BRENHAM, Texas (FOX 26) - Four people have died in Washington County following the heavy rainfall, strong winds that began on Thursday along with the resulting flooding and damage to roadways and structures. Varying reports indicate that between 17 and 22 inches of rain fell in the county within the period of a few hours. First responders have conducted many water rescues in the county and Brenham city area.
In a statement released on Saturday, the Washington County Sheriff's Office confirmed the identities of the four people who died in the storms and flooding. All of their bodies have been recovered.
Lela Holland, 64, a resident of the town of Washington, died when flood waters overwhelmed his home. Crews were unable to rescue her.
Brenham resident Jimmy Wayne Schaeffer, 49, had driven his pickup truck into high water. Witnesses tell the sheriff's office that Schaeffer was able to get into the truck bed, but was swept away by the rising waters. His body was recovered along Prairie Hill Road near Kuykendall Creek.
A crew recovered the body of Navasota resident Darren Charles Mitchell along State Highway 105 near Kuykendall Creek. Mitchell, 21, served with the National Guard.
The body of College Station resident Pyarali Rajebhi Umatiya, 59, was recovered on Saturday afternoon from Yegua Creek near FM 50. Umatiya was last seen at approximately 6:45 a.m. Friday near FM 50 and Devault Lane where his vehicle had stalled in high water.
58 county roads are currently closed due to high water or damage. Several bridges and culverts were left with significant damage and have also been closed. The road closures are keeping an undetermined amount of residents in their home with approximately 2,000 of them without electricity. Bluebonnet Electric is unable to reach some of the residential areas to perform repairs.
The water level at Lake Somerville had reached 259.23 as of Saturday morning. Texas Department of Public Safety aircraft confirmed that water is spilling several feet over the spillway and into Yegua Creek, which will cause delays in reopening roadways and pose a threat to that section of Washington County.
Both Washington County Sheriff Otto Hanak and State Senator Lois W. Kolkhorst took part in the search and rescue operations and have met with the families of the people who had died.victims’ families.
“Our prayers go out to the families of these flood victims,” said State Sen. Kolkhorst. “The floods have been devastating to life and property as I viewed both Burleson and Washington Counties from the DPS aircraft this afternoon. We owe a great deal of gratitude to first responders, law enforcement, city, county road and bridge staffs along with TxDOT personnel who have worked tirelessly since Thursday afternoon. I urge extreme caution to everyone traveling on roadways until repairs can be made which days and even weeks. We must exercise caution and patience because we have already lost too many lives.”