Friday, 3 June 2016

Texas floods continue

"Forecasters predict another 3 to 8 inches of rain in coming days, 10 inches in some places."
5 dead, 4 missing after Army truck swept away in Texas flood

2 June, 2016

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) -- Five soldiers were killed and four were missing after an Army troop carrier was washed from a low-water crossing and overturned Thursday in a rain-swollen creek at Fort Hood, the Texas Army post said.

Three soldiers were found dead shortly after the 2½-ton truck was toppled by the swift current of Owl Creek during a morning training exercise. Two more bodies were found late Thursday night, according to a Fort Hood statement. Three soldiers were rescued and were hospitalized in stable condition.

No further details were provided in the statement, but spokesman Chris Haug said the search continued for the four soldiers who remain missing. Army officials planned a briefing early Friday to provide an update.

Aerial and ground crews searched the 20-mile creek that winds through heavily wooded terrain on the northern fringe of the sprawling Army base. Army aircraft, canine search teams, swift-water rescue watercraft and heavy trucks were being used.

The Army did not release the names of the dead because it was still notifying relatives.

Parts of Texas have been inundated with rain in the last week — at least six deaths have been blamed on flooding — and more than half of the state is under flood watches or warnings, including the counties near Fort Hood.

Fort Hood spokesman John Miller said the crossing was flooded by two days of intermittent heavy rains when the swift water swept the truck, called a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle, from the road. The vehicle resembles a flatbed truck with a walled bed and is used to carry troops.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statement saying the state "stands ready to provide any assistance to Fort Hood as they deal with this tragedy."

Across the state, many were watching a new batch of storms that could dump up to 10 inches of rain from Thursday through Saturday and worsen flooding caused by rivers and other waterways that already have risen to record levels.

The heaviest rainfall Thursday night was reported in LaPorte, on the western shore of Galveston Bay, where 4.36 inches was recorded between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Earlier, a storm system that moved through the Houston area Wednesday night and Thursday morning dumped nearly 8 inches of rain in some of the city's northern suburbs, causing flooding in some neighborhoods. In Fort Bend County, southwest of Houston, about 1,400 homes have been affected by the Brazos River, swollen by heavy rainfall from last week.

The river reached 54.8 feet in Fort Bend County — 4 feet higher than the record set in 1994 — with water spilling into neighborhoods that hadn't previously flooded. Officials say levels in the Brazos have not dropped much and additional rainfall could make the flooding worse.

"With the rain that's predicted, that's not going to help things as that water has no place to go," said Lt. Lowell Neinast, with the police department in Richmond, where more than 700 people have been evacuated.

Fort Bend County emergency management coordinator Jeff Braun said officials have worked to warn and prepare residents ahead of the additional rainfall.

More than 50 people are staying at shelters in Fort Bend County, one of the 31 included in a disaster declaration by Abbott. Braun said it could be at least a week before the flooding recedes and residents can go home.

This week's storms are the latest in a string of torrential rains since May 2015 that have put swaths of the state underwater. Some areas now overwhelmed by water had run dry two years ago due to drought conditions.

Other areas of Texas dealing with heavy rainfall include Bexar County, where San Antonio is located. Parts of that county got more than 4 inches of rain Wednesday and Thursday, causing more than 20 streets and roadways — including parts of Interstate 35 — in San Antonio to be temporarily shut down.

The rising Colorado River was expected to cause minor flooding in the coming days around Bastrop and La Grange, cities located southeast of Austin, according to the National Weather Service.

Will lethal Texas flooding stop? Not anytime soon

2 June, 2016

Scores of residents in this Houston suburb were evacuating as another round of storms descended on southeast Texas, driving floodwaters into roads and homes -- some for the third time in two months.

Among those forced to flee when his home flooded was barber Irvineo Reyes, 83.

We never expected this,” Reyes said as he pointed out his house amid a lake of brown water Thursday, one of about 70 homes destroyed in the Edgewood neighborhood.

He’s been married almost 60 years, built the three-bedroom house himself, but couldn’t get flood insurance in recent years. Now he and his wife are staying with their daughter across town.

All our stuff is gone except his shop,” said his wife, Mary Reyes, 77, wearing a purple T-shirt that said, “This girl loves Jesus & America.”

The death toll from this spring’s unprecedented flooding in Texas reached 15 last month, the wettest in state history with up to 20 inches falling in some places. Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster in 31 flooded counties, including Richmond’s Fort Bend County.

Our state continues to face waves of severe weather and potential flooding," Abbott said in a statement.

Fort Bend County received a federal disaster declaration after April’s “tax day” floods. It flooded again on Memorial Day weekend.

On Thursday, at least 450 structures were underwater, officials had made 500 high-water rescues and were coping with blocked highways and stranded livestock, according to Jeff Braun, emergency management coordinator.

The local Brazos River was 4 feet higher than the record set in 1994. Richmond and other riverfront communities have issued mandatory evacuations, with residents turning to several shelters including First Baptist Church, which housed 50 people.

Rufus Lopez Jr., 75, evacuated to the shelter Thursday with his daughter and son-in-law after their house became surrounded by floodwater.

It rose so suddenly, we couldn’t even get out through the driveway,” Lopez said. They had to cross a back fence and pass through a neighbor’s yard to avoid the rising water.

I heard this morning it was up to the doorstep,” said Lopez, a disabled Army veteran who uses a wheelchair.

Forecasters predict another 3 to 8 inches of rain in coming days, 10 inches in some places.

If we get that, it is going to be a disaster on top of a disaster,” Braun said. “The water doesn’t have any place to go. The rivers are full, the flood detention is full. The water is just going to flow into places it hasn’t gone before.”

Rain was already falling in Houston on Thursday.

We’ve got a low-pressure system and it’s basically been sucking moisture into the region,” said Kent Prochazka, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in League City, Texas.

He predicted possible hail, winds of 30 mph to 40 mph and intense rains, up to 3 inches an hour.

With the soil as saturated as it is, that all instantly turns into runoff. The creeks rise, the bayous rise and any additional rainfall we get is just aggravating any flooding we have,” he said.

Braun said even if Thursday’s storms proved mild, it would take weeks for the area to rebound.

The water’s not going away anytime soon,” he said. “We have a long recovery.”

In central Texas, five soldiers died, three were rescued and four were missing at Ft. Hood after their tactical vehicle overturned in a low-water crossing at Owl Creek, officials said. Those rescued were taken to a hospital and in stable condition late Thursday, according to a statement.

The rising Colorado River was expected to cause flooding southeast of Austin, according to the National Weather Service.

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