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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Monday, August 24, 1998

Charley nears area after flooding Del Rio

From Staff and Wire Reports
Mostly clear skies over Reeves County this morning belied
the weather turmoil just to the southeast, as the remnants
of Tropical Storm Charley moved further into West Texas

George Matthews, warning coordinator meteorologist for the
National Weather Service office in Midland, said remains of
the storm, which brought a deluge to the Hill Country,
overflowing rivers to roar over their banks and contributing
to at least five flood-related deaths, are were centered
just over 100 miles southwest of Pecos as of mid-morning.

"The remnants are centered over northwestern Terrell County
and are slowly edging west into Pecos County," Matthews said
this morning. A flash flood watch was issued for most of
Sunday for Pecos County, and continued into today for
Terrell County to the southeast and Sutton and Schleicher
counties to the east.

"We're pretty fortunate as far as keeping the heavy, heavy
rains away from those counties so far," Matthews said.

A dispatcher for the Terrell County Sheriff's Department in
Sanderson said rain there didn't start falling until 8 a.m.
today. "It started very slowly, but it is raining. Right
now, it's just a heavy mist," she said.

U.S. 90 eastbound from Sanderson to Del Rio was closed from
the Pecos River east to Bracketville, while U.S. 277 was
closed in both Val Verde County and north of Sonora, and
State Highway 163 was closed between Comstock and Ozona.
Several other Farm-to-Market roads were also closed due to
flooding at low water crossings.

Forecasts for tonight call for a 40 percent chance of rain
in Reeves County, with the chances rising to 50 percent on
Tuesday, as clouds from the tropical storm slowly move into
the Permian Basin.

While any light rain would be welcomed right now in West
Texas, where most cities and counties remain well below
their normal totals for the first 7½ months of the year, the
bulk of Charlie's rains over the weekend drenched the Hill
Country and Val Verde County, with the heaviest rains
reported in the Del Rio area.

``It's really bad right now,'' said Patty Mancha, a
spokeswoman for the U.S. Border Patrol in Del Rio, one of
several agencies that joined the rescue effort. ``There's a
lot of water all over the place. We're actually stranded in
Del Rio. There's no way to get out.''

Ms. Mancha confirmed two flooding deaths in Del Rio today,
while Mexico's news agency Notimex reported nine shopping
center workers in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, were washed away by
the current while trying to cross an arroyo holding a rope.

Del Rio police officer John Wilson said 20 to 30 people were
unaccounted for today. ``We're still recovering bodies and
all the low crossings, the creeks, have flooded,'' he said.

Neighborhoods around the flooded creeks are under water,
Wilson said, and two or three blocks of homes were washed
away, as were ``a whole bunch of mobile homes.''

The National Weather Service lost contact with its Rio
Grande flood gauge at Del Rio sometime between 4 and 7 a.m.,
said Cristy Mitchell, meteorologist at the National Weather
Service's San Antonio-area office. ``We haven't had a gauge
reading from there since 4:10 a.m. It was at 15.5 feet
then,'' she said. The river floods at 8 feet in Del Rio.

Police at Del Rio rescued three people from treetops and
rooftops after record-breaking rains caused flash flooding
from San Felipe Creek early today.
Those rescued included a police officer who had been sent
into the San Felipe neighborhood to help evacuate some
residents, according to Del Rio Police Lt. Ramiro Castillo.

Castillo said the flooding was severe, describing it as
``something I haven't seen in 50 years.''

Officially, Del Rio reported 11.87 inches of rain Sunday and
another two inches from midnight to 7 a.m. today. The
weather service reported unofficially that as much as 16
inches fell in some parts of the Del Rio area Sunday and as
much as 8 inches today by 7 a.m.

The city's previous record rainfall for August was 6.1
inches in 1971. The previous all-time daily record for Del
Rio was 8.79 inches on June 13, 1935. Still to come is the
all-time monthly record of 15.79 inches set in September

About 400 refugees sought shelter at the Guadalupe Catholic
Church, which serves the San Felipe neighborhood, police

There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries, but
Castillo said officers would have to make a final check
during the day.

``We had evacuated a lot of people before the flood waters
got too high,'' Castillo said. ``We have a lot of people in
shelters. I don't know how many.''

