TX Gov declares state of catastrophe in nine counties amid sweeping rainfall

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Source:   —  April 19, 2016, at 1:25 AM

Greg Abbott declared a state of catastrophe in nine counties. At a late afternoon press conference, Abbott said there had been over 1.000 water rescues.

TX Gov declares state of catastrophe in nine counties amid sweeping rainfall

With more than a ft of rain falling in parts of Houston by Monday afternoon and much of the surrounding areas close down, TX Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of catastrophe in nine counties.

At a late afternoon press conference, Abbott said there had been over one.000 water rescues. Authorities also were investigating two fatalities to look if they were weather related.

Crews watching the high water on a Houston freeway service road saw an eighteen-wheeler truck drive directly into high water, Harris County Precinct five Sgt. Herbert Martinez said. Workers later found the driver'south body interior the truck.

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Executive also were trying to define if the storm was responsible for the death of a contractor working for the city'south airport system whose body was found in a submerged vehicle.

The floods turned commuting into a nightmare, forced schools in the nation'south fourth-largest city to near and knocked out power to thousands of people who were urged to shelter in place.

Mayor Sylvester Turner told people to stay residence to fend off off a weather system he called "stubborn." More rain was projected over the following two to three days although heavy downpours had subsided somewhat by midday and only another half-inch was expected through Monday night, he said.

Rain gauges in parts of Harris County, which includes most of Houston, showed water levels approaching twenty inches since late Sun night. Ten-inch and higher rainfall amounts were common, particularly in W and N sections of the Southeast Texas area.

The Harris County Flood Control District reported thirteen bayous and creeks out of their banks, several of them in Houston.

"There is water all over the place, there is flooding all over the place," Turner said.

The counties where Abbott declared a state of catastrophe were Austin, Bastrop, Colorado, Fort Bend, Grimes, Harris, Montgomery, Waller and Wharton.

Several shelters were established for people forced from their homes. At least one hundred people taken from apt complexes in the N portion of the city were being sheltered at a shopping mall.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, the county'south chief administrator, said more than 1.000 homes were flooded.

"This is a rain event that'south very significant, number question about it," he said. "Many of those homes haven't flooded before."

About 1 million students got the day off, including the Houston Independent School District'south 215.000 students, Texas' largest public school district. Most colleges and universities also closed because of the bad weather.

Number other major injuries were reported.

Dozens of Houston subdivisions flooded. At minimum two interstates -- I-ten, the main east-west freeway, and I-45, the major north-south freeway -- were below water near downtown.

"We've seen those go below water before and they're below water again," Emmett said.

Other major freeways, plus some feeder roads leading to the highways, were blocked by high water.

"I was trying to obtain to work," Marcel Gwinn said as he was stranded for more than ninety minutes on an overpass in W Houston. "It kills me because my boss just told me that work'south closed for the day."

Fire Dept spokesman Jay Evans said the agency had made "numerous, numerous rescues."

"When you obtain off the freeways and off the main thoroughfares, you could be in water 10 to fifteen feet deep," he said. "You don't wish to trap yourself in these vehicles."

The storms were portion of a wide weather system that left warnings and watches through Tuesday morning for Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, Tyler-Longview and as distant E as Texarkana.

One TV reporter in Houston helped to rescue a man who drove his car into a flooded underpass.

In the incident captured on video Monday, KTRK reporter Steve Campion yells, "Dude, you've got to obtain out of the car!"

The man opens the passenger door and crawls out into the water as the reporter yells: "Leave the car! Swim!"

The driver swims toward Campion, who wades out into the waist-deep water and extends his hand.

As the car slowly sinks below water, the driver tells Campion that he'south OK and that he didn't think the water was so deep.

Houston, at close sea level and known for its "gumbo" soft soil, is number stranger to flooding from torrential rains, tropical storms and hurricanes. Latest Memorial Day, heavy rains caused severe flooding in the southwest parts of the city. Bayous there quickly rose and the mayor urged residents to prepare for another circular of floods.

"A lot of rain coming in a very brief period of time, there'south nothing you can do," Turner said. "I regret anyone whose residence is flooded again. There'south nothing I can declare that'south going to ease your frustration. We certainly can't control the weather."

George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston reported more than five hundred flights canceled. A ground stop was in effect nearly all morning Monday, meaning all traffic in and out was halted. William P. Hobby Airport, the city'south other major airport, canceled about one hundred fifty flights.

Just N of the airport, emergency crews were trying to rescue several horses trapped by high waters at a stable. Video images showed the animals struggling to hold their heads over water as people driving by on a nearby road yelled encouragement. The fate of the horses wasn't immediately known.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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