(AP) — Floodwaters submerged highways and flooded homes Friday in Texas as another round of heavy rain added to the damage inflicted by storms that have killed at least 23 people in the U.S. and left 13 missing.
The line of thunderstorms that stalled over Dallas dropped as much as 7 more inches overnight. That rainfall contributed to another death early Friday, when firefighters in a Dallas suburb said a man drowned in his truck after it was swept into a culvert. Houston-area authorities recovered the bodies of two men who had been reported missing.
The body of 87-year-old Jack Alter who was swept away when a boat attempting to rescue him from a bayou overturned was recovered from the Houston Ship Channel. The search for a missing 51-year-old man was called off Friday after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found a body on a southeast Texas beach on Friday that matched his description. The unidentified man and two others, who later escaped, were fishing in the Brazos River Thursday when they were caught in the currents.
The rain also seeped into homes and stranded hundreds of drivers, many of whom lingered along highways that were nearly gridlocked from the high water and abandoned vehicles.
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Fire rescue crews responded to about 260 calls that included trapped vehicles and accidents, authorities said.
Exacerbating the problem for first-responders are people who have been going around barricades to take pictures of the floodwaters, said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. He said those people are endangering themselves and stretching thin the first responders’ resources.
“Floodwaters are never safe to play around, take a picture around, walk around,” Jenkins said. “We don’t need any more loss of life.”
Jenkins also said he is considering issuing evacuation orders for Dallas-area neighborhoods depending on the latest flood projections.
The Colorado River in Wharton and the Brazos and San Jacinto rivers near Houston were the main focus of concern as floodwaters moved from North and Central Texas downstream toward the Gulf of Mexico.
Floodwater was creeping into neighborhoods in the suburban Houston city of Kingwood near the swollen San Jacinto River, where residents were keeping a close eye on water levels.
“Everybody’s worried about it,” James Simms said from his second-story balcony, looking down at a flood that had reached his garage. “Those people who are going to leave are already gone. There’s others like us who are going to wait until it’s mandatory.”
Teams continued to search through debris piles along rivers. Bodies found on Thursday raised the confirmed death toll to at least 27, including storm victims from Oklahoma. A storm system last weekend that prompted the initial flooding also killed 14 people in the northern Mexico when a twister hit the border town of Ciudad Acuna.
The Brazos River, which had been receding, rose above flood stage again Friday in Parker County, west of Fort Worth, and was expected to climb higher with the planned opening of the flood gates at Possum Kingdom Lake upstream. People in about 250 homes near the river were asked to voluntarily evacuate.
With the water moving rapidly down the river, serious flooding was expected in the downstream communities of Simonton and Thompsons. Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls said some residents of Simonton had already been asked to leave.
Forecasters said the Colorado River at Wharton could crest on Saturday, causing major flooding in the community 60 miles southwest of Houston. Voluntary evacuations were underway in the city’s low-lying west side.
By early Friday, crews had retrieved the 21 occupants of a houseboat that went adrift in Lake Travis in Austin.
This week’s record rainfall in Texas eased the state’s drought and swelled rivers and lakes to the point that they may not return to normal levels until July.
Associated Press journalists Jamie Stengle Dallas; Juan A. Lozano in Houston; and John L. Mone in Kingwood contributed to this report.
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