Flooding recedes in South Texas after foot of rain

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

McALLEN, Texas -- Flooding receded Tuesday in southern Texas and main highways reopened after a deluge of as much as 13 inches of rain, as the drenching weather shifted to the northern end of the state and Oklahoma.

Torrential rain flooded an estimated 750 homes Monday in Starr County and at least 243 people evacuated, said Natividad Gonzalez of the county sheriff's department. He was not aware of any injuries.

"We still have a lot of water; we still have a lot of flooding," Gene Falcon, county emergency management coordinator, said Tuesday. "We're just hoping we don't get any more rain."

Instead, heavy rain caused flooding in parts of northern Texas and Oklahoma.

Firefighters used boats Tuesday morning to rescue some people from homes and vehicles in El Reno, Okla., just west of Oklahoma City, said Canadian County Emergency Management director Jerry Smith.

The El Reno area had measured 4.8 inches of rain in three days, and 9.65 inches had fallen in southwest Oklahoma's Jefferson County, officials said. High water blocked more than a dozen Oklahoma roads, but no large-scale evacuations had been ordered.

"We could have used a little, but we didn't need a gullywasher," Smith said.

The National Weather Service forecast more rain across Oklahoma during the night, and it issued flood warnings for several counties.

Authorities near Wichita Falls, Texas, used boats and military vehicles to rescue about 150 people from homes or stranded vehicles, said Wichita County's emergency management coordinator, Lee Bourgoin. No injuries were reported, but officials warned residents of low-lying areas to be prepared for possible evacuation.

"The ground is so hard here because we're in a drought, and when the rain came down so fast it just flooded," Bourgoin said.

In the Dallas suburb of Garland, a buildup of rainwater was blamed for the collapse of the roof on a strip mall early Tuesday. Eight businesses were damaged, but no injuries were reported.

Monday evening in southern Texas, water was as deep as 3 or 4 feet in neighborhoods east of Roma and north of U.S. 83, the Rio Grande Valley's main artery. Water from Arroyo Quiote rose as much as a foot and a half above the highway's guardrails.

The heavy rain in the Rio Grande Valley fell on ground still saturated from Hurricane Dolly, which came ashore in late July.

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