TIME Texas

Floodwaters Deepen in Houston After City Gets More Rain

At least 14 killed by the holiday weekend storms in Texas and Oklahoma

(HOUSTON) — Floodwaters deepened across much of Texas on Tuesday as storms dumped almost another foot of rain on the Houston area, stranding hundreds of motorists and inundating the famously congested highways that serve the nation’s fourth-largest city.

Meanwhile, the search went on for at least 13 people who were still missing, including a group that disappeared after a vacation home was swept down the river and slammed into a bridge.

Several more fatalities were reported — four in Houston and one more in Central Texas. That brought to 14 the number of people killed by the holiday weekend storms in Texas and Oklahoma.

The water rose sharply overnight as about 11 more inches of rain fell, much of it in a six-hour period. By Tuesday evening, most rivers had receded back within their banks.

The floodwaters affected virtually every part of the city and paralyzed some areas. Firefighters carried out more than 500 water rescues, most involving stranded motorists. At least 2,500 vehicles were abandoned by drivers seeking higher ground, officials said.

“Given the magnitude and how quickly it happened, in such a short period of time, I’ve never seen this before,” said Rick Flanagan, Houston’s emergency management coordinator.

The drenching weather threatened to linger. Forecasts called for a 20 to 40 percent chance of thunderstorms through the rest of the week in Houston.

The flooding closed several highways, and the ones that stayed open became a gridlocked mess.

Interstate 45 near downtown was backed up for miles on Tuesday morning, and a handful of motorists traveled the wrong way on the highway to retreat from high water.

The small cars weaved between massive 18-wheelers as other drivers stared at them in disbelief. With no end to the backup in sight, some drivers got off the freeway, only to be held up again by water covering nearby access roads.

In the Heights neighborhood about 5 miles from downtown, groups of people roamed the streets after escaping their stalled cars, and police cruisers blocked some dangerous roads.

Some motorists were stuck on I-45 all night, sleeping in their cars until the backup was cleared about 8 a.m.

NBA fans at the Toyota Center, where the Rockets hosted a Western Conference finals game against Golden State on Monday, were asked with about two minutes left in the game not to leave the arena because of the severe weather.

The game ended before 11 p.m., but about 400 people remained in their seats at 1:30 a.m., choosing to stay in the building rather than brave the flooded roads that awaited them outside.

A spokeswoman for the flood district of Harris County, which includes Houston, said up to 700 homes sustained some level of damage.

Yesenia Lopez and husband, Armando, waded through knee-deep water, carrying bags of possessions over their heads. During the night, a nearby bayou overflowed and flooded their apartment complex.

“We tried to do as much as we could, saved the family portraits and stuff like that, but everything else is destroyed,” she said.

The two planned to stay with her mother-in-law.

Dripping with water, she said: “Everything is scary. That’s the first time I lived through something like this, so it gives you a lot to think about.”

Officials in Hays County, about 180 miles west of Houston, said 30 people who had been reported as missing were accounted for by mid-afternoon Tuesday.

Crews were also searching for victims and assessing damage just across the Texas-Mexico border in Ciudad Acuna, where a tornado killed 13 people Monday.

Some of the worst flooding in Texas was in Wimberley, a popular tourist town along the Blanco in the corridor between Austin and San Antonio. That’s where the vacation home was swept away.

The “search component” of the mission ended Monday night, meaning no more survivors were expected to be found, said Trey Hatt, a spokesman for the Hays County Emergency Operations Center.

Eight of those missing from the destroyed house were friends and family who had gathered for the holiday, said Kristi Wyatt, a spokeswoman for the City of San Marcos. She said three more were members of another family in a separate situation. An unrelated person was also missing, Wyatt said.

Young children were believed to be among the missing.

The Blanco crested above 40 feet — more than triple its flood stage of 13 feet. The river swamped Interstate 35 and closed parts of the busy north-south highway. Rescuers used pontoon boats and a helicopter to pull people out.

Hundreds of trees along the Blanco were uprooted or snapped, and they collected in piles of debris up to 20 feet high.

The deaths in Texas included a man whose body was pulled from the Blanco; a 14-year-old who was found with his dog in a storm drain; a high school senior who died after her car was caught in high water; and a man whose mobile home was destroyed by a reported tornado.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management also reported four fatalities between Saturday and Monday after severe flooding and reports of tornadoes.

