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How to help Texas cope with massive flooding and record rains during hurricane season

Texas families who just two years ago were praying for rain to relieve a drought in some parts of the state now find themselves awash in water: rivers swollen, rain pounding and homes flooded. In the Houston area, storms in the last week have killed at least six people, damaged thousands of homes and forced hundreds to get out.

NPR said more than 2,000 inmates were evacuated from a prison in Austin and cars have been washed away. Still more rainfall is predicted this weekend, according to the National Weather Service. And parts of Texas had already been sloshing in moisture from April thunderstorms to the point many had sought disaster relief, as the Federal Emergency Management Agency noted.

In 2015, excessive rain led to disbursement of $142 million in disaster relief for Texans.

Relief organizations like the American Red Cross are ramping up efforts to help the displaced and stranded by the weather and the current deluge.

"Over the weekend, Brenham, Texas, located about 65 miles northwest of Houston, received 18 inches of rain in a 24-hour period. Houston, which has been hammered with severe weather and flooding for several months, was again in the storm's path and people were forced to leave their homes. The threat isn't over — weather experts predict flooding will continue for several more days. Emergency officials estimate that some 6,000 homes may be affected," said an American Red Cross news release.

It noted that its volunteers have opened 15 shelters in flooded parts of the state and said that "volunteers are helping to assess the damage. The Red Cross is also providing meals in coordination with the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and other local partners. Red Cross volunteers will also be delivering relief supplies as soon as it is safe to do so."

And the Lone Star State doesn't have the corner on troublesome weather news, either. AccuWeather.com is reporting that experts expect 14 named storms to pound the Atlantic basin for an "above-normal hurricane season," which officially kicked off Wednesday. Hurricane season typically runs from the start of June to the end of November.

AccuWeather and the National Weather Service predict eight of the expected named storms will become hurricanes — half of them major. According to experts there, the known El Niño pattern looks like it will change into La Niña. As Accuweather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski explained: "La Niña is characterized by below-normal water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean near the equator. When this occurs, less wind shear is found in the developmental regions of the Atlantic, increasing the potential for a higher-than-normal amount of tropical systems."

He said indications are "there's at least a 75 to 80 percent chance that we will go into a La Niña pattern."

In the shorter term, the National Weather Service is predicting more imminent flooding in the Southern United States and "excessive heat" in the Southwest, expected to produce more showers and thunderstorms.

The Red Cross is encouraging people to help Texas flooding victims by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting TXFLOODS to 90999, which will trigger a $10 donation charged to the individual's cellphone bill. Or check out the Central Texas Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.

Email: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco