No reprieve from heavy rain for Texas, Oklahoma

Flood-weary residents of Texas and Oklahoma had no reprieve on Friday as more rain fell in a region where two weeks of storms have swollen rivers and lakes beyond their limits.

Thousands of people have been forced from their homes, though some residents were holding out, saying conditions are no worse than floods they have weathered before.

A state of emergency was in place for all of Oklahoma on Friday, and flood watches and warnings were posted for river communities. A flood watch was in effect for large portions of Texas, where the storms have been blamed for at least 11 deaths.

The rains had tapered off and become more isolated, but National Weather Service meteorologist Greg Patrick said storms could cluster and create a more widespread threat of flooding by the weekend.

“The storms are very efficient rain producers, and if you happen to be under one of them you can pick up 4cm or 5cm an hour,” said another meteorologist, Jesse Moore. “Right now with the ground being saturated, it’s all run-off and that causes the flash flooding we’ve been seeing.”

Evacuation orders were issued Thursday for about 2 000 residents near the flood-swollen Brazos River in Parker county.
The river was more than 60cm above its flood stage late on Thursday but had gone down by Friday morning. Officials said it could rise again if they open a flood gate to relieve pressure on the Possum Kingdom Lake dam.

In the area about 32km south of Weatherford, rescuers used a boat to get four children out of a house, although their grandparents chose to stay, said Janice Stroud, Parker county’s assistant emergency-management coordinator. “If people don’t want to leave, we can’t force them to,” she said.

About 145km west of Fort Worth, evacuations were ordered for about 150 homes near Eastland this week, and the record-high Lake Leon has already flooded dozens of homes. Still, about 25 people refused to leave, said Lieutenant Sam Williams of the Eastland fire department.

“They’re in the most dangerous areas,” he said on Friday. “We certainly are [worried]. They’ve been contacted two or three times to leave.”

Clean-up has begun in Marble Falls near Austin, which received 48cm of rain in six hours earlier this week. It is the wettest year on record in Austin, with more than 76cm of rain since January, and Dallas-Fort Worth, Waco and Wichita Falls have received near-record amounts.

The rainfall has more than compensated for a drought that gripped much of Texas in 2005/06, the National Weather Service said.

There were no evacuations ordered in Oklahoma, but many people were leaving their homes voluntarily in search of shelter, said Michelann Ooten, spokesperson for the state department of emergency management.—Sapa-AP

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