In Ciudad Acuna, Mayor Evaristo Perez Rivera said 300 people were treated at local hospitals after the twister, and up to 200 homes had been completely destroyed in the city of 125,000 across from Del Rio, Texas.

Thirteen people were confirmed dead — 10 adults and three infants, including one that was ripped from its mother’s arms by the storm.

___

Associated Press writers David Warren and Jamie Stengle in Dallas and photographer David J. Phillip in Houston contributed to this report.

TIME natural disaster

Witness the Aftermath of Severe Floods in Texas

Texas expanded its state of disaster declaration on Monday following unprecedented torrential rains over the weekend. On Tuesday, more than 30 million Americans were warned to brace for extreme weather, including flooding, hail and tornadoes

TIME natural disaster

7 States at Risk as Unprecedented Floods Hit Texas

More than 80,000 people were without power in Houston

Flash-flood watches and warnings were issued across seven states early Tuesday as an unprecedented downpour of torrential rain triggered “extremely dangerous and potentially life-threatening” conditions in Houston.

More than 30 million Americans were told to brace for dangerous thunderstorms — including flooding, hail and possible tornadoes — as meteorologists warned the weather that has centered on Texas and Oklahoma since Saturday could expand to other areas.

In Houston, more than 80,000 people were without power and the flood waters closed roads including Interstate 10 and Interstate 45. Houston was among 24 counties where Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster on Monday…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME natural disaster

Homecoming Queen Dies in Texas Floods on Way Home From Prom

Alyssa Ramirez's parents went to search for her but to no avail

A homecoming queen on her way home from from her prom was killed by floodwaters in Devine, Texas, about 35 miles southwest of San Antonio.

Alyssa Ramirez, who was also a cheerleader who played tennis and volleyball, spent Saturday night at her prom and was driving home Sunday when floodwaters swept her car off the road, according to NBC affiliate WOAI and a funeral home.

There were no barricades on the road and Ramirez’s car stalled out in the high water a few miles from her home, Roberta Ramirez, Alyssa’s aunt, told the station…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME natural disaster

12 Missing After Flooding in Texas Sweeps Away Vacation Home

Governor calls the destruction "absolutely massive"

(WIMBERLEY, Texas)—Recovery teams are set to resume looking for the 12 members of two families who authorities say are missing after a rain-swollen river in Central Texas carried a vacation home off its foundation, slamming it into a bridge downstream.

Trey Hatt, a spokesman for the Hays County Emergency Operations Center, said Monday night that the “search component” of the mission was over, meaning no more survivors were expected to be found in the flood debris along the Blanco River. But recovery efforts were to resume Tuesday morning, following a long holiday weekend of severe weather that led to four confirmed fatalities across the state.

Authorities were also searching for victims and assessing damage just across the Texas-Mexico border in Ciudad Acuna, where a tornado Monday killed 13 people and left at least five unaccounted for.

In the U.S., a line of storms that stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes dumped record rainfall on parts of the Plains and Midwest, spawning tornadoes and causing major flooding that in Texas destroyed or damaged more than 1,000 homes and forced at least 2,000 residents to leave their homes.

“You cannot candy coat it. It’s absolutely massive,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said after touring the destruction.

The governor has declared disaster areas in 37 counties so far, allowing for further mobilization of state resources to assist.

The worst flooding damage was in Wimberley, where the vacation home was swept away, a popular tourist town along the Blanco in the corridor between Austin and San Antonio.

Witnesses reported seeing the swollen river push the home off its foundation and smash it into a bridge. Only pieces of the home have been found, Hays County Judge Bert Cobb said.

One person who was rescued from the home told workers that the other 12 inside were all connected to two families, Cobb said. Young children were among those believed to be missing.

The Blanco crested above 40 feet — more than triple its flood stage of 13 feet. The river swamped Interstate 35 and forced parts of the busy north-south highway to close. Rescuers used pontoon boats and a helicopter to pull people out.

Hundreds of trees along the Blanco were uprooted or snapped, and they collected in piles of debris that soared 20 feet high.

Flooding wreaked havoc late Monday afternoon in Austin, where emergency crews responded to more than 20 high-water rescues, and later in Houston, where the National Weather Service declared a flash flood emergency and an announcer at the Houston Rockets game asked fans not to leave because of severe weather.

