First it was vicious Hurricane Beulah. Then scores of tornadoes combined with torrential rains. Finally, the most devastating floods in Texas' history. WHY did it happen — and what does it mean? Read the answer in this on-the-spot report from our Texas staff.
IT IS NOW admitted. One billion dollars estimated property damage. Hundreds of homes obliterated by hurricane winds. Thousands more devastatingly flooded by 10-foot tides, crashing waves and twenty-inch-plus rains — on the heels of a severe drought. Electrical and communications systems "damaged unbelievably." Millions of dollars' worth of citrus fruit, just in the beginning stages of harvest, knocked to the ground; numerous fruit trees uprooted and destroyed. At least seventy tornadoes (some reports said more than 100) spawned in the aftermath.
Countless Thousands Hit
At least one million people isolated or immobilized. And 250,000 driven from their homes to emergency shelters in Texas alone (to say nothing of Mexico) at the height of Beulah's fury. Forty thousand square miles of land — an area equivalent to the entire state of Kentucky or larger than the combined area of Scotland and Wales — virtually one gigantic, marshy lake! News commentator Porter Randall thus described the disaster: "Hurricane Beulah has created a tragedy the like of which Texas has never seen before." Director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, R.H. Simpson, acknowledged that Beulah was one of the three most powerful hurricanes of this century, and that her flooding was the worst in history ever caused by a hurricane. Officials of the Office of Emergency Planning said that the sheltering and feeding of the refugees was "probably the greatest rescue operation for a natural disaster in history."
Beulah's Destructive Arrival
For more than two weeks Beulah had been building up steam in the Caribbean — wreaking havoc and death wherever she touched land. Then on the morning of September 20 she ripped into South Texas near the U.S. Mexican border in the general area of Brownsville. Port Isabel, a coastal resort community of 5,000, was in the direct line of Beulah's 160-mile-per-hour fury. All but five or six of the residents had evacuated — and it was a good thing. Port Isabel was mostly a heap of wreckage when Beulah left. Erratic Beulah next headed inland toward the northwest. She slammed into the northern edge of the rich Rio Grande Valley and savagely attacked the citrus orchards. By late evening Beulah had worked herself inland over ranch country and was beginning to lose her punch. But the worst was yet to come.
The Morning After
As soon as it was light the next morning (Thursday), PLAIN TRUTH staff members began a survey of the disaster area by car. An aerial survey was impossible at this time because the sky was dark and foreboding. Radio broadcasts were warning continually to be on the alert for tornadoes throughout the entire area. Port Isabel was about 125 miles south of Kingsville, our departure point that morning. The first 75 miles of this distance on U.S. Highway 77 is through very lightly populated ranch country — formerly the famous King Ranch. On this morning after the hurricane, however, little land was to be seen. It was mostly one high, swampy lake. Cattle could be seen hovering together on the few available patches of high ground. Most of the time the water was right up to the road's edge. Frequently it overflowed the highway by five or six inches. Finally we arrived in Raymondville, a small city of 10,000 on the northern perimeter of the valley's cultivated area. It was here that the scope of the destruction began to hit us.
Snagged, snarled power lines; snapped utility poles; denuded and uprooted trees and shrubbery; wrecked signs and billboards; buildings with windows knocked out and part of the roof gone — these were the sights that met the eye in all directions. And everywhere — water. Dirty water. Water with jagged and splintered debris sticking out of it. Dark and heavy clouds cast a pall over the city like a suffocating blanket. Occasionally they unleashed torrents of rain. To add to the gloominess of this unnatural, midmorning darkness, the city was without lights. It was without electric power and telephone service. We tried to buy gasoline — but there was no electric power to operate the pumps. There were no usable toilet facilities the sewerage system was out. The water was not safe to drink. We finally found a small grocery store that had a few gallons of bottled water. This drinkable water and the store's few remaining items of groceries were being sold fast. Several inches of water covered the floor. Across the street, we discovered a gasoline station that was just opening for business. Electricity had somehow been restored to the hospital, and this station happened to be on the same line as the hospital. As we filled with fuel, one man was cursing because he had been refused shelter at one of the churches during the hurricane. He was a member of the same general denomination as this church, but he was not a member of that particular church, so he was turned away. He went back home and rode out the hurricane there. South of Raymondville, the evidences of destruction were even greater. Damage to buildings and power lines appeared more extensive. Cultivated fields were filled with water and the citrus groves were flooded up to the lowest branches of the trees. At Highway 100, we turned east to travel the final twenty miles to Port Isabel. Most of this highway was under several inches of water, and the land surrounding the highway was almost completely inundated. Travel was slow.
