A 64-year-old woman and her four young great-grandchildren drowned early Saturday after a creek overflowed its banks, flooding an East Texas neighborhood as many residents slept, police said.
Lenda Asberry and her great-grandkids, 6-year-old Jamonicka Johnson; 7-year-old Von Anthony Johnson Jr.; 8-year-old Devonte Asberry and 9-year-old Venetia Asberry died while attempting to flee the rising waters in Palestine, police said.
A neighbor who had climbed to her rooftop to await rescue spotted one of the bodies.
"I thought it was a mailbox, but then I realized what it really was, and I started screaming," Merta White told a local newspaper, according to The Associated Press.
More than 7 inches of rain was reported in less than an hour at the city of Palestine's water treatment plant.
Capt. James Muniz of the Palestine Police Department told The Associated Press that six to 10 homes in a Palestine cul-de-sac were severely damaged following heavy rainfall over the course of just a few minutes after midnight. All other residents of the cul-de-sac were accounted for, he said.
City crews found the bodies of Asberry and the children before dawn after the floodwaters had receded.
"The water came down the hill," Muniz said. "The street was full of mud, so the water just came up. With the enormous amount of rain we had, we had people tell us that within minutes, the water was waist deep."
Neighbors say family killed made it out of their house but couldn't get off the street. Here's a look at road today. pic.twitter.com/bGa36FePHt— Caroline Connolly (@ConnollyNews) April 30, 2016
The Palestine Police Department said in a press release Saturday that police officers began searching for Asberry and the children after 911 calls from neighbors reported them missing.
"During the search, officers were notified by a resident that he had discovered what appeared to be the bodies of two children in the front yard of a residence near the street," the press release said. "A continued search revealed the bodies of an adult female and two additional children who appeared to have been swept away into an area behind the houses by fast moving floodwaters."
City officials used a dump truck to rescue one man from the roof of a home, Muniz said.
One neighbor told authorities that he saw the family but lost sight of them as he waded through waist-deep water.
The Red Cross has set up a makeshift shelter in Palestine, which is about 100 miles southeast of Dallas and home to about 18,000 residents. Between 20 and 30 people were displaced by the floods, according to Red Cross spokeswoman Anita Foster.
One person remained missing in rural Anderson County, city of Palestine spokesman Nate Smith said in a release.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.