By Justin Madden
(Reuters) - Heavy rains and high winds from a storm system moving north from Mexico flooded parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, leaving at least one person dead, officials said on Wednesday.
A 30-year-old man drowned on Tuesday night from attempting to drive his sports utility vehicle across a flooded area in rural southeastern Oklahoma, according to the National Weather Service.
Flash flood watches and flood warnings were in effect on Wednesday as far north as Illinois and Missouri as downpours are forecast to continue through Friday from the slow-moving storm, the National Weather Service said.
The NWS forecast severe thunderstorms in Louisiana and Texas for Wednesday, with winds reaching about 47 miles per hour, and more than 10 inches of rain in parts of the central Gulf Coast and lower and middle Mississippi Valley, which could cause significant flooding.
Emergency crews were conducting swift water rescues in parts of Louisiana and Texas as high winds damaged homes and knocked power lines in Beaumont, Texas, a weather service official said.
Rain had been falling in some areas for more than 24 hours and would continue for several more days.
"This system is very strong, with wings in upper Texas and the Louisiana coast," said NWS warning coordination meteorologist Roger Erickson.
Areas on the Gulf Coast from Houston through Lake Charles, Louisiana, were hit by flooding on Tuesday, and waters were still high on Wednesday.
In rural areas of Caddo Parish, Louisiana, around the town of Shreveport on the Red River, 11 families were evacuated overnight on Tuesday due to flooding. On Wednesday, schools were closed, power lines were down in some areas, roads were blocked, and three more families were being evacuated.
The Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office was distributing sandbags on Wednesday.
"A lot of water is coming in, and there's very little time," said spokeswoman Cindy Chadwick. "We've had trees falling, blocking roadways because the ground is saturated."
(Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)