At Port Isabel
We arrived at Port Isabel about noon and were stopped at the town's entrance by the National Guard. No one was being allowed entrance except returning residents and newsmen. We showed our credentials and were admitted. Main Street was an unbelievable maze of destruction. On one street a jeep was overturned. On another a huge houseboat with pontoons lay on its side and blocked the entire street. An estimated 85 percent of the structures in town were destroyed, and all others were damaged. Some of the residents who had returned were armed and on the lookout for looters. What one would loot and where you would take it I never quite figured out. At the National Guard's temporary base, we were introduced to Captain Sanders and Mayor Leo Sanders who were both most helpful and courteous to us. They filled us in on many details and personally allowed us entrance to Padre Island.
On Padre Island
Padre Island is separated from the mainland and Port Isabel by a three-mile causeway. A bridge on the causeway had been damaged, and for fear of damaging it further, not even residents of the island were being allowed to pass over the causeway. Only police officials and a few newsmen were allowed passage. Mayor Sanders was kind enough to give us personal permission and we were among the first to cross over to the island. The south part of this island has between 200 and 250 year-round residents, many of whom live in a trailer court at the southern tip. This trailer court was obliterated. The Department of Public Safety said that 112 out of the 116 trailer homes had been destroyed. We didn't see any that were not destroyed, though a few may not have been. And by "destroyed" I don't mean just lightly tipped over. I mean shattered. The difference in air pressure when the hurricane struck caused many of these homes to literally explode. What remained was just a mangled heap of rubbish. Other facilities on this island resort were likewise extensively damaged.
The Flooding Begins
From Port Isabel, we drove to Brownsville. This road was even more flooded and in spots along the ocean where the tides had come crashing in, it was completely washed out. Brownsville, (population 50,000) though not in the most direct path of Beulah, had sustained heavy damage and was already in the midst of a $120,000 cleanup operation. As we left Brownsville and headed up the valley, it began to rain very hard! Suddenly we found ourselves in very deep water — literally! Radio reports said that the entire region for several hundred miles north was now under torrential rains. More than twenty inches had fallen in some areas and roads were being closed. This deluge was about the same as the average annual rainfall over much of this area! Immediately we headed for Harlingen to the north, but heavily flooded roads made travel slow. The land was unbelievably level and water was everywhere. In Harlingen the Department of Public Safety told us that if we had any hopes of getting out we had better head north to U.S. 77 immediately — that it might already be too late. As we followed another car on a spur road leading to U.S. 77, we suddenly found ourselves in water up to the bumper. To make matters worse, it was raining furiously and the water was so deep that all roadside markers had disappeared. It was impossible to turn around, and unless we kept moving, the car would stall. There was only one thing to do: head for the traffic light that was hanging above the road about a quarter of a mile away and hope that the road didn't bend anywhere in between! Thankfully, we made it through this difficult stretch and onto the main highway. But even the main road was seriously flooded now and driving was hazardous.
Few cars were headed our direction — north. But hundreds were headed south — right into the flooded area we were leaving! Who were these people and where were they going? These were people who had evacuated to escape Beulah. Now that Beulah had passed they thought that it was all over and they were returning to their homes — contrary to the instructions being broadcast continually over the radio. But their homes were now in greater danger than ever and certainly more flooded than when Beulah struck. It was a pathetic, moving sight. We made it to Corpus Christi only minutes before the roads became completely impassable. By now it was becoming obvious that the flooding and continuing rain were going to be a greater disaster than the hurricane itself. Highways throughout the area were being closed, emergency calls were going out for boats to evacuate people from a dozen or more different communities. And tornadoes were a continuing threat.
