Texas storm prompts evacuations in area hit by spring floods

Texas storm prompts evacuations in area hit by spring floods

BUDA, Texas (AP) - A fast-moving storm packing heavy rain and destructive winds overwhelmed rivers and prompted evacuations Friday in the same area of Central Texas that saw devastating spring floods.

The Blanco River in Wimberley, southwest of Austin, swelled to about 26 feet, well above its 13-foot flood stage. Residents were evacuated from the area and a community center was opened to shelter people.

Torrential rains over Memorial Day weekend inundated the Blanco and raging river waters tore at least one home from its foundation, killing members of two families inside. The storms at that time killed more than 30 people in Texas and Oklahoma.

There were no fatalities reported from Friday's storm as emergency personnel across Central and South Texas rushed to close roadways overwhelmed by water and respond to high-water rescues.

Forecasters say flooded parts of Texas can't handle another soaking after getting upward of 16 inches of rain in a matter of hours but that more storms might be on the way.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jason Runyen said a weather disturbance form Mexico has overwhelmed already-saturated neighborhoods and swollen rivers between Austin and San Antonio. It's the same South Texas region that remnants of Hurricane Patricia pummeled last week.

Runyen said the rain will leave by the weekend but not before more showers potentially sock the area again Friday afternoon.

Major flooding was occurring along several Central Texas rivers and creeks, the National Weather Service said. Besides the Blanco, the Guadalupe River in the Austin suburb of New Braunfels was flowing more than 2 feet above its flood stage. North of New Braunfels, the river churned violently as the water rushed near homes and warning sirens blared.

Department of Public Safety Sgt. Jason Reyes said minor injuries were reported southeast of San Antonio where a tornado is believed to have swept through the town of Floresville. Reyes said damage included a large trailer blown from an RV park and deposited on the roof of a three-story hotel nearby.

Ruth Veliz, whose parents own a taco shop in Floresville, said about a dozen customers and employees were there at 6 a.m. when the suspected tornado hit.

She said one of the employees yelled "Tornado!" and ran to the door to try keeping the wind from carrying it off. But a customer pulled the employee aside so that she wouldn't be pulled away by the wind herself.

"The door was flying open with her as she was trying to close it," Veliz said.

Those in the restaurant took shelter anywhere they could find it, including under tables, she said. "We were all caught off guard, everyone just grabbed on to what they could get their hands on," she said.

The winds ultimately ripped the door off the building and damaged windows, but no one inside was injured, Veliz said.

Wind gusts of up to 70 mph were reported in some places and a tornado watch was in effect for Austin, San Antonio and other areas, as were flash-flood warnings.

"Based on what we've seen so far this storm has caused severe damage in the area," Reyes said.

Flooding caused Interstate 35 to close between Austin and San Antonio, with motorists in southbound lanes being forced to turn around and drive on the shoulder against traffic to escape the area. Many vehicles on the interstate, one of the primary arteries through Texas, were abandoned by their drivers.

Guadalupe County sheriff's Capt. Tom Meeley said some houses and buildings between Seguin and Zorn lost their roofs.

Several buildings were damaged in downtown D'Hanis, a Medina County town of about 750 located 40 miles west of San Antonio.

Nadia Tamez-Robledo lives near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, which grounded flights Friday, and said winds blew down her fence as the storm also brought thunder and lightning.

She was driving to work when she heard a tornado warning and decided to return home.

"I'm very new to the Austin area so I don't know anything about flash flooding," she said. "I've never had to deal with it. And it's definitely causing me to worry."

National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Smart described the storm system as a "very moist and unstable atmosphere" that's moving into North Texas. Forecasts call for Houston and other regions of Texas also to be hit by heavy rain as the storm system moves eastward into Louisiana and beyond.


Warren reported from Dallas. Associated Press photographer Eric Gay contributed to this report from Floresville.