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As storms move across Texas, 1 child dies after being swept away in floodwaters

By JAMIE STENGLE and LEKAN OYEKANMI, Associated Press
Published: May 6, 2024, 10:03am

HOUSTON (AP) — Storms in Texas brought additional rain Sunday to the already saturated Houston area where hundreds of people have been rescued from flooded homes and roads, while to the north in the Fort Worth area, a child died after being swept away when the car he was traveling in got stuck in floodwaters.

Over the last week, areas near Lake Livingston, located northeast of Houston, have gotten upwards of 23 inches (58 centimeters) of rain, National Weather Service meteorologist Jimmy Fowler said on Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, he said, areas in northeastern Harris County, the nation’s third-largest county that includes Houston, had a range of 6 inches (15 centimeters) to almost 17 inches (43 centimeters) of rain in that same period.

Scattered showers in the Houston area on Sunday brought light to moderate rainfall, he said.

“With the rainfall that fell overnight plus this morning it just kind of prolonged the river flooding that we were experiencing,” Fowler said.

He said the rain would taper off in the evening, with no heavy rain events expected in the next week or so.

CHILD DIES IN FLOODWATERS

In Johnson County, located south of Fort Worth, a 4-year-old boy died when he was swept away after the vehicle he was riding in became stuck in swift-moving water near the community of Lillian just before 2 a.m. Sunday, an official said.

The child and two adults were trying to get to dry ground when they were swept away, Jamie Moore, the Johnson County Emergency Management director, wrote in a Facebook post.

The two adults were rescued around 5 a.m. and taken to a hospital, while the child was found dead around 7:20 a.m. in the water, Moore said.

Storms brought as 9 inches (23 centimeters) of rain in a span of six to eight hours in some areas from central Texas to the Dallas-Fort Worth area overnight, said National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Stalley. He said the rains washed out some roads west of Waco.

HOUSTON-AREA RIVER LEVELS

Over the last few days, storms have forced numerous high-water rescues in the Houston area, including some from the rooftops of flooded homes.

Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District, said Sunday afternoon that “things are improving slowly.”

“We have water going down on our river systems,” said Lindner. The San Jacinto River crested on Saturday, with its east and west forks and main stem below Lake Houston falling from 1 foot (0.30 meters) to 3 feet (0.91 meters) overnight. he said.

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Lindner said that so far, Sunday’s additional rain did not seem to be causing any new flooding. He urged people to still be cautious, noting that many areas are still flooded.

“We really need everybody to give it just another day before we feel comfortable that conditions are safe,” Lindner said.

Greg Moss, 68, was staying put in his recreational vehicle on Sunday after leaving his home in the community of Channelview in eastern Harris County near the San Jacinto River. On Saturday, he packed up many of his belongings and left before the road to his home flooded.

“I would be stuck for four days,” Moss said. “So now at least I can go get something to eat.”

Moss moved his belongings and vehicle to a neighbor’s home, where planned to stay until the waters recede. He said Sunday that the floodwaters had already gone down by a couple of feet and that he wasn’t worried his home would flood because it’s located on higher ground.

“It’ll be OK to go in there in the morning,” he said.

HOUSTON PRONE TO FLOODING

Houston is one of the most flood-prone metro areas in the country. The city of more than 2 million people has long experience dealing with devastating weather.

Hurricane Harvey in 2017 dumped historic rainfall that flooded thousands of homes and resulted in more than 60,000 rescues by government personnel across Harris County.

The greater Houston area covers about 10,000 square miles (25,900 square kilometers), a footprint slightly bigger than New Jersey. It is crisscrossed by about 1,700 miles (2,700 kilometers) of channels, creeks and bayous draining into the Gulf of Mexico, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southeast of downtown.

The system of bayous and reservoirs was built to drain heavy rains, but the engineering initially designed nearly 100 years ago has struggled to keep up with the city’s growth and bigger storms.

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