Storms kill 17 in Texas, Oklahoma; Houston flooded

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Flooding Strands Hundreds in Homes, Parking Lots and Stadium

Reuters -- Torrential rains have killed at least 17 people in Texas and Oklahoma, including four in Houston where floods turned streets into rivers and led to about 1,000 calls for help in the fourth-most populous U.S. city, officials said on Tuesday.

The death toll is set to rise with numerous people still missing in Texas after the storms slammed the states during the Memorial Day weekend, causing record floods that destroyed hundreds of homes, swept away bridges, and even unearthed a coffin from a Houston cemetery. It washed ashore on the banks of a bayou.

"A lot of folks drove their car into high water and had to abandon those vehicles," Houston Mayor Annise Parker said at a news conference.

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Texas and mexican border , Oklahoma flooding - severe weather 5/25 (AP Exchange)
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Storms kill 17 in Texas, Oklahoma; Houston flooded
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 27: The Brays Bayou flows after massive flooding May 27, 2015 in Houston, Texas. At least 19 people have been killed across Texas and Oklahoma after severe weather, including catastrophic flooding and tornadoes, struck over the past several days, with more rain expected. (Photo by Eric Kayne/Getty Images)
MIDLOTHIAN, TX - MAY 27: Workers tend to equipment used to pump water from Padera Lake as water pours over a temporary dam on May 27, 2015 in Midlothian, Texas. Officials feared that the temporary dam on Padera Lake would fail due to recent heavy rains in the area. Areas throughout Texas have expierenced flash flooding and numerous deaths due to weeks of heavy rainfall. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
SAN MARCOS, TX - MAY 27: Storm destruction along the Blanco River May 26, 2015 in San Marcos, Texas. Central Texas has been inundated with tornadoes and flash flooding the past several days. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
SAN MARCOS, TX - MAY 27: Storm destruction along the Blanco River May 27, 2015 in San Marcos, Texas. Central Texas has been inundated with tornadoes and flash flooding the past several days. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 27: Trees are submerged at Buffalo Bayou park after massive flooding May 27, 2015 in Houston, Texas. At least 19 people have been killed across Texas and Oklahoma after severe weather, including catastrophic flooding and tornadoes, struck over the past several days, with more rain expected. (Photo by Eric Kayne/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 27: Diego Singleton's vehicle sits on Allen Parkway, the last remaining vehicle to be towed from underneath the Montrose Blvd. overpass following massive flooding May 27, 2015 in Houston, Texas. At least 19 people have been killed across Texas and Oklahoma after severe weather, including catastrophic flooding and tornadoes, struck over the past several days, with more rain expected. (Photo by Eric Kayne/Getty Images)
WIMBERLEY, TX - MAY 26: A house near the Blanco River sustained heavy damage May 26, 2015 in Wimberley, Texas. Central Texas has been hit with severe weather, including catastrophic flooding and tornadoes over the past several days. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
WIMBERLEY, TX - MAY 26: Debris is collected in front of Rio Bonito Resort May 26, 2015 in Wimberley, Texas. Central Texas has been hit with severe weather, including catastrophic flooding and tornadoes over the past several days. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
WIMBERLEY, TX - MAY 26: Faculty and volunteers organize flood relief supplies at Wimberley High School May 26, 2015 in Wimberley, Texas. Central Texas has been hit with severe weather, including catastrophic flooding and tornadoes over the past several days. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
WIMBERLEY, TX - MAY 26: Clothes and other flood relief supplies are gathered at Wimberley High School May 26, 2015 in Wimberley, Texas. Central Texas has been hit with severe weather, including catastrophic flooding and tornadoes over the past several days. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
Vehicles left stranded on a flooded Interstate 45 in Houston, Texas on May 26, 2015. Heavy rains throught Texas put the city of Houston under massive ammounts of water, closing roadways and trapping residents in their cars and buildings, according to local reports. Rainfall reached up to 11 inches(27.9cm) in some parts of the state, national forecasters reported, and the heavy rains quickly pooled over the state's already saturated soil. AFP PHOTO/AARON M. SPRECHER (Photo credit should read Aaron M. Sprecher/AFP/Getty Images)
Water is seen along Memorial Drive in Houston, Texas, on May 26, 2015. Heavy rains throught Texas put the city of Houston under massive amounts of water, closing roadways and trapping residents in their cars and buildings, according to local reports. Rainfall reached up to 11 inches (27.9cm) in some parts of the state, according to national forecasters, and the heavy rains quickly pooled over the state's already saturated soil. AFP PHOTO/AARON M. SPRECHER (Photo credit should read Aaron M. Sprecher/AFP/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - MAY 25: Murphy Canning and Annika Rolston watch as a street remains underwater from days of heavy rain on May 25, 2015 in Austin, Texas. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott toured the damage zone where one person is confirmed dead and at least 12 others missing in flooding along the Rio Blanco, which reports say rose as much as 40 feet in places, caused by more than 10 inches of rain over a four-day period. The governor earlier declared a state of emergency in 24 Texas counties. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
WIMBERLEY, TX - MAY 26: Debris is collected in front of Rio Bonito Resort May 26, 2015 in Wimberley, Texas. Central Texas has been hit with severe weather, including catastrophic flooding and tornadoes over the past several days. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
