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Red Cross Shelter at Pecos High School Closes Today

Volunteers meeting to discuss further needs in Pecos at the Pecos Hill School gym. (Stephanie Murphree)

Update 9:30 AM Thursday: The Red Cross will close its shelter at the Pecos High School today at 1 PM, with all nearby residents now able to return to their homes or to stay with friends or family.

Only four nearby oilfield workers were last reported staying at the shelter Wednesday afternoon.

Stephanie Murphree, Executive Director with the Red Cross Permian Basin Area Chapter, says relief workers will still be on hand, providing hot meals and snacks to emergency crews with assistance from the Permian Basin Baptist Men.

A total of 25 people have used the shelter for overnight stays since flooding along the Pecos River began last weekend.

Original Story (Wednesday)

Pecos Mayor Venetta Seals says the town is ready for another round of flooding that's expected to slowly make its way down the Pecos River through Friday.

Responders have managed to remove debris that had built up around the river bridge on the I-20 business road between Pecos and Barstow.

Crews have successfully removed about 400 yards worth of debris flushed into the area by flooding over the weekend. They've also built berms on the west side of the river, which will help divert the new influx of floodwater away from the town.

Seals says with those preparations, this new round of flooding likely won't have a big impact on the town.

"We're not anticipating evacuations," she says. "We just don't anticipate the degree of flooding that we originally had."

The National Weather Service says the river will slowly rise over the next few days as waters from the still-overflowing Red Bluff Reservoir move downstream, with a crest expected near Pecos sometime Thursday or Friday.

According to Seals, only a few people have been directly affected by the flooding so far.

The number of people that relocated to the shelter on Saturday was in the single digits, and at last count, the Red Cross has only had to shelter a total of 20 people at the Pecos High School.

Only one group of four oilfield workers (locally referred to as the "Core Four") has had to stay at the shelter, with their mancamp along the river still flooded.

"Two of them are actually able to go to work in a different direction," Seals says, "but they just can't get back to their homes."

The help brought in from state and federal agencies, combined with food donations from the West Texas Food bank and others, means the costs to the city for the response effort will likely be small.

Stephanie Murphree of the Red Cross Permian Basin Area Chapter says the high school shelter will still be open through at least tonight, and that the Red Cross will remain on hand as long as its needed.

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.