Floods deepen in Houston after rain

Published: Wednesday 27th May 2015 by The News Editor

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Floodwaters have deepened across much of Texas as storms dumped almost another 12in of rain on the Houston area, stranding hundreds of motorists and inundating the highways of the fourth-largest US city.

Meanwhile, the search went on for at least 13 people who were still missing, including a group that disappeared after a vacation home was swept down river and slammed into a bridge.

Several more fatalities were reported – four in Houston and one in central Texas – raising to 14 the number of people killed by the holiday weekend storms in Texas and Oklahoma.

The water rose sharply overnight as more rain fell, much of it in a six-hour period, but by the evening, most rivers had receded back within their banks.

The floodwaters affected virtually every part of the city and paralysed some areas. Firefighters carried out more than 500 water rescues, most involving stranded motorists. At least 2,500 vehicles were abandoned by drivers seeking higher ground, officials said.

“Given the magnitude and how quickly it happened, in such a short period of time, I’ve never seen this before,” said Rick Flanagan, Houston’s emergency management co-ordinator.

The drenching weather threatened to linger. The National Weather Service forecast a 20% to 40% chance of thunderstorms through the rest of the week in Houston.

The flooding closed several highways, and the ones that stayed open became a gridlocked mess.

Interstate 45 near the city centre was backed up for miles, and a handful of motorists travelled the wrong way on the highway to retreat from high water.

Some motorists were stuck on I-45 all night, sleeping in their cars until the backup was cleared.

Basketball fans at the Toyota Centre, where the Houston Rockets hosted a Western Conference finals game against Golden State on Monday, were asked with about two minutes left in the game not to leave the arena because of the severe weather.

The game ended before 11pm, but about 400 people were still in their seats at 1.30am, choosing to stay in the building rather than brave the flooded roads outside.

A spokeswoman for the flooded district of Harris County, which includes Houston, said up to 700 homes sustained some level of damage.

Crews were also searching for victims and assessing damage just across the Mexico border in Ciudad Acuna, where a tornado killed 13 people on Monday.

Some of the worst flooding in Texas was in Wimberley, a popular tourist town along the River Blanco in the corridor between Austin and San Antonio.

The “search component” of the mission ended on Monday night, meaning no more survivors were expected to be found, said Trey Hatt, a spokesman for Hays County Emergency Operations Centre.

The Blanco crested above 40ft – more than triple its flood stage of 13ft. Rescuers used pontoon boats and a helicopter to pull people out.

Hundreds of trees along the Blanco were uprooted or snapped, and they collected in piles of debris up to 20ft high.

In Ciudad Acuna, mayor Evaristo Perez Rivera said 300 people were treated at local hospitals after the twister, and up to 200 homes had been destroyed in the city of 125,000 across from Del Rio, Texas.

Published: Wednesday 27th May 2015 by The News Editor

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