Latest on flooding: Obama signs Texas disaster declaration

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Posted: May 30, 2015 12:43 AM
Latest on flooding: Obama signs Texas disaster declaration

11:30 p.m. (CDT)

President Barack Obama has signed a disaster declaration for Texas after severe flooding this week.

The White House said Obama declared that he ordered federal aid to supplement other recovery efforts in the area affected by severe weather since May 4.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had earlier requested a presidential disaster declaration to get federal help for the counties affected.

Obama's action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Harris, Hays, and Van Zandt counties.

Funding also is available to governments and some nonprofits on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and repairs in Cooke, Gaines, Grimes, Harris, Hays, Navarro, and Van Zandt counties.

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9:35 p.m. (CDT)

Officials in a Texas city about 35 miles southwest of Houston have ordered the evacuation of about 50 flood-threatened homes near the Brazos River.

The city of Rosenberg says the mandatory evacuation took effect at 9 p.m. CDT on Friday. Residents in the affected homes will not be allowed to re-enter the evacuated area until it is deemed safe to return.

A Red Cross shelter in the nearby city of Richmond has been set up for residents.

The river was expected to crest at 50 feet by Sunday. Late Friday evening, the river was just above its flood stage of 48 feet.

Residents in about 30 homes in Wharton, about 25 miles southwest of Rosenberg, were also ordered to evacuate Friday due to the rising Colorado River.

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9:10 p.m. (CDT)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has requested a presidential disaster declaration to get federal help for counties affected by severe weather.

Abbott is requesting individual assistance for Harris, Hays and Van Zandt counties. Harris is home to Houston, which experienced severe flooding this week. In Hays County, deadly flooding killed six people, with six others still missing. Such assistance will provide residents and businesses with access to disaster housing, grants and low-interest loans.

Abbott is requesting public assistance for Cooke, Gaines, Grimes, Harris, Hays, Navarro and Van Zandt counties. Such assistance will help officials pay part of the costs of rebuilding a community's damaged infrastructure, which could include debris removal and emergency protective measures.

Other counties could later be added to the request.

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8:35 p.m. (CDT)

Another victim of deadly storms and flooding in Texas has been identified by authorities.

Officials Friday evening identified 73-year-old Ralph Hugh Carey as one of the six people who died in Hays County in Central Texas.

Carey's body was recovered Thursday from a brushy area near the Blanco River in San Marcos. He had last been seen in Wimberley, located 15 miles northwest of San Marcos.

Authorities have identified five of the six bodies found in Hays County. Six people are still listed as missing in Hays County.

Earlier Friday, authorities identified the body of 6-year-old Jonathan Andrew McComb, who was in a vacation home in Wimberley that was swept away by rushing waters.

In Texas, 24 have been killed by the deadly storms, with four more in Oklahoma.

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8 p.m. (CDT)

The body of another victim of deadly storms has been found by authorities, bringing the death toll of those killed in Texas to 24.

Meanwhile, authorities have identified the body of a 6-year-old boy who was in a vacation home swept away by rushing water.

Trey Hatt, spokesman for the Hays County Emergency Operations Center, says the body was found Thursday evening near the border of Hays and Blanco counties.

On Friday, medical examiners identified Jonathan Andrew McComb, who along with his family had been staying in a home in Wimberley, about 35 miles southwest of Austin. The home was knocked off its foundation and carried down the raging Blanco River Sunday. Andrew's mother and 4-year-old sister are still missing.

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6:20 p.m. (CDT)

The number of homes ordered evacuated in the Southeast Texas city of Wharton due to the rising Colorado River has been reduced to 30.

Officials in Wharton, 60 miles southwest of Houston, initially included 300 homes as part of a voluntary evacuation.

On Friday, the evacuation was made mandatory, but Mayor Domingo Montalvo Jr. says officials narrowed down the number of homes to an area that tends to flood the most.

Montalvo ordered those homes evacuated by 5:30 p.m. Friday.

The river is expected to crest at just over 43 feet on Saturday morning. That will likely lead to flooding on several residential streets in low-lying areas of the city of about 8,500 residents.

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5:30 p.m. (CDT)

Forecasters say Texas has set rainfall records in several areas after deadly storms.

The National Weather Service said Friday that 16.07 inches of rain fell across the Dallas area in May. That easily eclipsed a 1982 record of 13.66. Austin similarly beat its May record for rainfall with 17.59 inches, besting a high of 14.10 inches that had stood since 1895.