The storm system also prompted reports of tornadoes across the state and was blamed for four deaths: a man whose body was pulled from the Blanco; a 14-year-old who was found with his dog in a storm drain; a high school senior who died Saturday after her car was caught in high water; and a man whose mobile home was destroyed by a reported tornado.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management also reported four fatalities between Saturday and Monday across the state, which also saw severe flooding and reported tornadoes.

In Ciudad Acuna, Mayor Evaristo Perez Rivera said 300 people were treated at local hospitals after the twister, and up to 200 homes had been completely destroyed. The government was talking with families whose homes had been damaged to determine how much assistance would be needed to rebuild the city of 125,000 across from Del Rio, Texas.

“We have never registered in the more than 100 years in the history of this city a tornado,” he said.

By midday, 13 people were confirmed dead — 10 adults and three infants. At least five people were unaccounted for.

The twister hit a seven-block area, which Victor Zamora, interior secretary of the northern state of Coahuila, described as “devastated.”

“There’s nothing standing, not walls, not roofs,” said Edgar Gonzalez, a spokesman for the city government, describing some of the destroyed homes in a 3-square kilometer (1 square mile) stretch.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto was expected to travel to Acuna with officials from government agencies.

Gonzalez said late Monday night that rescuers were looking for four members of a family who were believed missing, adding that there were still areas of rubble that remained to be searched. Zamora said rescuers were searching for an infant who was missing after the tornado ripped the baby carrier the child was in from its mother’s hands.

Luis Antonio Hernandez, 37, looked in disbelief Monday at what remained of his house. Three vehicles had smashed through the back, leaving a heap of twisted metal and the smell of gasoline.

Hernandez and his three children had hidden in a bathroom as the tornado sent the cars passing over them. “It’s a miracle that we’re alive,” he said.

Residents retraced the tornado’s path in trucks, hoping to salvage their mattresses, furniture and other belongings. But there was little left intact.

Antonio Sanchez’s home was now nothing more than an open shell strewn with rubble.

“We lost everything,” he said. “But at least I didn’t lose my family.”

TIME natural disaster

Twister Kills 13 in Mexico Border City, 12 Missing in Texas

Residents stand outside their homes as damaged cars are seen after a tornado hit the town of Ciudad Acuna, state of Coahuila, May 25, 2015.
Stringer Shanghai—Reuters Residents stand outside their homes as damaged cars are seen after a tornado hit the town of Ciudad Acuna, state of Coahuila, May 25, 2015.

An infant was ripped from a mother's arms

(CIUDAD ACUNA, Mexico)—A tornado raged through a city on the U.S.-Mexico border Monday, destroying homes, flinging cars like matchsticks and ripping an infant from its mother’s arms. At least 13 people were killed, authorities said.

In Texas, 12 people were reported missing after the vacation home they were staying in was swept away by rushing floodwaters in a small town popular with tourists.

The baby was also missing after the twister that hit Ciudad Acuna, a city of 125,000 across from Del Rio, Texas, sent its infant carrier flying. Rescue workers began digging through the rubble of damaged homes in a race to find victims.

The twister hit a seven-block area, which Victor Zamora, interior secretary of the northern state of Coahuila, described as “devastated.”

Mayor Evaristo Perez Rivera said 300 people were being treated at local hospitals, and up to 200 homes had been completely destroyed. Three people were unaccounted for.

“There’s nothing standing, not walls, not roofs,” said Edgar Gonzalez, a spokesman for the city government, describing some of the destroyed homes in a 3-square kilometer (1 square mile) stretch.

By midday, 13 people were confirmed dead — 10 adults and three infants.

Family members and neighbors gathered around a pickup truck where the bodies of a woman and two children were laid out in the truck’s bed, covered with sheets. Two relatives reached down to touch the bodies, covered their eyes and wept.

Photos from the scene showed cars with their hoods torn off, resting upended against single-story houses. One car’s frame was bent around the gate of a house. A bus was seen flipped and crumpled on a roadway.

The twister struck not long after daybreak, around the time buses were preparing to take children to school, Zamora said.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said he planned to travel to Acuna later in the day with officials from government agencies.

In the U.S., a line of storms that stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes dumped record rainfall on parts of the Plains and Midwest, spawning tornadoes and causing major flooding that forced at least 2,000 Texans from their homes.

Witnesses reported seeing the swollen Blanco River push the vacation house off its foundation and smash it into a bridge. Only pieces of the home have been found, according to Hays County Judge Bert Cobb.

One person who was rescued from the home told workers that the other 12 inside were all connected to two families, Cobb said.

