Texas girds for more se­vere flood­ing

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY MATEA GOLD matea.gold@wash­post.com Eva Ruth Mo­ravec in Austin and Gayle Reaves in Fort Worth con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Cen­tral and east­ern Texas braced for more dan­ger­ous flood­ing Satur­day as a del­uge of rain­fall joined forces with the rem­nants of Hur­ri­cane Pa­tri­cia, de­rail­ing a train south of Dal­las and dis­rupt­ing traf­fic and sport­ing events across the state.

At least one per­son was re­ported miss­ing in the flood­wa­ters.

The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice warned that San An­to­nio and Hous­ton should pre­pare for pos­si­ble flash flood­ing, as ad­di­tional rain was ex­pected to pelt the Rio Grande Val­ley and deep south Texas later Satur­day.

Traf­fic was be­ing di­verted Satur­day off a 10-mile stretch of In­ter­state 45 about an hour south of Dal­las, cut­ting off a main route be­tween the city and Hous­ton. Dozens of flights out of Dal­las Fort Worth In­ter­na­tional Air­port were de­layed or can­celed, ac­cord­ing to the Web site Flight Aware.

Some of the most se­ri­ous flood­ing oc­curred in Navarro County, about 55 miles south of Dal­las. Swift-wa­ter res­cue teams there helped two Union Pa­cific work­ers reach safe ground early Satur­day af­ter a freight train car­ry­ing loads of ce­ment hit a stretch of washe­d­out track north of Cor­si­cana, de­rail­ing 46 of the 64 cars.

The con­duc­tor and engi­neer man­aged to put the train in an emer­gency stop be­fore evac­u­at­ing amid rapidly ris­ing wa­ters, Union Pa­cific spokesman Jeff De­Graff said. They swam away from the lo­co­mo­tive and were able to reach higher ground with the help of res­cue work­ers, he said.

“They es­caped un­in­jured, were checked out and sent home, a lit­tle wet and a lit­tle shaken up,” De­Graff said.

As of 4 p.m. Satur­day, Pow­ell had been del­uged with 20.15 inches of rain, while Cor­si­cana had been drenched with 18.95 inches, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice.

“I have been here my en­tire life — I have never seen that quan­tity of rain in one day,” said Navarro County Sher­iff Elmer Tan­ner, who said some parts of the county saw as much as 28 inches.

Navarro County emer­gency per­son­nel per­formed 80 high­wa­ter res­cues, pluck­ing peo­ple from the tops of their cars and ex­tract­ing them from their homes, Tan­ner said. He said flood­ing was de­lay­ing his deputies’ abil­ity to re­spond.

“We had a fam­ily vi­o­lence call this morn­ing, but the road was closed on both sides of the res­i­dence,” Tan­ner said. Even­tu­ally, he said, his deputies were able to get through the high wa­ter with the help of Texas Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion dump trucks.

In San An­to­nio, a 41-year-old home­less man was miss­ing af­ter he had been swept into an un­der­ground drainage tun­nel while try­ing to keep his dog out of the ris­ing wa­ters early Satur­day.

The man and his girl­friend had been walk­ing their dog around 3 a.m. when the dog got close to the ditch. “The man went af­ter it to keep it from go­ing into the tun­nel, and the man got swept away,” San An­to­nio Fire Depart­ment spokesman Chris­tian Bove said.

The tun­nel stretches for a mile and a half be­fore emp­ty­ing into a lake. Res­cue teams searched the lake for two hours un­suc­cess­fully be­fore hav­ing to call off the search be­cause of the in­ten­si­fy­ing rain, Bove said.

In all, the San An­to­nio fire depart­ment had re­sponded to more than 40 weather-re­lated calls by mid­day Satur­day, in­clud­ing downed power lines and cars aban­doned in the flood­wa­ters.

Bob Oravec, a lead fore­caster for the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice, said much of Texas re­ceived 10 inches or more of rain over the past few days, thanks to a storm that moved across the state from the south­west.

That sys­tem is now com­bin­ing with rem­nants of Hur­ri­cane Pa­tri­cia, which will send more trop­i­cal mois­ture into the area.

“Ar­eas like Hous­ton are prob­a­bly go­ing to have a pretty big prob­lem with flood­ing,” Oravec said. “It’s just on their doorstep now. They will be re­ceiv­ing some very heavy rain­fall over the next 24 hours.”

Mary Kelle­her, who lives on a Fort Worth farm that floods fre­quently, de­cided Satur­day af­ter­noon to move her live­stock to higher ground. “The river hasn’t got­ten out yet,” Kelle her said of the Trin­ity River that runs be­side her prop­erty. “It’s just kind of right up there” near the top of its banks, she said.

In Galve­ston County, emer­gency man­age­ment of­fi­cial surged the el­derly and the ill to evac­u­ate Bo­li­var Penin­sula, a com­mu­nity of sev­eral thou­sand on the bay, send­ing buses to help trans­port them. But as of 5 p.m., none of the res­i­dents had heeded the sug­ges­tion to leave, ac­cord­ing to county spokes­woman Brit­tany Rainville.

“Most of them go back gen­er­a­tions, and a lot of them don’t leave when there’s a vol­un­tary evac­u­a­tion,” she said. Rainville warned that the worst of the storm was ex­pected to hit overnight and could raise tide lev­els by five feet, leav­ing res­i­dents trapped.

“First re­spon­ders will be un­able to get to them,” Rainville said.

In Austin, which recorded nearly 7 inches of rain, the storm de­layed the quali­fy­ing rounds at the For­mula One United States Grand Prix.

In­side a down­town Austin bar near the For­mula One shut­tle stop, Alan and Leslie Wong, both 51, were happy to be dry and wait­ing out the storm with food and drinks. The Hous­to­ni­ans knew it would be a wet week­end but “we’d al­ready bought the tick­ets, so we wanted to see as much as we could see,” Leslie Wong said.

On Fri­day, af­ter watch­ing two rounds of races, Alan Wong said his car got stuck in mud when they were try­ing to leave.

“I was knee-deep in mud, but we pushed each other out,” he said.

Em­ploy­ees and cus­tomers at Shoal Creek Saloon kept a watch­ful eye on the 32-year-old bar’s name­sake creek that flooded the es­tab­lish­ment in May. Over Me­mo­rial Day week­end, his­toric rain caused the creek to swell, ris­ing four-and-a-half feet in­side the restau­rant.

“Our owner didn’t get a lot of sleep last night,” said night man­ager Shaula Elder, point­ing out piles of sand­bags and a board­edup win­dow. “We’re kind of used to flood­ing, but last time was ex­treme, so we’re kinda gun-shy.”

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