner’s Court will hold a special meeting Friday on whether the county’s disaster declaration needs to be extended.

Butts said the county opened up its emergency operations center during the lunch hour on Thursday, and had employees sheltered there as well during tornado warnings that were issued early Thursday afternoon.

“We checked in with the day care centers and the schools to make sure the children were sheltered,” she said. “Most of the afternoon we worked with the Madisonville schools on their bus routes to make sure children could get home.”

School events were canceled, and schools were closed on Friday.

Butts said her office was contacted by the American Red Cross and Texas Animal Health Commission to offer assistance, but it was the local response which was to be applauded.

“We had a really good local response,” she said. “We appreciated the MVFD riding roads and helping with barricades.”

Butts said both the Texas Department of Transportation and the county had run out of barricades because of the amount of road closures.

“When we checked with county commissioners Thursday, pretty much every county road was under water,” she said. “There were some we couldn’t get to for assessment, but Precinct 4 had nine affected roads that had either washed out or culverts that have washed out.

Capt. Richard Morris of the Madisonville Police Department said that when the rains started, officers began looking for flooded streets and other areas that were hazardous to motorists.

“We began blocking off lanes of traffic and eventually shut down Highway 75 for 1 ½ hours because of the water going across the highway near Henson Chevrolet,” he said.

Morris also said the city saw several cars get flooded out — one on Main Street by O’Reilly’s and one in the 300 block of Woodrow — but wreckers were able to pull them out.

Other reports indicated a down power line on Minden Street.

“We had to remove all the animals from the pound because of flood water,” Morris said. “They were temporarily housed at Rufus Refuge until water receded.”

Morris said that while MPD Chief Herbert Gilbert was blocking a road in the 1000 block of Main Street, a bolt of lightning struck a transformer overhead, directly above the police vehicle.

Madisonville Fire Chief Thom Jones said his department assisted with stranded motorists and road blockages.

“We had one motorcycle accident on the interstate, which was weather-related,” Jones said. “Mostly we just dealt with road closures. It was a community effort.”

The department was called to a oil well fire on 75 north from a lightning strike, but it was out by the time engines arrived.

“I’ve never seen water that high,” Jones said. “We were glad to be able to assist everyone.”