Meteorologist Dennis Cain in Dallas says other areas have set all-time recorded highs, such as Gainesville, near the Oklahoma border, and Corpus Christi, along the Gulf of Mexico. Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle is in its second-wettest month on record.

A series of spring storms has killed at least 27 people in Texas and Oklahoma. There are at least 13 people missing in Texas.

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4:30 p.m. (CDT)

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has issued disaster declarations for five counties hit hard by recent storms and flooding.

Hutchinson toured flooded parts of the state on Friday. On his return to Little Rock, he applauded first-responders.

Arkansas highway officials have closed a pair of roads in southwestern Arkansas because of flooding, and the Pig Trail Scenic Byway is closed north of Cass because part of the roadway has washed away.

Much of the state is on alert for high water, and the Storm Prediction Center posted a tornado watch for western Arkansas and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and Missouri until 7 p.m.

The city of Little Rock closed paths near the Two Rivers Park. An advisory said even snakes could be seeking higher ground.

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4:15 p.m. (CDT)

The mayor of a city about 60 miles southwest of Houston has ordered the evacuation of about 300 flood-threatened homes near the Colorado River.

Paula Favors, a spokeswoman for the city of Wharton, says the mayor ordered those homes evacuated by 5:30 p.m. Friday. She says many residents had already left when the evacuation was voluntary.

The river is expected to crest in the area at just over 43 feet on Saturday morning. Favors says that would likely flood several residential streets in low-lying areas of Wharton, a city of about 8,500 residents.

A shelter opened for residents only had seven people Thursday evening, but Favors says officials expect that figure to increase with the mandatory evacuation.

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3:20 p.m. (CDT)

The Coast Guard has called off the search for a 51-year-old fisherman who was swept away by rapid river currents, bringing total number of people killed in Texas by recent storms and flooding to at least 23.

The Coast Guard says the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service found a body on a Southeast Texas beach on Friday that matched the description of the missing man. He and two other men were fishing in the Brazos River on Thursday when they were caught in the currents.

The other men managed to escape. The dead man's name hasn't been released.

Recent storms have caused widespread flooding across the southern Plains and claimed at least 27 lives, including four in Oklahoma. At least 13 people remain missing in Texas.

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3:05 p.m. (CDT)

Authorities have closed several miles of a busy Dallas highway that became flooded, trapping motorists for hours.

Overnight rain caused water to pool under an overpass on Loop 12 northwest of downtown Dallas on Friday morning, stranding morning commuters. All trapped motorists were finally able to drive off after a crane removed a section of median.

Tony Hartzel, a Department of Transportation spokesman, says the section of highway will remain closed until the water recedes and it is deemed safe.

Recent storms have caused widespread flooding in the southern Plains and have killed at least 22 people in Texas and four others in Oklahoma. About a dozen people remain missing in Texas.

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2:30 p.m. (CDT)

A suburban Dallas police officer had to be rescued by helicopter after his SUV got trapped in rushing floodwaters while he was diverting traffic.

Sachse police spokesman Lt. Martin Cassidy says the rising floodwaters surrounded the officer Friday morning as he was directing traffic away from it.

He was stuck for about two hours. Dive teams first tried to get him out, but couldn't reach him. Eventually, a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter came to the rescue. He was harnessed and then lifted out of the water. He was carried high above the waters.

Sachse is about 20 miles northeast of Dallas.

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2:15 p.m. (CDT)

Forecasters say storms may dump more rain this weekend on areas of Texas that are dealing with major flooding.

The National Weather Service said Friday that there's up to a 70 percent chance of heavy rain and thunderstorms in the Houston area from Saturday afternoon into Sunday. One to 3 inches of rain is expected, on average, but up to 6 inches could fall in some places.

There is up to a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms during that time in the Austin and San Antonio area, with 1 to 2 inches of rain likely.

In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the high chances of rain returns Friday night, with a 60 percent chance running through Saturday night. As much as 1½ inches could fall.

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2 p.m. (CDT)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared a state of disaster for 24 more counties, raising the total to 70 counties with such a designation due to recent storms and flooding or earlier tornadoes.

Abbott said in a statement Friday that other counties could be added as the situation develops. More storms are expected to pass through the state over the weekend, including parts of the state already dealing with major flooding.

