Pounding storms tore through Oklahoma and Texas over the holiday weekend, leaving at least 10 people dead and 14 people missing, according to city and state officials.
In addition, thousands of structures were damaged in the storms and thousands of people were forced to flee their homes. Tens of thousands of people still lacked power on Tuesday afternoon as the region worked to cover from the storms.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Monday he was declaring a state of emergency in 32 counties, adding them to the 13 counties where emergencies were declared earlier this month. In Oklahoma, Gov. Mary Fallin said Tuesday afternoon that each of the 77 counties in her state were placed under a state of emergency.
President Obama said Tuesday that he had spoken with Abbott and offered federal assistance.
“We have FEMA personnel already on the ground,” Obama said. “They are coordinating with Texas emergency management authorities and I will anticipate that there will be some significant requests made to Washington. My pledge to him is that we will expedite those requests.”
A teenager in Texas believed to be heading back from her high school prom was among the victims of the flooding, friends and family said.
There were a dozen people still missing as of Tuesday evening, according to Kristi Wyatt, a spokeswoman for the city of San Marcos. That tally includes the families who were in a cabin over the weekend in the city of Wimberley, between San Antonio and Austin, when the water on the Blanco River rose and the cabin was pulled downriver.
The cabin was smashed into a bridge, sending its occupants into the water, according to the father of a man who escaped the cabin and is being treated at a hospital. The man’s father, Joe McComb, told The Post that the people in the cabin had still not been found by Tuesday evening. The people in this home included at least three young children.
About 350 homes were fully submerged by the flooding in Wimberley, a city with its center at the place where the Blanco River meets Cypress Creek.
One man was found dead in San Marcos on Sunday. About 1,220 people in Hays County were forced to evacuate from low-lying areas, the Texas Department of Public Safety said Tuesday. Meanwhile, tornadoes have been confirmed in the cities of Houston and Austin, as well as in Coryell and Lampasas counties.
The Red Cross said that more than than 220 people spent the Memorial Day holiday in one of its shelters.
These storms are the most recent in a historically rainy month for the southern states. A large swath of Oklahoma and northern Texas has seen over 20 inches of rain thus far in May alone.
With over 18 inches of rainfall and counting, Oklahoma City is in the midst of its all-time wettest month. The previous wettest month for the Oklahoma capital was 14.66 inches, set in June 1989. (Records at the location date back to 1890.)
Record-breaking rainfall has also been widespread in Texas. Wichita Falls and Corpus Christi have surpassed their previous records for all-time wettest month, and Amarillo is inching toward its wettest May.
And the rain is not expected to abate. While the widespread excessive rainfall seems to be tapering off across the southern U.S., nearly all of Texas and Oklahoma, already the wettest states in the nation this month, are expected to see rain within the next seven days according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Prediction Center.
The center is forecasting an additional three inches of rain to fall in this region through May 31, which could push Oklahoma City’s monthly rainfall total past 20 inches.
Houston has seen over 10 inches of rain since the beginning of the month, making this the eight wettest May on record. The city activated its highest level of emergency operations management for the first time since Hurricane Ike struck in 2008, officials said.
The flooding froze much of Houston, the biggest city in Texas and the fourth-largest city in the country. Bus and rail service were suspended on Tuesday morning.
Three people in Houston were confirmed dead by Tuesday afternoon due to the flooding, according to Houston Mayor Annise D. Parker. In addition, her office said a fourth person died while pushing his car.
“The challenge is that most of the city is fine and the streets are clear and people don’t realize that just a mile away, they have a dangerous condition,” Parker said at a news conference Tuesday. She declared a local state of disaster in Houston on Tuesday due to damage from the flooding.
Another two people were missing in Houston after being swept into the water during an attempted rescue, Parker’s office said.
Heavy rain in Houston with about 2 or 3 inches of rain per hour overnight on Monday night and into Tuesday caused bayous to swell far beyond their banks, stranding drivers on major roadways.
Flood warnings also remain in place for the entire Houston metro area until 2:45 p.m. Tuesday.
Many city workers in Houston were told to come in to work late and court hearings were canceled. The Houston Independent School District told its 215,000 students to remain home Tuesday as schools and offices were closed. (The school district says it will host a make-up day on Friday, which means the school year — originally set to end Thursday — will be extended for an extra day.)
The University of Houston said it was closing until noon due to flooding, while fans at Monday night’s NBA playoff game between the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors were asked to remain inside the Toyota Center due to the weather.
Meanwhile, more than 43,000 people in the Houston area were without power on Tuesday afternoon, a drop from the number seen early Tuesday morning, according to CenterPoint Energy. The energy company, which is headquartered in Houston, said it was sending out hundreds of inspectors to assess the damage and restore power.
A deadly tornado in Mexico tore through the border town of Ciudad Acuña on Monday, killing more than a dozen people and damaging hundreds of homes. It was likely spawned from a thunderstorm along the Texas-Mexico border.
In Oklahoma, there have been at least four deaths attributed to the storms between Saturday and Monday. A firefighter died during a water rescue, a woman died in a traffic accident in Tulsa, and two men died of unspecified causes, according to the state’s Department of Emergency Management.
There have been six other deaths due to storms in the state since May 5, according to officials, including two men last week. In addition, there have been 49 injuries due to the state’s earlier storms.
The storms and other weather have had an incredible impact on the state. Roadways across Oklahoma are closed, while thousands of people were left without power after the weekend flooding.
At least two areas — the town of Silo and McCurtain County — are without drinking water due to flood damage. People have been trapped in rental cabins and homes facing rising water, while dozens of head of cattle and calves were stranded on an island, emergency officials said. A tornado in Atoka, in the southern part of the state, significantly damaged four homes and injured one person, emergency officials said.
Authorities in Oklahoma also warn that additional punishing weather looms, with heavy rain expected later in the week.
The disastrous rain that has fallen in the area has also helped deal with another problem: Extreme drought. Last week, no portion of Texas or Oklahoma had some of the most severe types of drought, the U.S. Drought Monitor said; a year earlier, 40 percent of Texas and 60 percent of Oklahoma were experiencing extreme or exceptional drought.
[Angela Fritz, Sarah Larimer and Sarah Kaplan contributed to this report.]
This post has been updated with new information. First published: 11:09 a.m.