A vehicle left stranded on a flooded Interstate 45 in Houston, Texas on May 26, 2015. Heavy rains throught Texas put the city of Houston under massive ammounts of water, closing roadways and trapping residents in their cars and buildings, according to local reports. Rainfall reached up to 11 inches(27.9cm) in some parts of the state, national forecasters reported, and the heavy rains quickly pooled over the state's already saturated soil. AFP PHOTO/AARON M. SPRECHER (Photo credit should read Aaron M. Sprecher/AFP/Getty Images)
Water is seen at the top of a sign along a bike path near Memorial Drive in Houston, Texas on May 26, 2015. Heavy rains throught Texas put the city of Houston under massive amounts of water, closing roadways and trapping residents in their cars and buildings, according to local reports. Rainfall reached up to 11 inches (27.9cm) in some parts of the state, according to national forecasters, and the heavy rains quickly pooled over the state's already saturated soil. AFP PHOTO/AARON M. SPRECHER (Photo credit should read Aaron M. Sprecher/AFP/Getty Images)
Vehicles are left stranded on Texas State Highway 288 in Houston, Texas on May 26, 2015. Heavy rains throught Texas put the city of Houston under massive amounts of water, closing roadways and trapping residents in their cars and buildings, according to local reports. Rainfall reached up to 11 inches (27.9cm) in some parts of the state, according to national forecasters, and the heavy rains quickly pooled over the state's already saturated soil. AFP PHOTO/AARON M. SPRECHER (Photo credit should read Aaron M. Sprecher/AFP/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - MAY 25: Parts of the city are shown inundated after days of heavy rain on May 25, 2015 in Austin, Texas. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott toured the damage zone where one person is confirmed dead and at least 12 others missing in flooding along the Rio Blanco, which reports say rose as much as 40 feet in places, caused by more than 10 inches of rain over a four-day period. The governor earlier declared a state of emergency in 24 Texas counties. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - MAY 25: Rising floodwaters at Shoal Creek are shown after days of heavy rain on May 25, 2015 in Austin, Texas. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott toured the damage zone where one person is confirmed dead and at least 12 others missing in flooding along the Rio Blanco, which reports say rose as much as 40 feet in places, caused by more than 10 inches of rain over a four-day period. The governor earlier declared a state of emergency in 24 Texas counties. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - MAY 25: Parts of the city are shown inundated after days of heavy rain on May 25, 2015 in Austin, Texas. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott toured the damage zone where one person is confirmed dead and at least 12 others missing in flooding along the Rio Blanco, which reports say rose as much as 40 feet in places, caused by more than 10 inches of rain over a four-day period. The governor earlier declared a state of emergency in 24 Texas counties. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - MAY 25: The flooded Whole Earth Provisions Company on Lamar Street is shown after days of heavy rain on May 25, 2015 in Austin, Texas. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott toured the damage zone where one person is confirmed dead and at least 12 others missing in flooding along the Rio Blanco, which reports say rose as much as 40 feet in places, caused by more than 10 inches of rain over a four-day period. The governor earlier declared a state of emergency in 24 Texas counties. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - MAY 25: Ben Sioberman works to get water out of the flooded Whole Earth Provisions Company on Lamar Street after days of heavy rain on May 25, 2015 in Austin, Texas. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott toured the damage zone where one person is confirmed dead and at least 12 others missing in flooding along the Rio Blanco, which reports say rose as much as 40 feet in places, caused by more than 10 inches of rain over a four-day period. The governor earlier declared a state of emergency in 24 Texas counties. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - MAY 25: Parts of the city are shown inundated after days of heavy rain on May 25, 2015 in Austin, Texas. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott toured the damage zone where one person is confirmed dead and at least 12 others missing in flooding along the Rio Blanco, which reports say rose as much as 40 feet in places, caused by more than 10 inches of rain over a four-day period. The governor earlier declared a state of emergency in 24 Texas counties. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - MAY 25: Tape is stretched across a flooded Sixth Street after days of heavy rain on May 25, 2015 in Austin, Texas. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott toured the damage zone where one person is confirmed dead and at least 12 others missing in flooding along the Rio Blanco, which reports say rose as much as 40 feet in places, caused by more than 10 inches of rain over a four-day period. The governor earlier declared a state of emergency in 24 Texas counties. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
WIMBERLEY, TX - MAY 25: A vehicle travels Ranch to Market Road 150 on May 25, 2015 outside Wimberly, Texas. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott toured the damage zone where one person is confirmed dead and at least 12 others missing in flooding along the Rio Blanco, which reports say rose as much as 40 feet in places, caused by more than 10 inches of rain over a four-day period. The governor earlier declared a state of emergency in 24 Texas counties. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
In this aerial photo a parking lot of Wal-Mart is submerged after the San Marcos River flooded in San Marcos, Texas, Sunday, May 24, 2015. Record rainfall was wreaking havoc across a swath of the U.S. Midwest on Sunday, causing flash floods in normally dry riverbeds, spawning tornadoes and forcing at least 2,000 people to flee. (Rodolfo Gonzalez/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
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Two of the dead in Houston were found in their cars and another two were found in a bayou.