The counties added Friday are: Angelina, Burleson, Cherokee, Edwards, Ellis, Fayette, Gillespie, Kaufman, Lamar, Liberty, Leon, Lynn, Madison, Milam, Real, Refugio, Rusk, Sabine, Travis, Tyler, Uvalde, Victoria, Waller and Wharton.

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1:10 p.m. (CDT)

Authorities say a body found in the Houston Ship Channel was that of an 87-year-old man who had been missing since a boat he was on capsized earlier this week.

The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences confirmed Friday that it was Jack Alter's body recovered Thursday night. It raises the death toll from recent storms in the region to 22 in Texas and four others in Oklahoma.

Alter, his wife, Shirley Alter, and another man were killed Tuesday when a boat capsized while trying to rescue them from a stormy bayou. All three bodies have been recovered.

Thirteen people are still considered missing in Texas, but officials say everyone who went missing in Houston has been accounted for.

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12:40 p.m. (CDT)

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback says several southeastern Kansas reservoirs are at flood-stage and that some low-lying areas of that region are already dealing with flooding.

Brownback said Friday that people in those areas need to be careful not to get caught unprepared by flooding.

Recent storms have caused widespread flooding in the southern Plains and have been blamed for the deaths of 21 people in Texas and four in Oklahoma. Storms are dumping more rain on the region and all of southeastern Kansas is under flood warnings or flash flood watches.

Kansas' adjutant general, Lee Tafanelli, said the state is assessing the damage and trying to project the potential impact of additional rain.

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12:25 p.m. (CDT)

Two Arkansas highways near the state's border with Texas have been closed because of high water on and near the Red River.

Arkansas highway officials on Friday closed U.S. 71 in both directions north of Texarkana. Traffic is being diverted to Hope, 30 miles to the east.

Earlier this week, crews closed Arkansas 41 south of Foreman near where it crosses the Red River into Texas.

The highway department has posted signs and is using electronic messages boards to warn motorists.

The department said the highways will be closed until the water recedes and engineers can inspect the roadways.

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12 p.m. (CDT)

Authorities say a man drowned after his truck was swept into a culvert near Dallas, raising the death toll from recent storms in Texas and Oklahoma to 25 people.

Mesquite Fire Department Capt. Kelly Turner says first responders found the dead man early Friday morning in his overturned truck, which was surrounded by floodwaters. He says the truck had been underwater for some time before they found it, and that authorities believe he was alone in the vehicle.

Turner says people stranded on two cars that were also swept off the road told responders about the truck. The driver's name wasn't released.

The recent storms have caused widespread flooding in the southern Plains, killing at least 21 people in Texas and four in Oklahoma. Texas has 14 missing people.

11:45 a.m. (CDT)

Flooding has blocked a busy highway near Dallas, causing major traffic delays in both directions.

Overnight rain caused water to pool under an overpass on Loop 12 northwest of downtown Dallas on Friday morning, trapping commuters for several hours.

Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Tony Hartzel says a crane was brought in to remove a section of median so that motorists trapped in the southbound lanes could get off the roadway. The northbound lane had already been cleared.

He says the southbound lanes were more challenging because streets where people could have exited were flooded as well.

He says they think that the area where the road usually drains to flooded as well, so there was nowhere for the water to go.

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10:45 a.m. (CDT)

Two forks of the San Jacinto River northeast of Houston have overflowed their banks, but no serious problems have been reported.

Harris County emergency management spokesman Francisco Sanchez says the water from the west fork has poured into the streets of nearby neighborhoods but the homes are on stilts and residents are used to high water.

He says it doesn't have to be a major flood for those conditions to develop.

Sanchez says those who live along the river's east fork are also used to being flooded and isolated, and they haven't reported any serious issues.

The forks combine to form Lake Houston, and the river below the lake eventually becomes the Houston Ship Channel.

Sanchez says highways in Houston and the rest of Harris County are clear.

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10 a.m. (CDT)

The Colorado River is expected to crest two feet lower than previously expected in and around the southeastern Texas city of Wharton, where residents have been asked to evacuate about 300 homes.

City spokeswoman Paula Favors said Friday that river level is expected to crest Saturday morning at 43 feet, not the 45 feet predicted Thursday.

She says a 43-foot crest would likely flood several residential streets in low-lying areas of Wharton, a city of roughly 8,500 residents about 60 miles southwest of Houston.

