Major flooding begins in Texas as Patricia remnants move east
Rushing waters derail freight train south of Dallas, crew swims to safety
Southeast Texas was bracing for heavy rain late Saturday and into Sunday as the remnants of Hurricane Patricia combined with a powerful storm system that's been rumbling across Texas, flooding roads and causing a freight train to derail.
"There will be localized flooding in Houston, primarily street flooding," Houston Mayor Annise Parker said Saturday afternoon, adding people should be "prepared to be patient."
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"Spend some time wherever you are if that area is experiencing particularly heavy rainfall," she said.
Brian Kyle, lead meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Houston, said they expect Saturday afternoon's light to moderate rain in Southeast Texas to intensify overnight. He said most of the heavy rain will occur from overnight to noon on Sunday, with rainfall amounts ranging from 24 millimetres to up to 300 mm offshore.
Galveston County Judge Mark Henry on Saturday issued a voluntary evacuation for Bolivar Peninsula, just northeast of Galveston Island, after forecasters predicted that the area would get 96 to 300 mm of rain and tides that are 1.3 to 1.5 metres high.
Most people are just going to have their groceries and watch TV and watch it rain.- Brian Brawner, charter fishing boat owner
The judge warned that residents who don't leave might find themselves cut off from emergency services as the heaviest winds and rains come ashore Saturday evening. But county spokeswoman Brittany Rainville said they don't think very many people chose to evacuate. She said the county had two buses waiting all day to move people but no one showed up.
About 4,000 who live on the peninsula are used to flooding and usually stay, she said.
"Most people are just going to have their groceries and watch TV and watch it rain," said Bryan Brawner, who owns a charter company on the peninsula that takes people fishing in the Galveston Bay. He added, "People just know not to get out and drive anywhere."
Carole Hamadey, who owns a bed-and-breakfast there, was also planning to stay, along with about seven guests.
"I feel comfortable. I'm about 16 feet off the ground. The guests seem to feel OK, too," she said, adding that she had ridden out Hurricane Ike there in 2008.
Forecasters say Houston and Galveston remain under a flash flood watch through Monday morning.
Tracks washed out
In another development, the storm system that had been dumping rain on parts of Texas since Friday caused flooding that blocked several major roadways and caused the derailment of a train.
A Union Pacific freight train derailed before dawn on Saturday near Corsicana, about 80 kilometres south of Dallas, because a creek overflowed and washed away the tracks, said Jeff DeGraff, a railroad spokesman. The two crew members swam to safety and nobody was hurt, he said.
"They [crew] escaped the train after it stopped and swam to high ground," DeGraff said. "A Navarro County rescue team was able to get in and pull them to safety. They are back safe on dry ground."
One locomotive and several rail cars loaded with gravel went into the water and were partly submerged, DeGraff said.
In San Antonio, a man walking his dog before dawn Saturday was swept into a flooded drainage ditch and disappeared, fire officials said. Firefighters searched for two hours but had to stop due to bad weather. They planned to resume as soon as possible. The dog is safe.
A driver in the Central Texas town of Temple heading to work Saturday morning was saved after he was able to get out of his car that was floating in floodwaters and grabbed a tree. Temple police say the man called 911 from his cellphone to summon help. Firefighters retrieved him and walked him to safety.
Authorities on Saturday morning reopened a section of Interstate 45 near Corsicana that was closed due to flooding, backing up traffic for 19 kilometres.
Patricia was the most powerful hurricane on record in the Western Hemisphere and made landfall Friday along Mexico's Pacific Coast as a Category 5 storm. It quickly lost power as it moved inland and appeared to have caused remarkably little damage.