Record rainfall slammed parts of the Midwest on Sunday, spurring violent flash floods and tornadoes that forced at least 2,000 people to flee.
In Oklahoma, a firefighter drowned while carrying out a rescue operation in high water, KOTV in Tulsa reported. Another man drowned on Sunday in San Marcos, Texas, and three are missing, according to city officials. Tornadoes touched down briefly in Houston and in Irving, Texas, on Sunday. In Houston, tornadoes damaged an apartment complex where two people were hurt, according to AP.
Nearly 1,000 people were evacuated north of Houston, as authorities cautioned that heavy rains may cause a dam to fail. Dozens of high-water rescues occurred in the area as the Blanco River and other swollen waterways breached their banks on Saturday night.
More than 350 homes were washed away by flash floods in Wimberley, Texas, AP reported.
“We do have whole streets with maybe one or two houses left on them and the rest are just slabs,” said Kharley Smith, Hays County emergency management coordinator.
Authorities in Oklahoma and Texas say they have been conducting numerous rescues of residents from flooding areas. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation reported about 35 highway closures across the state due to flooding, which also caused damage to a gas station and a mall in Oklahoma City.
So far this year, Oklahoma has recorded 27.37 inches of rain compared with just 4.29 inches of rain this time last year.
In Purcell, Okla., south of Oklahoma City, heavy rains late Saturday and early Sunday caused Walnut Creek to overflow, The Oklahoman reported, resulting in 28 home evacuations, according to the director of the McClain County Emergency Management office.
In nearby Cleveland County, the sheriff’s office warned residents near the Little River to be ready to evacuate Sunday. Officials began releasing water from a nearby lake because it was full, The Oklahoman reported.
Evacuation orders were issued in Elk City, Okla., and Wichita Falls, Texas. Much of North Texas and Oklahoma are under a flash flood warning.
In Texas, five San Marcos police cars were washed away and a fire station was flooded, city spokeswoman Kristi Wyatt said. The city of San Marcos, Hays County and Wimberley imposed a curfew starting at 9 p.m., according to a statement from the Hays County Sheriff’s Office. An estimated1,000 homes were damaged, Wyatt said.
Forecasts in the area called for the rain to continue Sunday and be heavy at times Monday, with continued threats of flash flooding, the Associated Press reported.
The storm system was pushing northeast Sunday after moving across parts of Colorado, central and North Texas and most of Oklahoma. New flash-flood watches were issued Sunday for western Arkansas, Missouri and parts of Kansas.
In Colorado, a mandatory evacuation notice was issued Sunday for residents in the northeastern city of Sterling, and officials in El Paso and Pueblo counties said they intended to ask Gov. John Hickenlooper for a disaster declaration.
The National Weather Service also issued flood warnings Sunday for central Missouri, where minor flooding is expected early this week. The Kansas City area was expected to get another inch of rain Sunday after getting hit by heavy storms last weekend. The weather service says streams and rivers in outlying areas could spill their banks.
A flash-flood watch was also issued Sunday for sections of Kansas, including in the Wichita area, where another round of thunderstorms was expected on already saturated ground and could lead to minor flooding along area rivers.
SOURCE: USA Today – Jane Onyanga-Omara
Contributing: Jared Silverman, KENS 5; the Associated Press; WFAA-TV