The remnants of Tropical Storm Hermine trekked northward after forcing more than 100 high-water rescues in Texas, swamping streets, producing several tornadoes and killing at least two people.
As the front edge of the storm moved into Oklahoma on Wednesday, a tornado toppled power lines, damaged a couple of homes and blew over a tractor-trailer rig on U.S. 69 near Colbert, sending the driver to the hospital, Durant police said. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol closed the highway so crews could clear downed electrical lines.
The National Weather Services said two other tornadoes were reported in the area.
A tornado that tore through Colbert, near the Texas border and some 75 miles north of Dallas, all but destroyed the home of James Stubblefield, who spoke to KTEN TV from the remnants of his kitchen – the only room that remained standing.
“I heard the noise, and before I could get to the back door, the whole thing was just blown to pieces,” Stubblefield said.
Flash flood warnings remained in effect until 9:30 a.m. Thursday in northwestern Arkansas and flood-weary Oklahoma, where three children were killed in high waters in one week in July and dozens of people had to be rescued after a June 14 deluge in Oklahoma City. The storm also had started moving into Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas on Wednesday night, and flood watches were in effect for parts of those states until Thursday night.
Meteorologist Karen Hatfield with the National Weather Service in Tulsa said there was widespread flooding in eastern Oklahoma, where some areas experienced more than 10 inches of rain.
“Quite a bit of rain has fallen along the Interstate 44 corridor,” Hatfield said, adding that several roads were closed because of flooding.
She said no injuries have been reported and that she expected Hermine (hur-MEEN’) to move out of the state by late morning.
Hermine packed a relatively light punch when it made landfall Monday night, and many Texas residents said they felt unprepared for Wednesday’s sudden flooding.
In Arlington, a suburb 22 miles west of Dallas, 67-year-old retiree George Lowe said he and his wife, Laura, were surprised by how quickly and badly their neighborhood flooded. Water reached up to 5 feet high in some homes – many just a single story – laying waste to belongings. Quilts and artwork hung dripping and ruined on walls, and couches and furniture lay overturned on sodden, muddy floors.
“Did you ever see a refrigerator floating around your kitchen before?” Lowe asked.
Later in the day, a series of tornadoes touched down outside of downtown Dallas, damaging warehouses in an area near Dallas Love Field. One twister slammed a tractor-trailer rig into a brick paint warehouse, causing the building to topple onto the cab and leaving the driver with minor injuries.
Flash flooding further south killed at least two motorists.
Near Alvarado, 20 miles south of Arlington, fifteen rescuers tried to save a 49-year-old man who apparently drove his pickup truck into a low-water crossing. One rescuer got to within 50 feet of the man but couldn’t proceed further because it was too dangerous, Alvarado fire Chief Richard Van Winkle said. The man’s body was found hours later after the waters receded.
“This will weigh on us for a long time,” Van Winkle said.
Another person died in a vehicle submerged by water from a swollen creek in Killeen, north of Austin, the National Weather Service said. Authorities in Austin suspended their search Wednesday for a woman whose black Lexus SUV was swept off the road by swollen Bull Creek, and planned to resume searching Thursday.
New Braunfels police Lt. John Wells said the search would resume Thursday for 28-year-old Nikos Paraskevopoulos of Alexandria, La., and 23-year-old Derek Joel-Nelson Clemens of Baldwin, Mich.
Wells says the men were swimming in the Guadalupe River on Wednesday when they got caught in a fast-moving current and were swept over a dam. Clemens was later seen being carried toward an Interstate 35 overpass.
Van Winkle said his department evacuated more than a dozen people from flooded homes. In Johnson County, where Alvarado is located, the sheriff’s department took about 60 calls for high-water rescues, Capt. Mike Gilbert said.
Williamson County sheriff’s Sgt. John Foster said at one point there were five helicopters pulling people from the floodwaters. He said he lost count at 40 rescues.
“We were plucking people off of roofs, trees. It was a major, major ordeal,” Foster said.
In Arlington, firefighters used trucks, ladders and boats to evacuate residents from the roof of an apartment complex that backed up to a swollen creek. The sudden deluge sent at least one vehicle floating across the complex’s parking lot.
Arlington police spokeswoman Tiara Richard said the water was as high as 8 feet in some units.
In a neighborhood nearby, the creek’s fast-moving waters 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.
Although many residents were surprised by Wednesday’s flooding, it’s not unusual for a tropical storm to dump a lot of moisture even days after making landfall, said Jesse Moore, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.
Hermine was the third tropical system this year to hit the Rio Grande Valley, which encompasses northeastern Mexico and southeastern Texas. The storm struck the flood-prone area just after the cleanup finished from Hurricane Alex at the start of the summer and an unnamed tropical depression in July.
© MMX WWJ Radio, All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to his report.