The house was in Wimberley Valley, an area known for its bed-and-breakfast inns and weekend rental cottages.

Dana Campbell, a retired engineer who lives on a bluff above the river, said the floodwaters left behind damage that resembled the path of a tornado “as far as the eye can see.”

The storms were blamed for three deaths Saturday and Sunday, including two in Oklahoma and one in Texas, where a man’s body was recovered from a flooded area along the Blanco River, which rose 26 feet in an hour and created huge piles of debris.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott flew over parts of the Blanco on Monday, a day after heavy rains pushed the river into surrounding neighborhoods.

Abbott said the storms had “relentless tsunami-type power.” He urged communities downstream to monitor flood levels and take the threat seriously.

The governor added 24 counties to his disaster declaration, bringing the total to 37, most in the eastern half of the state.

Among the worst-affected communities were Wimberley and San Marcos, along the Blanco in the corridor between Austin and San Antonio.

About 1,000 homes were damaged throughout Hays County. Five police cars were washed away, and the firehouse was flooded, said Kristi Wyatt, a spokeswoman for San Marcos.

Rivers swelled so quickly that whole communities awoke Sunday surrounded by water. The Blanco crested above 40 feet — more than triple its flood stage of 13 feet. The river swamped Interstate 35 and forced parts of the busy north-south highway to close. Rescuers used pontoon boats and a helicopter to pull people out.

Hundreds of trees along the Blanco were uprooted or snapped, and they collected in piles of debris that soared 20 feet high.

“We’ve got trees in the rafters,” said Cherri Maley, property manager of a house where the structure’s entire rear portion collapsed with the flooding, carrying away furniture.

“We had the refrigerator in a tree,” she said. “I think it’s a total loss.”

A tornado briefly touched down Sunday in Houston, damaging rooftops, toppling trees, blowing out windows and sending at least two people to a hospital. Fire officials said 10 apartments were heavily damaged and 40 others sustained lesser damage.

Dallas faced severe flooding from the Trinity River, which was expected to crest near 40 feet Monday and lap at the foundations of an industrial park. The Red and Wichita rivers also rose far above flood stage.

TIME natural disaster

Mom, Kids Among 12 Missing in Texas and Oklahoma Flash Flood

The father was found 12 miles down the river

Three people were confirmed killed, two in Oklahoma and one in Texas, after severe flash flooding this weekend.

Another 12 are missing, including a mother and her two children.

Laura McComb, daughter Leighton, 4, and son Andrew, 6, haven’t been seen since Sunday, according to WHNT.

They were reportedly staying at a river house in the town of Wimberley, Texas, when a wall of water swept the home and family of four, including husband Jonathan, away.

After being found 12 miles down the river, Jonathan is in the hospital recovering from several broken bones and a collapsed lung.

According to Fox News, the waters rose so quickly in the town that 1,000 people were forced to evacuate and hundreds of homes were destroyed.

“We do have whole streets with maybe one or two houses left on them and the rest are just slabs,” Hays County emergency management coordinator Kharley Smith told CBS about the town of Wimberley.

In Oklahoma, Capt. Jason Farley drowned after being swept away during a water rescue, the Claremore Fire Department confirmed. He had been a 19-year veteran of the department.

The Blanco River crested above 40 feet, more than triple its flood stage of 13 feet, NPR reports. Rescuers used pontoon boats and a helicopter to pull people out.

This article originally appeared on People.

TIME Colombia

A Baby Survived the Colombia Landslide That Killed 12 Members of His Family

A soldier shovels mud from a house damaged by a mudslide in Salgar, in Colombia's northwestern state of Antioquia, May 19, 2015.
Luis Benavides—Associated Press A soldier shovels mud from a house damaged by a mudslide in Salgar, in Colombia's northwestern state of Antioquia, May 19, 2015.

He was found alive in the mud more than a mile from his home

An 11-month-old baby has survived a huge mudslide in Colombia that killed at least 78 people.

The child’s mother and at least 11 other relatives perished when a flash flood swept through the town of Salgar in northwest Antioquia province Monday, destroying dozens of homes, reports the Associated Press.

Rescuers found Jhosep Diaz lying facedown in the mud more than a mile from his home. Doctors say the infant was cold and hypothermic but believe he survived because he was sleeping in a padded crib when he was swept away.

“He was unconscious and didn’t open his little eyes but was breathing,” Dr. Jesus Antonio Guisao told AP on Wednesday.