A few days later, when the skies had cleared, but when the flooding was at its worst, we flew photographers back into the area. They were able to land at Harlingen, home base for Operation Bravo — the Army's relief operation. Here they were extended every consideration by Army personnel. They were taken by Army helicopter over the entire area as the Army conducted rescue operations and dropped food supplies to those in need on both sides of the U.S. Mexican border. PLAIN TRUTH photographer Lyle Christopherson gives this report on Operation Bravo:
I was assigned to a helicopter which flew missions into the heart of the disaster area. It was piloted by two Vietnam veterans, CW3 F. W. Cross, pilot, and CW3 R. L. Simkins, copilot. These men went about their flight assignment in the truly professional manner of persons not just doing a job, but doing this job with zeal, accuracy, dedication, integrity and a sense of purpose. With a combined flight log that totaled upwards of 6,500 hours, their procedures left no doubt that every movement or action during the flight had purpose. Our first mission together was a late afternoon flight from Operation Bravo's Headquarters in Harlingen to Reynosa, Mexico. This flight went right over Harlingen's most beautiful homes — and also the area of some of the city's worst flooding. The flight continued over numerous large brimful flood canals and the wide, rampaging, debris-laden Rio Grande River. At Reynosa our helicopter was assigned to drop food along the muddy Rio Grande as we proceeded to the north. Shortly after the huge CH-47B helicopter lifted off, we found our first food recipients. The big whirlybird lowered slowly along a section of railroad track and the crewman in the rear began throwing the heavy burlap bags containing canned foods to the eager, hat-waving amigos running down the tracks. The goods had to be dropped some distance away so that the wind from the helicopter blades would not blow the people into the murky-brown waters. Several other similar stops were made before the mission was completed. The next day began as the one before: a briefing at 0630, a quick cup of coffee, and the assignment of flight missions for the first half of the day. It is not an easy job to be dashing about just a few feet above the murky floodwaters trying to find those who need prompt aid. Nor is it a light matter to listen to the screaming turbines that supply the power for the huge helicopters. Even with adequate ear protection, the whine and clatter of just a few hours flight in one of these big helping hands of modern aviation made my ears ring for hours. Surely the Army and these pilots and crew members deserve a pat on the back and a "thank you" for a job well done. And so do thousands of others who worked long hours under trying circumstances to help those in need: the telephone and electrical repairmen, the Red Cross volunteers, policemen and firemen, truck drivers, boatmen, food servers — and a host of others.
Adequate food, water and shelter were not the only problems faced by the flood victims. Whenever there is a disaster of this type and magnitude, the threat of disease is always present. This report from the Tyler Morning Telegraph (Sept. 29, 1967) gives an insight into some other problems: "Texas fought clouds of mosquitoes so thick that they blackened a man's arm, leaving trails of blood when brushed away. Knots of writhing snakes were found in abandoned homes when residents came back. Two persons were bitten in the badly flooded area northeast of Corpus Christi, but were in satisfactory condition." In some areas a few trees were blackened with tarantulas trying to escape the floodwaters. And then there was the smell. The smell of bloated and decaying cows, dogs and chickens. The smell of waterlogged wood, rotting fruit and vegetation, and water-soaked textile goods. The smell of fetid backed-up sewage. These and a hundred other smells seemed at times to dominate everything. The memory of Beulah will linger for a long time to come in the hearts and minds of those whose lives were so forcibly altered by her.
