Fire crews rescued two dozen motorists stranded by high water in Houston as torrential rains pounded southeastern Texas on Sunday, triggered by the meeting of two storm systems, one the remnants of Hurricane Patricia.
As of Sunday morning, parts of the Houston area reported more than 9 inches (23 cm) of rain. The heaviest band of rain had moved to over the Gulf of Mexico and was heading toward southwest Lousiana, the National Weather Service said.
The storm was expected to move up toward Baton Rouge on Sunday afternoon, with 3 to 8 inches (8 cm to 20 cm) of additional rain possible in Louisiana through Sunday night, more in spots, said Andy Tingler, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Rain has drenched Texas for the past two days. Navarro County, about 50 miles (80 km) south of Dallas, was one of the hardest-hit areas. The tiny town of Powell got 20 inches (50 cm) of rain over 30 hours, said meteorologist Brett Rathbun of Accuweather.
A flash flood in Navarro County swept a Union Pacific freight train off the tracks on Saturday, pushing locomotives and some rail cars on their sides.
There were no confirmed deaths from the deluge in Texas, but in San Antonio, a woman reported that her boyfriend was swept into a drainage ditch as he walked his dog early Saturday. Officials said he was considered missing.
The rain systems were intensified by the remnants of Patricia, which was downgraded to a tropical depression after crashing into Mexico’s west coast on Friday as a powerful hurricane..
In Houston, Mayor Annise Parker had warned residents of the state’s second-most populous metropolitan area with 6.1 million people to stay away from wet roads after dark and be aware of flash floods.
The Houston Fire Department responded to 28 water rescue calls from Saturday morning to Sunday morning, Captain Ruy Lozano said.
One man who was sleeping under a bridge on a grassy area was rescued by boat after climbing a tree, Lozano said. Most of the rescues involved stranded motorists and more than 30 vehicles were towed due to high water, he said.
The weather service issued flash flood warnings early Sunday and later turned that into flash flood watches effective until 11 a.m. Central Daylight Time for several southeastern Texas counties, including Harris County, which includes Houston, and Galveston County, as the heavy rain shifted east of the area.
Some 80 water rescues from vehicles, homes and businesses had been carried out in Navarro County since Friday and authorities requested sandbags for evacuated homes, Sheriff Elmer Tanner said.
Interstate 45 was shut down in some spots in Navarro on Saturday by rising water, which reached one foot (30 cm) on the roadway in Richland. It reopened on Sunday morning.
Nineteen flights were canceled on Sunday at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, after 30 flight cancellations and 183 delays on Saturday, according to tracking service FlightAware.
More than 100 flights were canceled on Saturday and 309 delayed at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, one of the country’s busiest air hubs, FlightAware said.
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Tides along the south coast of Louisiana were running about 1-1/2 feet (0.5 meters) above normal and were expected to be a few feet above normal at high tide due to sustained winds and the rain on Sunday afternoon.
Such tides were a concern for the low-lying area and were likely to flood some roads, said NWS meteorologist Tingler.
(Additional reporting by Lisa Maria Garza in Dallas,; Jim Forsyth in San Antonio, Karen Brooks in Austin; and Alex Dobuzinskis and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Larry King and Frances Kerry)