The Del Rio area received rainfall rates of up to four
inches per hour during the night and numerous roads were
covered by water, the National Weather Service reported.

The Rio Grande was at 15.5 feet at Del Rio at 4 a.m. today,
7.5 feet above flood stage and exceeding the 14.80 flood
crest of September 1974. A crest of about 16 feet was
expected before the flooding subsides.

At Eagle Pass, the Rio Grande was 3.4 feet this morning, but
was expected to crest at 18-29 feet late today. Flood stage
there is 16 feet.

Four immigrants from Mexico, including two young children,
were killed and six others were injured on Sunday when a
pickup truck was swept into a creek on Texas 41 in Real
County about 100 miles northwest of San Antonio.

``Three of the bodies were found inside the truck. They
never made it out,'' said Trooper Jacob Sanchez of the Texas
Department of Public Safety. Another was found later about a
quarter-mile away.

The accident occurred at 7:30 a.m. The pickup carrying 18
people was eastbound on the highway as four feet of water
covered the road at a low-water crossing, according to the

The truck's driver stopped and unloaded seven people, then
tried to travel through the water, but the vehicle was
immediately forced off the road, the DPS said.

Six passengers were able to cling to some trees before
making it out of the water. The truck's driver was last seen
in the creek and remained missing, said DPS spokeswoman Tela
Mange, although a DPS report said footprints near the
water's edge indicated the driver may have gotten out.

A search for the driver will resume today, said Ben
Patterson, spokesman for the Texas Division of Emergency

Killed were Veronica Gomez Hernandez, 20; Liliana Arroyo,
16; Jose Angel Diaz, 2; and Jasmine Diaz, 3; all of Mexico,
officials said.

Five people were treated for minor injuries at the scene.
Tomasa Diaz, 27, was in guarded condition at Sid Peterson
Hospital in Kerrville.

Throughout the Hill Country, where heat and dry weather had
been dominant for weeks, water gushed through riverbeds and
threatened campsites and homes. The Llano, Frio, Sabinal and
Nueces rivers all spilled over their banks.

At Garner State Park, located along the Frio River in Uvalde
County, a 65-year-old man died Sunday of a heart attack
while being evacuated amid the rising water.

The Salvation Army in San Antonio was preparing to send
drinking water and food to flood victims. The American Red
Cross set up a shelter for evacuees in Uvalde.

Firefighters in Uvalde County rescued a woman and her
1-year-old child after they were swept from a vehicle by
high water. Neither was injured.

``All the rivers are out of their banks,'' said Chris
Steinbruck, a dispatcher for the Uvalde Police Department.
``This is disastrous. It's just unbelievable.''

In Kerr County, forecasters predicted the Guadalupe River
would rise to 17 feet - five feet above flood stage and its
highest level since June 1977.

The storm system moved into the state early Saturday at Port
Aransas and was expected to move into northern Mexico
sometime today, said Steve Taylor, a meteorologist for the
National Weather Service in San Antonio.
For details on road closures, call the Texas Department of
Transportation at 800-452-9292 or visit the web site at .

DA alleges woman slain by boyfriend

Staff Writer
Reeves County grand jurors indicted 13 persons Thursday, and
District Attorney Randy Reynolds entered an information
charging murder.

Christopher John Bigham is charged with shooting Lora Ann
Brooks on Dec. 1, 1997. Reeves County Sheriff Arnulfo Gomez
said Bigham has confessed to the murder and will be returned
to Reeves County from Washington state to help law
enforcement officers locate Brooks' remains.

Others indicted include:

-- Clay Patrick Pitts, theft by a public servant, bail
$25,000. She allegedly embezzled funds on June 8 from the
Reeves County Water Improvement District while working as a
secretary for the district.

-- Michael Wayne Roberts, 19, aggravated assault on July 17.
He allegedly threatened John Deering, an officer with the
Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, with a knife. His bail
is $25,000.

-- Rona Roberts, 32, injury to a child under 14 years of age
on June 21. Her bail is $15,000.

-- Benjamin Anchondo, 17, criminal mischief. He allegedly
damaged a 1997 Plymouth Neon on May 21 by striking its body
and windows with his fists, feet and bottles. Christina
Sotelo owns the vehicle, which she said received between
$1,500 and $20,000 in damage. His bail is $5,000.

