SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Much of Texas was deluged Saturday by pounding, relentless rains — up to 20 inches, in some locales — causing dangerous, rushing flooding that has washed away cars, trains and, possibly, at least one person.
And it may not get much better anytime soon.
The one missing person was in San Antonio, where forecasters warned that rain could fall Saturday morning at an astounding rate of 4 inches per hour and dangerously swell parts of the San Antonio River around Interstate 410. Around 4 a.m. (5 a.m. ET), a 41-year-old homeless man had gone after his dog near a drainage ditch “and he got swept away,” fire department spokesman Christian Bove said.
Authorities called off the search a few hours later, with no sign of the man, though the dog he’d been chasing was found safe.
Meanwhile, the rain kept falling: San Antonio had already broken its daily rainfall record by 10 a.m., according to the National Weather Service.
A similar story — of rain, rain and more rain — was playing out across many other parts of Texas.
The emergency office in Navarro County, about 250 miles northeast of San Antonio, noted several reports of a jaw-dropping 20-plus inches of rain Friday into Saturday.
The rain in this vicinity caused intermittent closures of Interstate 45 between Dallas and Houston, as well as corresponding miles-long traffic jams. First-responders launched several rescue missions to help people stranded in their cars, some of which video showed were all but undetectable under floodwaters.
A Union Pacific train with dozens of cars carrying cement derailed in Corsicana, one of Navarro County’s hardest-hit communities, though not before two workers on it managed to stop it, climb out, then swim to high ground, company spokesman Jeff DeGraff told CNN.
“They are in good condition, no injuries, just a little wet and shaken up,” DeGraff said.
And it’s not just central Texas that’s been affected. Much of the eastern half of the state, along with parts of southern Oklahoma and southwestern Louisiana, were under flash-flood warnings and watches through the weekend.
As if all the rain now falling isn’t enough — even for a state that’s been dealing with extensive droughts — more could come early next week, compliments of Patricia.
Remnants of Patricia could affect U.S.
Once a Category 5 hurricane, Patricia broke up quickly as it rolled over Mexico late Friday. By 7 a.m. (8 a.m. ET) Saturday, it wasn’t even a hurricane anymore — having become a tropical storm, with expectations that it would “dissipate” by that night, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Still, that doesn’t mean Patricia — or the problems it could cause — is going away.
Forecasters are no longer worried, as they once were, that Patricia may reorganize and strengthen as it barrels over Mexico into the Gulf of Mexico, CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray said.
But, even if the winds die down, all the moisture from a huge storm system like this one doesn’t just go away in a flicker. Instead, the remnants of Patricia could feed into the existing storm in the United States.
“We’re going to see all this moisture pulling in, and that’s just going to add to (the immense rainfall in Texas),” Gray explained. “That’s why this is going to be a several-day event.”
That other storm system is already huge. Radar shows huge swaths of green, yellow and blue indicating precipitation covering much of Texas on Saturday morning and extending in a line into the Midwest to the northeast, as far up as Ohio.
Houston set to get pummeled next
Whatever Patricia’s eventual impact, Texans already have plenty of headaches right now.
While big chunks of the state were still dealing with drought — from moderate to exceptional, the two highest classifications cited by the U.S. Drought Monitor — there can be too much of a good thing. This is especially true when roads, dams and waterways can’t handle it.
“All the creeks and rivers upstream here in central Texas, they are filling up,” storm chaser Reed Timmer said from Corsicana. “And there’s a lot more rain on the way.”
On roadways in and around Austin, heavy rains had prompted the closures of 66 low-water crossings around 7:30 a.m. The city, via Twitter, urged people to stay inside while noting that “75% of flash flood deaths in (Texas) happen on the road.”
Camp Mabry, a military installation in the state capital, had 2.63 inches of rain before 8 a.m., by which time it had already smashed the daily record set in 1949.
One city where too little water hasn’t been a problem in Houston. It was among the hardest-hit places last May, when heavy rains and flooding killed at least 15 in Texas, plus at least six in Oklahoma.
This year, much of east Texas and all of northern Louisiana, southern Arkansas and west-central Mississippi have suffered through extreme or exceptional drought, the two highest classifications, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The early morning hours Saturday in Houston were cloudy, but the rain is coming. It should start by afternoon and continue through Monday, dumping 3 to 7 inches — and 8 to 12 inches in some spots — according to the National Weather Service’s Houston/Galveston office. The highest chance of severe flooding there from rain will be between 9 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. Sunday, while elevated tides may also cause flooding along the coast.
“If this occurs, flash-flooding would be likely,” the agency added. “(There is an) isolated tornado threat, depending upon the … track.”