Tropical storm remnants flood TX

Killer winds and rain cause havoc in Texas as Tropical Storm Hermine swept ashore

BY JOHN PAPE | DALLAS, TX | September 9, 2010

"We will respond as needed."

—Rev. Tom Hazelwood, UMCOR

At least two people were killed in Texas, and more than 100 had to be rescued Wednesday as remnants of Tropical Storm Hermine dropped as much as 15 inches of rain on the Dallas-Fort Worth area causing extensive flooding.

The weather system also spawned at least eight tornadoes, one of which severely damaged industrial structures in west Dallas. In the 400 block of Mockingbird Lane, virtually every building suffered damage as a result of the tornado.

Several homes were also damaged in the suburban community of Heath, but it was unclear whether the damage was the result of a tornado or straight-line winds.

A number of faith-based relief organizations had volunteers on stand-by if help is needed.

The Rev. Tom Hazelwood, assistant general secretary for The United Methodist Committee on Relief said his organization was in contact with church conferences in Texas to see what kind of assistance might be needed.

“It is too early at this point to know the extent to which response will be needed for the flooding in Texas. UMCOR is in touch with the North Texas, Central Texas and South Texas Annual Conferences and they are assessing the situation,” Hazelwood said. “We will respond as needed.”

Bill Adams, director of disaster response services for the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee said a project management team will be going to Texas next week to set up a needs assessment for long-term recovery organizations dealing with flooding caused earlier this summer by Hurricane Alex. The team will also check on any help needed as a result of the flooding from the remnants of Hermine.

“As of yet, we have not had requests for help (with Hermine),” Adams said.

Flash flooding led to dozens of swift-water rescues from San Antonio through Austin and into the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

The two known fatalities both occurred when vehicles were swept off the roadway by rising floodwaters.

A 19-year-old woman died when she tried to cross rain-swollen Reeses Creek Road in Killeen, located between Austin and Dallas. According to Killeen Police, Rashima Shaquel Copeland’s vehicle was washed off the road around 11 p.m. Tuesday night.

A witness called 911 after seeing the Mitsubishi Eclipse swept away, but the Killeen Fire Department’s Swift Water Rescue Team was unable to reach the vehicle until floodwaters receded. Rescuers were finally able to reach the swamped car shortly before 8 a.m. Wednesday morning and found Copeland’s body inside.

A 49-year-old man also drowned Wednesday near the community of Alvarado, about 35 miles south of Dallas, when his pickup truck was washed into swollen Mountain Creek. Alvarado Fire Chief Richard Van Winkle said unsuccessful attempts to rescue the man were heart-wrenching.

“We heard him hollering for help, but we couldn’t see him. The water was so swift and so deep, we couldn’t get to him,” Van Winkle said. “It hit us pretty hard to be that close and hear him calling for help but not be able to do anything until the waters receded.”

The man’s body was recovered later in the day about 200 yards downstream from where his truck was swept off the road. His name has not yet been released by authorities.

Van Winkle estimated the water was 6 7 feet over the road at the time.

During the height of the flooding Wednesday, firefighters in the Dallas suburb of Arlington used ladder trucks to rescue 30 people and several pets from rising floodwaters at the Willows at Shady Valley apartment complex. Water eventually rose to as high as 8 feet in some apartments.

In west Arlington, firefighters used Jet Skis to rescue a dozen people in the Woodland Park Estates subdivision. Arlington City Council Member Kathryn Wilemon called the flooding “devastating.”

“It’s just incredible. This is the most water I’ve ever seen,” Wilemon said after surveying the flooded neighborhood.

The American Red Cross set up shelters for flood victims in Grand Prairie, Arlington and Dallas. No immediate figures were available on the number of evacuees being sheltered.

In the Dallas suburb or Southlake, two bridges were closed after being damaged by floodwaters. One bridge, in the 3400 block of North White Chapel Boulevard, had large chunks of its asphalt surface torn away leaving cracks as large as 2 feet wide. The second bridge, at the city limits separating Southlake from neighboring Colleyville, will be closed until a structural engineering assessment can be made.

The Trinity River in Dallas was expected to crest Thursday afternoon at 43 feet. While that is more than 12 feet above flood stage, it is not expected to cause additional damage. Floodwaters would have to reach a record-level 62 feet to overflow levees protecting downtown Dallas, according to the city’s engineering department.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area was not the only major city swamped by Hermine’s rains. In San Antonio, rainfall measured at the San Antonio International Airport set a daily record Wednesday.

According to National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Lentz, 2.83 inches were recorded at the airport between midnight Tuesday through 6 a.m. Wednesday. That broke the previous daily rainfall record of 2.51 inches set in 1978.

As floodwaters rose quickly in the Alamo City, firefighters responded to 49 rescue calls and more than two dozen roads had to be closed due to flooding.

In surrounding Bexar County, firefighters conducted three high-water rescues on Wednesday, according to county spokeswoman Laura Jesse.

In the small community of LaCoste, south of San Antonio, city hall had to be closed after Polecat Creek overflowed its banks, sending several inches of water into the municipal building.

One man remained missing Thursday after his vehicle was swept off the road by rising floodwaters in Cibolo Creek, just north of San Antonio. Officials were continuing their search for the missing man.

After moving out of the Dallas area, the storm system dropped heavy rains and spawned several tornadoes in Oklahoma, but did not cause the massive flooding seen in Texas.

A flash flood warning was issued for more than a dozen Oklahoma counties and more than 2 inches of rain fell on Tulsa by midday Thursday. According to the National Weather Service, Tulsa received 1.4 inches of rain on Wednesday and 0.53 inches as of 10 a.m. Thursday, but no flooding or evacuations were reported.

As the front edge of the storm moved into Oklahoma, a tornado toppled power lines, damaged several homes and blew over an 18-wheeler near the community of Colbert. The driver of the big rig was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol closed the highway temporarily so crews could clear downed electrical lines.

The tornado all but destroyed one home, leaving only the kitchen recognizable amidst the rubble. Resident James Stubblefield said the twister struck so quickly he had no time to take shelter.

"Before I could get out the back door, the whole thing was just blown to pieces," Stubblefield said.

On Thursday, Texas Governor Rick Perry, issued a disaster declaration for 40 counties which were affected by Tropical Storm Hermine.

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