Sunday 4 December 2016

Five dead as storms and tornadoes lash Texas

Published 31/10/2015 | 21:51

Twisted siding and other debris lies on the ground after a suspected tornado hit Floresville, Texas (AP)
Twisted siding and other debris lies on the ground after a suspected tornado hit Floresville, Texas (AP)

Another band of strong storms and heavy rain spawned three tornadoes and dangerous flooding in east Texas on Saturday, with the death toll rising to five after Houston police found two more bodies.

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It was the second day of turbulent weather in the state, where at least three people died in floods in central Texas on Friday. Another person is still missing in the Austin area.

The storms and suspected tornadoes, which forecasters say were caused by an upper-level disturbance from Mexico, hit an already-sodden swathe of Texas that was still drying out from the remnants of Hurricane Patricia.

In the Houston area, up to 8in (20cm) of rain fell since Friday night, though it had mostly stopped by early Saturday afternoon. The water, however, flooded streets and freeway frontage roads and caused bayous to spill over their banks.

The Houston Fire Department said it had responded to more than 130 water rescues by mid-morning on Saturday, and some public light-rail and bus transportation was suspended.

Houston officials also said they had received 44 reports of structural flooding, including homes and businesses, and the city's fire department helped remove residents from flooded homes near a bayou in the north-eastern part of the city.

Houston police discovered the two bodies that are believed to be weather-related deaths, one in a flooded ditch and another in a wooded area where there had been high water, according to city spokesman Michael Walter.

As the storms moved east on Saturday, National Weather Service meteorologist Patrick Blood said a tornado went through Brazoria County near Alvin at about 5am, damaging about 25 mobile homes in the community which is 30 miles (48km) south of Houston. County spokeswoman Sharon Trower said two people in a mobile home suffered minor injuries, as well as three others in a house in a community nearby.

Thirty minutes later, a tornado hit the Houston suburb of Friendswood, where about 30 homes suffered minor damage and the roof of one home was ripped off.

Between 10 and 30 homes were damaged by a tornado in a subdivision in eastern Harris County at about 7am on Saturday, Mr Blood said.

Austin, San Antonio and surrounding areas were first hit on Friday. Three people died when they were swept away by floodwater; a woman is still missing after the water reached her home in the Austin area.

The third death was confirmed on Saturday morning, when officials found the body of a man whose vehicle was swept away south-east of Austin on Friday, said Travis County Emergency Services spokeswoman Lisa Block. Other passengers in the vehicle were able to escape, but the man did not.

More than 16in (40cm) of rain soaked one neighbourhood on Friday and Austin Bergstrom International Airport suspended all flights after 6in (15cm) of water flooded the air traffic control tower; 40 flights were cancelled there on Saturday.

Meanwhile, a lazy creek cutting through Texas wine country, a popular getaway spot, swelled into a rushing torrent, sending eight members of a church group scrambling to a second floor before they were rescued by the National Guard.

Similar conditions in May caused devastating flooding on the Blanco River that swept homes from foundations and killed families who were carried downstream. This time, the river swelled to about 26ft (7.9 m in Wimberley, nearly twice the flood stage.

More than 70 people spent Friday night at shelters because of the flooding in central Texas. Hundreds of high-water crossings were closed in Hays County on Saturday, and some residents in south-east Travis County, near Austin, were asked to move to higher ground because of residual flooding.

Press Association

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