PLAIN TRUTH Report Different
Hundreds of news media had their reporters and photographers covering this catastrophe. Some of the small newspapers could send only a lone reporter with his camera. On the other hand, the big magazines and radio and television networks had whole armies of reporters, photographers and cameramen on the scene with private jets, private helicopters, and hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of equipment all at their immediate disposal. Some were there to sensationalize. Others were there just to fill their day's quota of 2,000 words of copy — whether they had something worthwhile to say or not. Many others were careless with the facts because they had a deadline to meet. At one point so many confusing "facts" were being circulated and printed that nobody knew what to believe. Our purpose is to report to you those things which we have seen with our own eyes, and to check as carefully as we can those facts or accounts which we pass on to you from others. We do not "blow up" an already tragic situation just to fill up space, meet a deadline, or fill a quota. We receive no pleasure from telling of wrecked homes, destroyed property, disrupted lives, suffering, misery and death. But we have a commission to perform. And reporting the meaning of these terrible catastrophes is an important part of that commission. It is the meaning of this tragedy that has been overlooked. What about it? Do you know WHY this tragedy struck? Was there a reason? And does it mean anything to You — you who live in some other part of the United States, in Canada, England, South Africa, Australia or some other part of the world? YES, IT DOES! Other news sources may have told you what happened. But they simply do not know WHY it happened. And they wouldn't be allowed to tell you if they did know! That is what makes this report different. We have something far more important to tell you than just what happened. We will now tell you why this disaster struck South Texas and what it means to you, personally — whoever you are and wherever you live!
Who Controls the Weather?
In our modern, materialistic world, we have forgotten that there is an all-powerful, all-knowing God in heaven who rules every facet of this whole universe. That God — whose existence you can prove — controls the weather. Man can upset nature's intricate balance in the weather pattern. But he cannot control the weather. God and God alone is the Master Weatherman and it's high time we began to realize that fact. We teach our children the story of Jesus calming a dreadfully stormy sea by simply standing up and commanding, "Peace! Be still!" (Mark 4:37-41) Because many don't really believe it, however, it usually sounds like a fairy tale or a piece of fiction. But this isn't just a fanciful story whose purpose is to entertain children for a few minutes in Sunday school. This event really happened! It ought to teach us, among other things, that Jesus Christ controls the weather. And because Christ is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Heb. 13:8), that same living Christ can and does control the weather today! God has always controlled the weather — and He always will! God rules supreme! "Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that DID He in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places. He causeth the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth'; he maketh lightnings for the rain; he bringeth the wind out of his treasuries" (Ps. 135:6-7). God sends "Fire, and hail; snow, and vapors; stormy wind fulfilling his word" (Ps. 148:8). Yes, God is in complete control. He is in full charge. Whatever He desires or allows HAPPENS. He gives a command — it is DONE. Throughout the Bible, control of the elements is named as one of the most outstanding means by which God demonstrates His awesome power to man.
Why Violent Weather in Texas
The weather is the single most important factor in the economy of a nation. When man is obedient to God, God gives good weather as one of His choicest blessings. But when man is disobedient and rebellious, God uses His awesome ability to control the weather as a powerful and fearful means of punishment. "So persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm. That men may know that thou, whose name alone is the Eternal [Yahweh, in Hebrew], art the most high over all the earth" (Ps. 83:15, 18). God allows violent weather to strike fear into the hearts of men. He sends it as an alarm — a warning — that something is very seriously WRONG! That is precisely WHY God permitted Hurricane Beulah, the tornadoes, the torrential rains and the floods to South Texas. Will the nation heed the warning that something is drastically wrong that our peoples are sinning? "Sin is the transgression of the law" (I John 3:4) — the breaking of God's Ten Commandments. Have we broken the Commandments: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me"; and "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image"? We surely have! We place just about anything and everything ahead of God and obedience to Him! Have we broken the third Commandment which tells us not to take God's name in vain? As we were in the disaster area we heard more cursing, swearing and damning of God's name than we had in a long time. Do we keep God's Sabbath holy? No — many hate that Commandment the worst of all! They wouldn't dream of keeping that one! What about dishonoring parents, stealing, killing, committing adultery, lying and coveting? Why, our nations do these things all the time! Surely we shouldn't have to quote statistics to prove it! Read any newspaper! We are sinning nations! And we in the United States, of all people, have the least excuse.
