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Another round of rain for soggy Texas, Oklahoma

June 28, 2007|From the Associated Press

MARBLE FALLS, TEXAS — Storms dumped up to 18 inches of rain in central Texas on Wednesday, flooding several towns and stranding dozens of people on rooftops, on the tops of cars and in trees.

No fatalities were reported in the latest in a series of storms blamed for at least 11 deaths in the last 1 1/2 weeks. The downpours and winds were so treacherous early Wednesday that helicopters had to halt efforts to rescue people from rooftops.

The rain was heaviest in the Marble Falls area, about 40 miles northwest of Austin in the Texas hill country, where Mayor Raymond Whitman said there were 32 high-water rescues. Much of the water had receded by Wednesday afternoon, but as much as 10 more inches of rain was forecast for overnight.

Residents of two subdivisions near Buchanan Dam, northwest of Marble Falls, were asked to evacuate. About seven families were being evacuated by helicopter because roads were impassable.

"The ground is fully saturated ... it could be severe," Whitman said. "If people do not pay attention and move to high ground, it is very possible that there will be fatalities."

Parts of Oklahoma also were soaked Wednesday, with rain falling in Oklahoma City for the 15th consecutive day, breaking a 70-year-old record. Flooding closed roads in central and northeastern Oklahoma.

"Anytime it rains, there's going to be the threat of heavy downpours. It's not out of the question for any one area to get 3 inches," Ty Judd, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said in Norman, Okla.

In Texas, Whitman said three bridges in the Marble Falls area were washed out and the municipal water plant was damaged, leaving about two-thirds of the city without water. "This is the worst I've ever seen it in my lifetime," said Whitman, 47, a lifelong resident.

Whitman Branch creek, typically 2 to 3 feet wide in Marble Falls, stretched at least 100 feet across Wednesday. At least four Frito-Lay trucks had washed away, spilling chips along the creek. One large truck was stuck on its side in the moving water.

Paul Irvin found his sheet metal shop near the creek under 6 feet of water. "It was a sick feeling to see everything you've worked so hard for washing down," he said.

Whitman said looting had been reported in flood-damaged areas, but he declined to elaborate. He said additional police officers would be on duty throughout the night and a curfew could be instituted.

The Texas National Guard sent about 150 troops and 50 vehicles to central Texas and other areas from the Oklahoma state line to the Rio Grande Valley. The storm runoff also caused flooding downstream, and several dams' floodgates were opened, the Lower Colorado River Authority said.

Storms also hit West Texas, where eight people were hurt when winds of nearly 100 mph blasted through. At least four of the injured were in a mobile home that overturned.

The winds also brought down a 320-foot radio tower on a church and a bus, but both were unoccupied.

Rains also drenched northern Texas, where rising water forced the evacuation of at least 50 homes in a subdivision near Lake Granbury, about 60 miles southwest of Dallas. About 30 homes were destroyed there, said Hood County Sheriff Gene Mayo.

About 25 people were rescued from the water, trees and rooftops, he said.

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