Favors says residents have been good about heeding the warnings to head for higher ground.

Recent storms have caused widespread flooding in Texas and nearby states and have been blamed for 20 deaths in Texas and four in Oklahoma. Fourteen people in Texas are also missing.

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9:10 a.m. (CDT)

Arkansas transportation officials have closed a section of southbound U.S. Highway 71 north of the Texas border due to flooding along the Red River.

The state Highway and Transportation Department says it closed a 2.47 miles of the southbound lanes Friday morning and that it may soon also have to close the northbound lanes as well. The road would remain closed until the water recedes and engineers can assess any damage.

A flooded 5-mile section of State Highway 41 near the Texas border also remains closed.

Recent storms have caused widespread flooding in the southern Plains and have been blamed for the deaths of 20 people in Texas and four in Oklahoma. Fourteen people in Texas also remain missing.

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8:55 a.m. (CDT)

Authorities say the Brazos River in North Texas' Parker County is rising again due to new rain and the opening of two flood gates upstream at Possum Kingdom Lake.

Joel Kertok, the emergency management spokesman for the county west of Fort Worth, said Friday that the river there has risen above flood stage again after dropping below it Thursday night.

On Thursday, water was lapping at the foundations of 11 homes as the river crested at 23.58 feet before dropping to about 20 feet. The flood stage is at 21 feet. The level rose Friday to 21.4 feet and was expected to rise more with the opening of the flood gates.

Residents of about 250 homes near the river, most in the Horseshoe Bend community, were asked to voluntarily evacuate.

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7:55 a.m. (CDT)

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says troopers rescued a man who was swept off a bridge by floodwaters, then jailed him on a public intoxication complaint.

The patrol says the unnamed man was swept away about 8:30 p.m. Thursday while walking across a closed portion of U.S. Highway 70 at the Muddy Boggy Bridge in Choctaw County. Troopers Kevin Antwine and Nathan Mullins put a boat in the water and found the man clinging to a tree about 200 yards south of the highway.

The patrol says that once he was transported back to shore, the man was arrested by Choctaw County sheriff's deputies on a complaint of public intoxication

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7:50 a.m. (CDT)

The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch for much of Arkansas following heavy rainfall across the state.

Forecasters say there will be several rounds of rainfall in Arkansas this weekend as a slow-moving storm system moves across the southern plains. While rainfall totals will generally be 1 to 2 inches with each round, the rainfall combined with already saturated ground will likely cause flash flooding in the northwest half of the state.

The flash flood watch will remain in effect through Saturday night in portions of central, north central, southwest and western Arkansas. Forecasters say area rivers and streams are already flooding or are nearly full, and any additional rainfall the region gets will not be able to drain into waterways.

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7:20 a.m. (CDT)

A line of thunderstorms stalled while passing over the Dallas area overnight, dropping as much as 7 inches of rain in some areas as vehicles became trapped on flooded streets and water seeped into homes.

Dallas Fire Rescue said early Friday that crews have responded to about 260 calls that include vehicles trapped in high water and accidents related to the weather since midnight Thursday.

National Weather Service meteorologist Ted Ryan says an average of 3 to 5 inches of rain fell across the area after the thunderstorms stalled over the city.

He says the Dallas suburb of Garland got from 6 to 7 inches of rain. He says flooding along a creek there washed some cars down the street.

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6:45 a.m. (CDT)

Johnson County officials say they have evacuated 12 people who were caught in floodwaters.

Officials said some homes in the county some 50 miles south of Dallas were inundated with water late Thursday. Some people were rescued from stranded vehicles.

Texas has been dealing with flooding since heavy rains began at the weekend, worsened by thunderstorms that passed through the state overnight.

The National Weather Service has issued flood warnings for 21 Texas communities including Johnson, Travis and Bastrop counties.

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3:30 a.m. (CDT)

Emergency personnel have rescued the occupants of a houseboat that was adrift in Lake Travis in Austin.

Austin-Travis County EMS says the 21 occupants of the boat rescued Friday were not injured.

Responders say the houseboat broke free from Sandy Creek Marina earlier in the day. The area has been blighted by days of relentless rains. Emergency personnel used three boats to attach the houseboat to the dock at the marina.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for parts of Travis, Williamson and Bastrop counties until 4:45 a.m.