Published September 08, 2010
The remnants of Tropical Storm Hermine caused widespread flooding in northern Texas and began buffeting southern Oklahoma on Wednesday, killing at least two people and submerging low-lying pockets of Arlington under several feet of water.
Firefighters used trucks and ladders to reach residents of one Arlington apartment complex who were stranded on the upper floors of their homes by murky water that suddenly surrounded them. The sudden deluge, which surprised many residents because of the relatively weak punch the storm packed when it made landfall Monday night, sent at least one vehicle floating across the complex's parking lot.
In a neighborhood nearby, firefighters were asking homeowners if anyone had been swept away by the creek's fast-moving waters, which turned an open field of wild grass and flower into a temporary lake. The waters carried away trampolines and storage sheds, knocked down fences and retaining walls and uprooted trees, which could be heard cracking in the nearby woods.
The creek appeared to be about 15 feet above its normal levels, nearly overtaking a four-lane bridge and flooding a park. A paved walking path through the park ended abruptly in the water.
Coffee-colored floodwaters rushed past roller coaster tracks at a Six Flags amusement park. Bewildered residents surprised by the extent of the flooding waded through waist-deep water in the streets.
By mid-afternoon in Arlington, the rain had ceased, the waters had receded and the sun was shining. But the storm was just reaching southern Oklahoma, where strong winds toppled several outbuildings and forced the closure of a highway.
Authorities said the flooding killed at least two people, and they were searching for a woman in Austin whose vehicle was swept away by a raging creek.
A 49-year-old man drowned after being swept away from his pickup truck by a flooded creek between the cities of Alvarado and Lillian, about 20 miles south of Arlington, Johnson County Sheriff's Department Capt. Mike Gilbert said. The man's body was found about 200 yards from his truck.
The National Weather Service said at least one person died in a vehicle submerged by water from a swollen creek in Killeen, north of Austin.
Authorities in Texas were searching for an unknown number of possible victims, said Williamson County sheriff's Sgt. John Foster.
Foster had no reports of deaths or injuries in his county but he said authorities "were kind of preparing for the worst." Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens were assisting in the search. The wardens reported rescues of nine people in Belton and four in Williamson County. Officials also said a state helicopter had been deployed to search for missing people near Lake Granger, north of Austin.
Authorities in Austin were searching for a woman whose black Lexus SUV was swept off the road by swollen Bull Creek. Fire Department Battalion Chief Thayer Smith said emergency responders there had performed at least 11 swift water rescues since late Tuesday afternoon.
Two mobile homes and a house were swept away north of Austin, and dozens of people sought emergency shelter after state and local authorities performed numerous high-water rescues from Austin to Dallas.
Remnants of the storm, which was downgraded to a tropical depression Tuesday night, made their way into southern Oklahoma Wednesday afternoon, downing electrical power lines and overturning several outbuildings, authorities there said.
The National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings for many parts of Oklahoma, and the entire state was under a flash flood watch.
Police in Durant, 120 miles south of Oklahoma City, said strong winds helped topple a tractor-trailer along a highway near Colbert. The driver was transported to a hospital with injuries, and the highway was closed Wednesday afternoon after the winds, which may have been a tornado, moved through.
A Durant dispatcher said two homes were damaged, and the Bryan County Emergency Management Department said some outbuildings had been blown over.
Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Michelann Ooten said power lines were knocked down near Colbert. Oklahoma Gas and Electric reported about 1,043 outages in Colbert.
The weather service said the leading edge of Hermine's remnants had moved into Love, Carter and Marshall counties.
Remnants of Hermine dumped several inches of rain across central and north Texas overnight, snarling the morning commute in the Dallas area. Flood warnings were posted throughout both regions.
By Wednesday afternoon, city officials in Dallas said they were exhaling in relief because the city escaped the storm without having to conduct major rescues. The city did shut down one major thoroughfare due to flooding.
Kenny Shaw, the emergency management coordinator in Dallas, said overnight flooding was possible from the Trinity River, which runs west of downtown and could become swollen with rain from upstream storms as Hermine moved north. Park and recreation centers are ready for use as shelters, with buses available if evacuations become necessary.
"The river is not anywhere near as bad as when it gets flowing real hard," Shaw said. "We will be on the ready side of things, but I don't think it will be as bad as they predicted."
Students at Bear Creek Intermediate School in Keller, located just north of Fort Worth, were evacuated Wednesday morning to a church because of rising floodwaters along Bear Creek. The district's website said that all of the students were safely transported to the church and will have a regular school day there.
The storm brought winds gusting to about 70 mph and downpours to Texas but left only minor scrapes in the storm-weary Rio Grande Valley, which is proving resilient this hurricane season after taking a third tropical system on the chin.
The storm struck the flood-prone valley just after the cleanup finished from Hurricane Alex at the start of the summer and an unnamed tropical depression in July. Only last week had Hidalgo County on the U.S.-Mexico border stowed its last water pump.
But Hermine's remnants were expected to cover more of the U.S. than Alex, which swiped Texas in June as a Category 1 storm before plunging southwest and breaking up over Mexico.
"This is going to be much more of a memorable storm than Alex," National Weather Service meteorologist Joseph Tomaselli said.
The Coast Guard said it received multiple reports of vessels in distress late Monday and early Tuesday. Coast Guard crews and other officials had to rescue 17 crew members and a dog from three other fishing vessels that got stuck near the South Padre Island beach in South Texas. All were treated for minor injuries, the Coast Guard said Tuesday.
Mexico felt the storm effects much more acutely than Texas on Tuesday as Hermine knocked out power for several hours in the border city of Matamoros and damaged about 20 homes, whose inhabitants were among 3,500 people who evacuated to shelters.