-- Roger Gabriel Lopez, 17, is charged with theft of jewelry
from Amy Rice on May 26. His bail is $5,000.

-- Amy Ortega Romero, 24, is charged with forgery by passing
a $186.48 check made out to Mario Fuentes at La Tienda
Thriftway on May 7. Her bail is $2,500.

-- Roberta Anchondo Abila, 41, is charged with possession of
cocaine on June 21. Bail was set at $10,000.

-- Doyle Allen Reed, 45, is charged with possession of
heroin on April 1. His bail is $10,000.

-- Jesus Puertas is charged with possession of between 50
and 2,000 pounds of marijuana on June 26. His bail if

-- Reymundo Espudo, 55, is charged with possession of
marijuana, between four ounces and five pounds, on July 4.
His bail is $10,000.

-- Juanita Estorga, 38, is charged with possession of heroin
on May 19. Her bail is $10,000.

-- Ruben Porras Hernandez, 37, is charged with possession of
heroin on May 19. His bail is $10,000.

In the murder case, sheriff's deputies began an
investigation in December after Brooks' parents, Jack and
Marilyn Bridges, came to Pecos from Washington state to look
for their daughter.

Brooks had told her parents that she and her boyfriend,
Chris Bigham, were buying a trailer, and that she was trying
to get him to get a job.

According to Mr. Bridges, Bigham said that she had gotten on
a bus Dec. 2 to visit her best friend, Angie, in Dallas. Mr.
Bridges said that he spoke with Angie, who told him that
Lora had called her with plans to visit and left messages on
her answering machine Nov. 29 and 30.

They checked the bus station to see if she had purchased a
ticket, but got no more answers there, only more questions.

Lora never showed up in Dallas. Bigham and Brooks' teenage
daughter moved from Pecos to Washington shortly after her
disappearance, and the Pacific County Sheriff's Office in
South Bend, Wash. entered the investigation.

Texas Ranger Jerry Villalobos worked with the Reeves County
Sheriff's Office on the investigation, Gomez said. He went
to Washington to interview Bigham, eliciting the confession.

Three die, three hurt in Crockett County crash

OZONA (AP) -- Three Louisiana residents, including a small
child, were killed when their minivan rolled over and
erupted into flames along Interstate 10 in Crockett County.

Shortly before dawn Sunday, a van driven by Patterson, La.,
resident Ellen Walls, 51, veered into a median, according to
the Texas Department of Public Safety. She overcorrected,
sending the van sliding into one guardrail, then another.

The westbound vehicle turned over during the crash and
caught fire before coming to a stop, according to an
accident report by DPS troopers Castulo Bilano Jr. and Monte

Ms. Walls died at Midland Memorial Hospital later Sunday
morning. Passengers Flora Triggs, 19, and 18-month-old
Joshua Granger died at the scene and were burned beyond

Treated for minor injuries and released were Brian Mark
Flemings, 31, of Mobile, Ala.; Kreig Anthony Triggs, 18, of
Patterson; and Tajaka Wade, 17, of Morgan City, La.

All the victims were properly restrained, according to
troopers. Road conditions were dry.

The accident occurred in a remote section of I-10, three
miles west of the Loop 290 (Sheffield) interchange in
western Crockett County.

Alpine woman killed in car-cattle collision

Staff Writer
A black Angus bull loose on the highway caused the death of
a 23-year-old Alpine woman and critically injured her
companion, in one of two serious accidents in the area early

Karen Kristine Reyes, a student, died at the scene of the
accident at 2:05 a.m. Sunday, 5.39 miles east of Alpine on
U.S. Highway 90.

Lorraine Marie Valenzuela, 24, an Alpine bank teller, was
driving the 1993 Ford when it struck the bull. She suffered
head and chest injuries and was flown to a Lubbock hospital.

Both victims were wearing seat belts, according to
Department of Public Safety Trooper Roy Bristow of Alpine,
who investigated.

