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Weaker Claudette moves on as Texans clean up mess

By Associated Press
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 17, 2003

PORT LAVACA, Texas - Storm-battered residents cleaned up debris and surveyed damage Wednesday a day after Hurricane Claudette slammed into the Gulf Coast of Texas.

Claudette arrived Tuesday as a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained wind of 85 mph before being downgraded. The storm was just over the Rio Grande in west Texas by Wednesday evening and was expected to move toward Tucson, Ariz., before weakening.

The storm caused serious damage along more than 250 miles of Texas coastline, tearing off roofs, flattening trailers and toppling trees. Several low-lying areas were flooded, and two people were killed by falling trees or limbs, officials said.

American Electric Power worked to restore power to the estimated 30,000 customers who woke up in the dark in Victoria and elsewhere Wednesday, sending an armada of tree-cutting trucks and cherry pickers to repair damage.

"Today is going to reveal a much better picture of what disaster assistance will be needed," American Red Cross spokeswoman Suzanne Hogan said in Port Lavaca, which was hit hard by the storm.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said the state shifted from a response phase to a recovery phase Wednesday.

"The recovery for this hurricane will be difficult and it's going to take a while, but we will get through it," he said.

Sandra Ray of the Southwestern Insurance Information Service, a trade association for insurers, said a damage estimate likely wouldn't be made until today.

James P. Rizzo, a researcher at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, spent Wednesday on a Port Lavaca fishing pier dismantling a destroyed weather and tide monitoring station valued at $40,000.

"Events like these are the ones we're here trying to measure," said Rizzo. "It's the nature of the business."

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