Emergency officials in Hays County, Texas, in corridor between Austin and San Antonio, confirmed on Monday morning that they are looking for 12 people who went missing in the flooding along the Rio Blanco over the weekend.
One person is known to have died in the flooding, during which the river rose as much as 40 feet in places. Another couple of inches of rain were expected on Monday, and tornado warnings have been issued for much of Texas and Oklahoma.
Early in the afternoon, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott toured the damage zone, having declared a state of emergency in 24 Texas counties.
"I had the opportunity to fly over the Blanco River to see the devastation," Abbott said at an afternoon press conference. "You can't candy-coat it, it's absolutely massive."
It is expected that the number of missing will rise in the coming days. According to Hays County officials, there are three dozen or so people in the area whose whereabouts are unknown but who have yet to be confirmed as missing, the Austin Statesman reported.
The dozen people disappeared from the tourist destination town of Wimberley in Hill Country. The other municipality that appears to have taken the brunt of the damage is San Marcos, on the Eastern side of Interstate 35.
Officials have chosen not to reveal the identity of the one fatality.
San Marcos emergency management coordinator Ken Bell told the Statesman Monday afternoon that crews continue to find people stranded in the flood zone. “We still have people who are on little islands,” Bell told the paper.
According to Hays County official Kharley Smith, the twelve people who are confirmed as missing are visitors to Wimberley from the same group of families who were visiting together. They had come to celebrate the Memorial Day holiday.
Smith also indicated that around 70 homes in the county—most of them in Wimberley – had been washed off their foundations, along with between 1,200 and 1,300 more having sustained some damage.
At a Monday morning press conference, the Statesman reported, Bell said the county’s reverse-911 early warning system, which calls telephone numbers in the region and delivers a prerecorded warning, had saved people’s lives.
“A lot of things didn’t happen because of the system,” he told reporters. But he pointed out that the system needed improvement. “We still have building without telephones,” he observed.
Helicopter search flights for much of Monday were impossible because of the threatening weather, but Bell said that thermal imagers were being used to assist in the search for survivors.
Officials were also contemplating using drones in the search.
Given the continuing danger posed by the weather, the governor urged people to be cautious and heed evacuation warnings.
"Don't risk your lives by not evacuating," Abbott said at the press conference. "As we saw in Hays County, the water can rise very, very rapidly" and it can pack "tsunami-type power."
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