The Oklahoma Medical Examiner's office said six people died in weather-related incidents over the holiday weekend in the state.

Though Parker said parts of the city were unscathed, more than 1,000 vehicles were submerged in the Houston floods and people took instead to bicycles, kayaks and surfboards to navigate water-covered streets.

The Houston Fire Department brought about 500 people to safety in boats, local media reports said.

President Barack Obama said on Tuesday he had assured Texas Governor Greg Abbott that he could count on help from the federal government as the state recovers from the floods. Abbott has declared a state of disaster in at least 40 Texas counties, including Harris County, which includes Houston.

Abbott said he has deployed the state's National Guard and was worried the death toll could rise.

"It's devastating to see what I saw on the Blanco River when this tidal wave of water just swept away neighborhoods," he said, recalling a disaster area in central Texas.

Eleven people are confirmed missing due to flooding that hit along the Blanco River, and Hays County officials increased to three the number of bodies that have been found in that area. The missing are from two families whose vacation home was swept off its foundation in Wimberley, a town about 30 miles (50 km) southwest of Austin.

About 30 other people who were previously unaccounted for have been contacted, Hays County officials said.

See drone footage of the flooding:

Drone Footage of Floods Over Texas and Oklahoma

FLIGHTS CANCELED

Dogs and boats were being used to search for the missing. The river rose so quickly and with such force, it caused a flood gauge to break, Hays County officials said.

There was no damage estimate available for Texas, which has a $1.4 trillion-a-year economy and is the country's main domestic source of energy as well as an agricultural and manufacturing power.

Houston resident Dutch Small, 40, climbed onto the roof of his car when the water came up to his knees inside his vehicle and was eventually rescued by a passing tow truck driver.

"It happened so fast. Every person that died in the flooding, I know what was going through their minds. They didn't measure the threat accurately. They were like me," Small told Reuters.

The National Weather Service issued tornado and thunderstorm watches for later on Tuesday and said more rain is expected this week in Texas and Oklahoma.

More than 200 flights had been canceled by early on Tuesday evening at airports in Houston and Dallas, some of the nation's busiest, as blocked roads made it difficult for workers to get to their jobs. A sinkhole also closed a runway at the Dallas/Fort Worth International airport.

Roughly 100,000 customers lost power throughout the state after the storm due to high winds and rising waters that caused power poles to snap.

In Houston, about 11 inches (28 cm) of rain fell on Monday while parts of Austin were hit by as much as 7 inches (18 cm). Helicopter crews in both cities plucked to safety people who had been stranded in cars and on top of buildings.

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