In Psalm 147 God tells us why our people are without excuse: "He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth: His word runneth very swiftly. He giveth snow like wool: he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes. He casteth forth his ice like morsels: who can stand before his cold? He sendeth out his word, and melteth them: he causeth his wind to blow, and the waters flow. He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He bath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the Lord" (Ps. 147:15-20). Yes, we in the United States are part of God's people Israel — the literal descendants of the ancient House of Israel, the so-called Lost Ten Tribes. So are the other English-speaking nations — Britain, Canada, Australia, South Africa.,(For proof of this astounding fact write for our free book The U.S. and British Commonwealth in Prophecy) We have been blessed by God as no other nations on earth. And one of the biggest blessings we have had has been access to the Word of God — access to God's laws and statutes which produce every blessing we have. But what have we done with this knowledge — these blessings? Oh, yes! We have translated the Bible into many other languages and distributed it around the world. We have given it to others. BUT WE HAVEN'T LIVED BY IT OURSELVES! And WE OUGHT TO KNOW BETTER! That is why we are without excuse! Our people say to God, "Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?" (Job 21:14-15) Yes, who needs God, many ask? God is now beginning to deal with this attitude. "He [God] rewardeth him [the wicked], and he shall KNOW it. His eyes shall see his destruction, and he shall drink of the wrath of the Almighty" (verses 19-20). God is beginning to punish. But He is not punishing all who are guilty — because all areas are guilty. Thus far the punishments have been primarily economic — a loss of the material things we hold so dear. They have not yet resulted in a great loss of human life. Did you notice that, even though Beulah's disaster was spread over a wide area and caused one billion dollars' worth of property damage, only comparatively few lives were lost in Texas! God Almighty is being merciful — hoping that we will "get the point" and begin to change our ways. But if we refuse to take the warning, God is going to punish harder. For years The WORLD TOMORROW broadcast and The PLAIN TRUTH have been warning that our sins would lead to disasters unless we change our ways and turn to God with all our hearts. And is it significant that this major natural disaster should have been allowed to strike in South Texas — an area which has probably received a more powerful warning witness for a longer time than about any other part of the United States? The WORLD TOMORROW broadcast has been blanketing this area from both local Texas stations and the big Mexican stations for some twenty years! Will we heed? Will we repent of our rebellion against God and His Law which He gave for our own good?
Will Your Area Be Next?
The tragedy created by Beulah may not have affected your area. But of this you can be assured: unless we, God's nation of modern Israel, repent — and repent quickly — a similar or even greater disaster is going to strike right where you live. And that within the next very few years! It may not be a hurricane or floods. But disaster of some kind — drought, pestilence, earthquake, disease, etc. — WILL STRIKE. Prophecy PROVES it (see our free booklets 1975 In Prophecy and The Book of Revelation Unveiled at Last). God will not force this entire nation to repent. But you yourself CAN repent. You can begin to change your way of life NOW. You don't have to learn the hard way. God's people may suffer to an extent in the punishments God sends on the rebellious. Some of God's people who lived in the disaster area of South Texas suffered damage during this storm. But He will see that those who obey Him are more than compensated for their losses. "The Lord trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence His soul hateth. Upon the wicked He shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup" (Ps. 11:5-6). God allows the righteous to suffer a little as a trial to their faith — to test and strengthen them. But when the time of REAL trouble comes upon this world, God promises protection and deliverance to those who humbly put their trust in Him. "The Lord is slow to anger, and GREAT IN POWER, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the Lord hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet. He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up, all the rivers... The mountains quake at Him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at His presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein. Who can stand before His indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by Him. The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and He KNOWETH them that trust in Him" (Nahum 1:3-7). "Great is our Lord, and of great power: His understanding is infinite. The Lord lifteth up the meek: He casteth the wicked down to the ground. He delighteth not in the strength of the horse, He taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy" (Ps. 147:56, 10-11). You have only one hope in the days ahead: the Eternal GOD.
What Will YOU DO?
Now what about you? Can you take a warning? Can you see the meaning behind the destruction caused by Hurricane Beulah? Can you learn from this disaster? Or was this warning lost on you? Are you going to have to see bigger and greater things before you will be convinced? Are you going to have to personally suffer before you learn? Are you going to insist on learning the hard way? Will God have to strike your area before you wake up? The decision is yours. No one else can make it for you.