Texas flooding derails Union Pacific train, crew rescued; major highways closed, drivers stranded
Heavy flooding in North and Central Texas caused major headaches across the state Saturday morning, as floodwaters derailed a Union Pacific train, inundated roads, stranded drivers and prompted an elevation of the state's emergency operations center.
Swift water rescue teams were deployed early Saturday to recover two Union Pacific employees from a train that was partially submerged north of Corsicana, Texas.
Union Pacific spokesman Jeff DeGraff told WFAA, "Our conductor and engineer, once they put the train into emergency stop, they were able to jump free of the locomotive as they saw the water start to rise. They swam to some high ground there. They're wet but in good condition."
A person walking a dog was reportedly swept away by floodwaters into a drainage ditch in San Antonio early Saturday morning, according to the San Antonio Fire Department. Crews responded to the scene, but no one was found. Crews will continue to monitor the situation.
Several vehicles were stalled and traffic backed up for 12 miles after Interstate 45 flooded in North Texas, ABC13 reported. Emergency crews worked to help those who were stuck in the rising waters.
Northbound I-35 in central Texas was shut down by officials late Friday morning, KWTX-TV reports. At mile marker 353, the roadway was submerged underneath about two feet of water.
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Law enforcement agencies in Waco received reports of people trapped inside of vehicles stranded in high water, and there were scattered reports of limited power outages throughout the region.
In West Texas, runoff washed away a mobile home. No one was home, so no one was hurt.
Flood waters swallowed up an ambulance in Odessa and prompted at least 30 swift-water rescues in the area.
The fast-moving rain storm swamped low-lying streets in Dallas, forcing some drivers to wade through several feet of water.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott elevated the activation level of the State Operations Center, ABC13 reported, saying, "Today's elevated activation of the State Operations Center (SOC) will better equip first responders and local officials with the resources needed to combat inclement weather expected over the weekend. The state of Texas stands ready to provide support to communities as needed, and I urge all Texans to closely monitor changing weather conditions in their area and heed warnings from local and state officials."
Up to 18 inches of rain had fallen in Corsicana in the last 24 hours, rivaling the amounts that wreaked havoc in South Carolina weeks earlier. The rain will spread into South Texas on Sunday as a stalled cold front causing the downpours is reinforced by remnants of Hurricane Patricia.
"As Patricia moves across Mexico, remnant moisture will stream north into Texas," said Quincy Vagell, weather.com meteorologist. "The ex-hurricane will then develop into a non-tropical low when it reaches Texas in the coming days, producing additional heavy rain and coastal flooding."
For emergency officials, a primary concern is the widespread flooding expected over the weekend. Officials in Hidalgo County planned to hand out free sandbags to help residents prepare for the expected deluge. Heavy rains, gusty winds and tidal rises of up to 5 feet prompted a coastal flood advisory for the upper Texas Gulf Coast.
(WATCH: More Flooding on the Way for Texas and Southwest)
The potential for flooding comes five months after torrential spring storms caused more than 30 deaths and left large swaths of the state underwater.
The Memorial Day weekend brought an astonishing amount of rainfall, with some isolated areas receiving more than 20 inches. Homes were either damaged or swept away by river water southwest of Austin, about 1,500 homes in the Houston area alone sustained flood damage, and neighborhoods throughout the state were cut off by rising waters.
Little rain has fallen since then. When conditions have been dry for an extended period of time, rainwater is not easily absorbed by the soil and flooding conditions are exacerbated by runoff.