Soaking rains cause flooding, rescues, evacuations in Texas, Oklahoma; firefighter dies

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SAN MARCOS, Texas — Up to 10 inches of rain fell over 24 hours in parts of Texas, prompting numerous evacuations and rescues overnight and into Sunday, while a 20-year veteran firefighter in northeast Oklahoma died after being swept away in floodwaters.

The storm system that moved across central and North Texas and most of Oklahoma pushed northeast on Sunday, bringing a threat of flooding to some western Arkansas counties, which could see as much as 3 inches of rain. And the region isn't out of the weather woods yet, with the National Weather Service saying there'll be more rainfall in the coming week.

About 1,000 people were evacuated in Central Texas communities, which saw dozens of high-water rescues overnight as the Blanco River and other swollen waterways breached their banks. The river — which crested Sunday above 40 feet, more than double the flood stage of 13 feet — swamped sections of Interstate 35, forcing parts of the busy north-south highway to close.

Rescue personnel used pontoon boats and a helicopter to evacuate people overnight as floodwaters quickly surrounded their homes, said 62-year-old San Marcos resident Rudy Olivo.

Water came to the top of the steps leading to his home in the town that's about halfway between San Antonio and Austin. Other homes in his neighborhood were flooded and many roads in the area were underwater.

Olivo has lived in the area for more than 50 years and said he's never witnessed such severe storms.

"This is the worst I've seen it because the water rose so fast," he said.

Five San Marcos police cars were washed away and a fire station is flooded, city spokeswoman Kristi Wyatt said. The city is imposing a curfew starting at 9 p.m. Sunday.

San Marcos is in Hays County, a fast-growing area between San Antonio and Austin. Some 1,000 homes are damaged in the county, Wyatt said. Hays County Sheriff's Lt. Jeri Skrocki said numerous rescues were conducted in the community of Wimberley, about 40 miles southwest of Austin. No serious injuries were reported.

Forecasts in the area call for the rain to continue Sunday and be heavy at times Monday, with continued threats of flash flooding.

Near Houston, high winds damaged rooftops, blew out windows, damaged at least 50 apartments and injured two people at an apartment complex. Two people who were injured were taken to hospitals, though the severity of their injuries weren't yet known, the Houston Fire Department said in a news release.

And about 50 miles north of the city, authorities were concerned that the dam on Lake Lewis may fail due to rain and issued a mandatory evacuation for residents. The National Weather Service said another 2-3 inches could fall on Sunday, with up to 4 inches in the forecast for Monday.

In northeast Oklahoma, Capt. Jason Farley was helping rescue about 10 people trapped in duplexes at about 11:30 p.m. Saturday when he was swept into a drainage ditch, Claremore Fire Chief Sean Douglas said. The body of Farley, who had been a firefighter for 20 years, was recovered an hour and a half later.

Oklahoma City set a new monthly rainfall total this weekend — 18.19 inches through Saturday, beating the previous one of 14.52 in 2013.

Colorado also was water-logged. A mandatory evacuation notice was issued Sunday for residents in the northeastern city of Sterling, and officials in El Paso and Pueblo counties said they intend to ask Gov. John Hickenlooper for a disaster declaration.


Associated Press writers David Warren in Dallas and Tim Talley in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.

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