The mudslide was the country’s worst natural disaster since the earthquake of 1999 that killed about 1,000 people.

According to the Red Cross, between 50 and 80 people are believed missing, but authorities say there is no chance of finding any more survivors.

The boy’s grandfather Alvaro Hernandez is expected to gain custody. “My grandson’s survival is a miracle,” he said.

[AP]

TIME Environment

California Governor Declares State of Emergency After Santa Barbara Oil Spill

As many as 105,000 gallons of crude might have spilled

California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Santa Barbara County on Wednesday as cleanup teams sought to limit the environmental impact from a ruptured underground pipeline that might have spilled as many as 105,000 gallons of crude oil.

More than 20,000 gallons are estimated to have spilled into the ocean, seeping through the ground into a culvert and flowing into the ocean near Refugio State Beach, the Los Angeles Times reports. Oil slicks across a combined nine miles have stretched along the coastline.

The owner of the pipeline that ruptured Tuesday afternoon is Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline, which last saw results for an inspection in 2012. The line, which can pump as many as 6.3 million gallons a day, averages a flow rate of some 50,400 gallons per hour.

“We’re sorry this accident has happened and we’re sorry for the inconvenience to the community,” said Darren Palmer, district manager for Plains All American, told reporters.

There’s no estimate yet on the harm to local natural life, but officials estimate it will take at least three days—likely many more—to clean up the spill before the damage can be assessed.

TIME natural disaster

The ‘Middling’ Volcanic Eruption that Was America’s Worst

Volcanic eruption.
Universal History Archive / Getty Images In 1980, a major volcanic eruption occurs at Mount St Helens

May 18, 1980: Mount St. Helens erupts

Mount St. Helens might have been a “baby among volcanoes,” in geological terms, but its 1980 eruption was the deadliest, most destructive volcanic event in U.S. history.

When the 9,677-foot peak in the Washington Cascades blew its top on this day, May 18, 35 years ago, it killed 57 people and thousands of animals, leveling 200 sq. mi. of forest. Within seconds, its symmetrical cone became a crater 1,300 ft. lower, thanks to a sideways blast that triggered a 300 m.p.h. landslide. A plume of ash shot 16 mi. into the air, and then rained back down to earth as dust so thick and fine it blotted out the sun as far away as Montana.

TIME put the natural disaster in perspective, pointing out that geologists didn’t find Mount St. Helens a particularly impressive specimen. Two weeks after the eruption, the magazine noted:

Mount St. Helens is something of a baby among volcanoes. It was born a mere 37,000 years ago, which is scarcely more than an instant in geological time. The mountain last erupted in 1857, when the area was an uninhabited wilderness. Last week’s blowup ranked as middling, as volcanic eruptions go. But the people who stumbled off St. Helens’ slopes, or were plucked to safety by helicopters, told tales that rivaled wartime survivor stories.

Although the mountain had been letting off steam since March of that year, no one knew exactly when it would blow, or how bad it would be. Residents of the surrounding foothills and forests who were surprised by the timing included a logger who would have almost surely died if the mountain had erupted a day later, when he was scheduled to be among a crew of 200 felling trees in the blast zone. Instead, he fled his home after hearing the explosion on Sunday morning.

“I heard the goldangest noise, like someone upending a bunch of barrels down the road,” he told TIME. ‘There was a roar, like a jet plane approaching, and a lot of snapping and popping. Those were the trees. We got out fast.”

The 57 people who died included loggers and miners, journalists and geologists, along with families camping in areas they believed were safe. One was an 83-year-old innkeeper named Harry R. Truman, who became notorious in the weeks leading up to the blast for his colorful crustiness and his stubborn refusal to back down from the volcano’s threats. Despite daily earthquakes at the lodge he ran at the mountain’s base, he vowed to stay there with his 16 pet cats — and a cache of whisky, according to the New York Times.

“No damn way does that mountain have enough stuff to come my way,” he told a reporter for The Oregonian, a month before the mountain buried him and his cats in scalding ash.

But, clearly, an unimpressive volcano in geological terms can still be a staggeringly destructive force by human standards. The superheated gases that bubbled up inside Mount St. Helens ultimately exploded with 500 times the force of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, per TIME. Spewing an estimated 1.5 cubic mi. of debris, the blast rivaled another volcanic event that made an indelible impression on humanity, if not geology: the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., which destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Read more about the eruption from 1980, here in the TIME archives: God, I Want to Live!

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