The Latest on Texas storms: Body found; death toll at 6

1 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

5 dead after storms, tornadoes lash Texas.

HOUSTON – Another band of strong storms and heavy rain spawned three tornadoes and dangerous flooding in east Texas on Saturday, with the death toll rising to five after Houston police found two bodies.

The storms and suspected tornadoes, which forecasters say were caused by an upper-level disturbance from Mexico, socked an already-sodden swath of Texas that was still drying out from the remnants of Hurricane Patricia. The Houston Fire Department said it had responded to more than 130 water rescues by midmorning Saturday, and some public light-rail and bus transportation was suspended. More than 16 inches of rain soaked one neighborhood and Austin Bergstrom International Airport suspended all flights after a half-foot of water flooded the air traffic control tower. Houston officials also said they had received 44 reports of structural flooding, including homes and businesses, and the city’s fire department helped remove residents from flooded homes near a bayou in the northeastern part of the city. Houston police discovered the two bodies that are believed to be weather-related deaths, one in a flooded ditch and another in a wooded area where there had been high water, according to city spokesman Michael Walter.

A lazy creek cutting through Texas wine country swelled into a rushing torrent, sending eight members of a vacationing church group scrambling to a second floor before they were rescued by the National Guard. As the storms moved east Saturday, National Weather Service meteorologist Patrick Blood said a tornado went through Brazoria County near Alvin about 5 a.m., injuring at least two people and damaging about 25 mobile homes in the community that’s 30 miles south of Houston. Abandoned cars, many submerged in water, littered back roads that weary drivers risked after heavy downpours flooded Interstate 35 between San Antonio and Austin, closing one of the busiest stretch of roadways in the U.S. Homeowner David McCullough, 70, said he and his wife were at their ranch when the storm hit and got the call from a neighbor. “I feel like it’s a blessing that we weren’t here,” he said as friends and family members helped them try to salvage personal items, pictures and documents from their home of 32 years. “It’s just stuff and it can be replaced.

The Austin Fire Department, amid a busy day of 478 calls by 4 p.m., reported 14 water rescues and 44 “flood assists.” Police closed more than 300 low water crossings in the Austin area at various times Friday. What is normally a dry creek just south of Barton Springs Road became a lake that stretched to the grounds of the Long Center for the Performing Arts, partially submerging cars parked in the area. The third death was confirmed Saturday morning, when officials found the body of a man whose vehicle was swept away Friday southeast of Austin, Travis County Emergency Services spokeswoman Lisa Block.

Similar conditions in May caused devastating flooding on the Blanco River that swept homes from foundations and killed families who were carried downstream. Hundreds of high-water crossings were closed Saturday in Hays County, and some residents in southeast Travis County, near Austin, were asked to move to higher ground because of residual flooding. Ruth Veliz, whose parents own a taco shop in town, said one of her employees yelled “Tornado!” and tried to keep the winds from blowing inside before a customer pulled her to safety.

The flooded portion of Interstate 35 was reopened later Friday, but not before southbound drivers turned against traffic and tried driving north along the shoulder. Winds peeled off roofs elsewhere and collapsed a historic 19th-century building in the small town of D’Hanis, one of three cities where suspected tornadoes touched down.

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