Floods in Texas and Oklahoma – 3 Dead, 100s of Homes Destroyed

More record rainfall has resulted in overflowing rivers and flooding in several southern US states, with Texas and Oklahoma the worst hit. Thousands have been forced from their homes by the floods. Latest reports say that 3 people have died in the floods since Saturday 23 May 2015, with many still missing. Thousands of people have been evacuated and 100s of homes destroyed.

Flood Warnings

The latest round of torrential rain to hit central and southern areas of the USA began late Saturday 23 May 2015. Flood warnings were issued in Texas, Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Kansas.

The last 48 hours of rain come on the back of a month of record-breaking heavy rainfall which has left ground already saturated in some areas.

National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma, said that so far this year, they have issued 70 flash flood warnings, which is more than the past 4 years combined.

Rain totals in May 2015 in USA - 30-Day Observed Precipitation as of 24 May 2015. Image: NOAA
Rain totals in May 2015 in USA – 30-Day Observed Precipitation
as of 24 May 2015. Image: NOAA

Record Rainfall

According to the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Norman, Oklahoma, the heavy rains are being caused by a prolonged warming of Pacific ocean sea surface temperatures that generally results in cooler air, coupled with an active southern jet stream and plentiful moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.

Oklahoma City set a new monthly rainfall total this weekend – 18.69 inches by 24 May 2015, beating the previous mark of 14.66 inches of 1989.

Graph showing record rainfall for Oklahoma City.  Image: NWS Norman
Graph showing record rainfall for Oklahoma City. Image: NWS Norman

More rain has been forecast. National weather Service in San Antonio / Austin said that “another 1-3 inches of rain is expected across South Central Texas on Monday, with isolated amounts up to 5″ possible.” Further rain on already saturated ground and high river levels is likely to mean more floods across the region.

Rivers

Although flood warnings were issued, many local observers said they were caught by surprise at how fast the rivers rose, some levels increasing by over 30 feet in just a few hours.

One of the worst hit rivers was the Blanco in Texas. The latest recording shows levels at 40.21 feet, well above major flood stage of 26 feet and 7 feet higher than the previous record of 33.3 feet set in 1929. The graph shows that levels of the river were still below 7 feet late on Saturday 23 May, but rose steeply by over 35 feet in just a few hours by 1am Sunday 24 May 2015.

wimberley blanco river levels
Levels of the Blanco River at Wimberley, Texas. Image: NWS

Rivers in Oklahoma also rose rapidly between 23 and 24 May 2015.

washita river oklahoma
Levels of the Washita River near Clinton, Oklahoma. Image: NWS
chikaskia river oklahoma
Levels of the Chikaskia River, Oklahoma. Image: NWS

Evacuations and Flood Damage

About 350 homes near the town of Wimberley were washed away by flash floods along the Blanco river. Local reports say that around 1,000 homes have been damaged in San Marcos, Wimberley and elsewhere in Hays County, Texas.

Hundreds of people remain in evacuation centres around San Marcos after being forced from their homes or rescued by emergency services. A mandatory evacuation was ordered at Lake Lewis, 50 miles (80km) north of Houston. A voluntary evacuation order was issued in Wichita Falls, urging residents of the city and the surrounding county to evacuate if they live within a half-mile of either side of the Wichita River.

Elsewhere, a mandatory evacuation notice was issued on Sunday 24 May 2015 for residents in the city of Sterling, Colorado. Evacuations were also ordered in Elk City in southwestern Oklahoma.

Flood Victims

At least 3 people have been reported killed in the floods since 23 May 2015.

A fire-fighter died in Oklahoma after being swept away as he took part in a rescue effort in the town of Claremore, in the north-east of the state. A woman was also killed after her car hit flood water in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The other victim died in the floods in San Marcos, Texas. San Marcos emergency management said the body of one man had been recovered but had no more details.

“It’s with heavy hearts that the City reports the first fatality of this flood event. No word on the man’s identity at this time.”

Missing

Several people are still missing in and around the San Marcos area. City authorities said that anyone concerned about someone missing in the floods in San Marcos should call 512-753-2180

Floods in San Marcos, Sunday 24 May 2015. Photo: City of San Marcos
Floods in San Marcos, Sunday 24 May 2015. Photo: City of San Marcos

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