Upon impact with the right front of the vehicle, the bull
rolled over the hood and into the right front passenger
area, where Reyes was seated. The vehicle veered off the
blacktop into the barrow ditch, through a drainage ditch, up
an embankment and over the railroad tracks, landing on the
other side and colliding with a concrete structure, Bristow

In an unrelated accident 90 minutes later, three California
women were injured in a one-vehicle rollover at mile marker
211 Interstate 10, near Saragosa. They were also flown to a
Lubbock hospital.

DPS Cpl. Emmitt Moore said the vehicle left the roadway and
rolled over 2 1/2 times while westbound on I-10. The
accident occurred at 3:38 a.m., according to the DPS report.

Prairie dogs considered for endangered

Associated Press Writer
COLORADO CITY -- For years, rancher Jim McAdams and his
farming neighbors fought the good fight against the prairie
dogs infesting their lands.

They tried poisoning the furry brown gopher-sized burrowers.
Drowning them. Even yanking them out of the ground with
their bare hands.

But in the end, it was McAdams who eventually left his small
ranch in Colorado City. The pesky dogs still run rampant.

Now the rodents are being pitched as a new addition to the
nation's endangered species -- and McAdams and other
ranchers and farmers are hopping mad.

``I'd have to see some hard data to convince me they need to
endangered species,'' McAdams said. ``I mean, come on --
those things are everywhere.''

McAdams now works as employee on a company-owned ranch
outside of Lubbock, but he still remembers his losing battle
with the varmints. ``We couldn't keep them off the land ...
All you could do was control the population and try to keep
it to a reasonable level.''

If the black-tailed prairie dogs were given the status of
endangered species, they would be protected by law and
farmers and ranchers could be required to meet strict
regulations on attempts to control their population -- even
on their own property.

Some Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association
officials have vowed to resist the effort, which they brand
conservation overkill.

The National Wildlife Federation has petitioned the Office
of Endangered Species of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
claiming the black-tailed prairie dogs are nearly extinct
and asking that they be protected. The service has until
October's end to decide if a full investigation is needed,
and then another year to decide whether the animal makes the

Prairie dogs are small rodents closely related to squirrels.
They live in tunnel networks called towns that can contain
thousands of dogs. Known for their barking cries, they often
sit in rows out in the open, and are quick to drop into
their burrows at any sign of danger.

While cute, even endearing, from a distance, prairie dogs
irritate landowners who say their tunnel networks kill grass
and turn hay fields into dusty, useless deserts. The dogs'
homes, which are small, hand-sized holes, also are a danger
to cattle and horses who could break their legs if they step
in while running, cattlemen say.

But the days of huge dog towns across the Plains are nearly
gone, wildlife officials say.

Less than three years ago, there were 100 million to 250
million acres of prairie dog colonies across the United
States, according to a National Wildlife Federation report.
Now there are only about 800,000 acres of dog towns.

Those that remain are smaller and farther apart then they
used to be, said Tom France, a National Wildlife Federation
official who helped forward the petition. Wildlife experts
say that means the dog colonies are more likely to be
completely wiped out by a disease.

The dogs also have been affected by the encroachment of
farmland into their habitat.

``When you look at the factors that cause a species to go
extinct, the prairie dog faces all of them,'' France said.
``We have to take a look at what we have done to the animal
and decide that it is worth saving.''

Still, one doesn't have to go far in West Texas to find a
prairie dog.

In Lubbock, a field in front of a local television station
has long been the home of a vast prairie dog village that
attracts neighborhood children. Part of a city park has been
designated ``Prairie Dog Town,'' with a scenic hiking path
through a field filled with dogs.

Gay Balfour, who became famous among farmers for inventing a
vacuum-like contraption to catch prairie dogs, says he sees
plenty of them.

``Well, to the places I go, you'd almost think the dogs
outnumber the people,'' Balfour said. ``Maybe I should be
involved in the count.''

Wildlife workers say farmers and ranchers aren't looking
past their own backyards.

``Just because there are a dozen dogs on someone's property
doesn't mean that the animal isn't in danger,'' France said.


High Friday, Saturday and Sunday 93. Low Saturday and Sunday
69, low this morning 70. Forecast for tonight: Mostly cloudy
with a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms. Lows in the upper
60s. Southeast winds 5-10 mph. Tuesday, mostly cloudy with a
50 percent chance of thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 80s.
East to southeast winds 10-15 mph.

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324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321

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