Firefighter drowns during rescue as floods menace Oklahoma, Texas

Reuters News
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Posted: May 24, 2015 11:19 AM

By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - An Oklahoma firefighter was swept into a flooded storm drain and apparently drowned during an overnight rescue effort, local media reported on Sunday, as severe storms in the south central United States prompted evacuations in Texas.

The National Weather Service warned that flash flooding was possible in parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas with heavy rainfall expected in a region already soaked by recent storms.

The firefighter's death occurred overnight in Claremore, Oklahoma, about 30 miles northeast of Tulsa, while he was responding to a call to help about 10 people trapped in their homes by rising floodwaters, television station KTUL reported.

Another firefighter who rushed to his aid was also swept into the storm drain but survived with minor injuries, the station said.

In central Texas local officials warned that severe flooding from the Blanco River could submerge parts of a highway connecting the cities of San Antonio and Austin, according to the fire department in Kyle, Texas, south of Austin.

Residents living near the river in nearby San Marcos, Texas were ordered to evacuate.

The Red Cross has opened several shelters in the area.

In San Antonio approximately 30,000 people lost power on Saturday night, with most still without power early on Sunday. Dozens of city streets were closed due to flooding.

The National Weather Service reported that Medina Lake, whose low levels had become a symbol of the region's drought in recent years, rose 22 feet in seven hours on Saturday.

(Writing by Letitia Stein; Editing by Greg Mahlich)