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At least two killed in torrential San Antonio rain, floods

May 25, 2013|By Devin Kelly and Michael Mello
  • Marco Fairchild, left, and Gary Garza help Sueann Schaller from her car Saturday as floodwaters sweep San Antonio.
Marco Fairchild, left, and Gary Garza help Sueann Schaller from her car… (Lisa Krantz / Associated…)

At least two people were killed Saturday, swept away by floodwaters caused by torrential rain in San Antonio that prompted at least 130 rescues, partially collapsed the roof of an apartment building and led to emergency evacuation orders along cresting rivers and creeks.

Water poured into roads and streets, inundating the Texas city. Crews fanned out across Bexar County, using helicopters to spot stranded people and rescuing them by boat from rooftops and partially submerged cars.

The San Antonio Fire Department received more than 250 calls for high-water incidents, with at least 130 confirmed rescues, said department spokesman Christian Bove. County officials evacuated 60 people from homes along the San Antonio River.

A 29-year-old woman who was trapped in her car was swept away when she climbed onto the roof. Her body was later found against a fence downstream, Bove said.

The body of another woman, believed to be in her mid-60s, was found inside her vehicle after floodwaters receded Saturday night. Earlier, firefighters had attempted to rescue the woman by boat, but her vehicle rolled in the water, knocking the firefighters out of the boat. Once the firefighters had recovered, the vehicle was submerged and was swept away by waters as high as 25 feet, Bove said.

The city's historic Spanish missions, including the Alamo, had not been damaged, although many are in the heavily hit south side of the city, Bove said.

Until now, the region had been experiencing a dry spell.

“The rain is very much needed,” Bove said. “But not this much in such a short amount of time.”

By the afternoon, 9.87 inches of rain had fallen since midnight, making it the wettest day in May ever recorded in San Antonio, said Brian Hoeth, an emergency response meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.

Such heavy single-day rainfall has not been seen in the area since October 1998, officials said. In that two-day episode, 31 people drowned and property damage was estimated at $750 million, the Texas Department of Public Safety reported.

“This was certainly an out-of-the-ordinary event,” even in an area prone to floods because of its rivers, lakes and hills, Hoeth said.

An apartment complex in San Antonio partially collapsed from water weight on the roof, displacing 80 residents.

Leon Creek at Interstate 35 had reached 27.6 feet and was expected to crest at 29 feet Saturday night, far over the flood threshold of 15 feet, the National Weather Service said.

An emergency evacuation order was issued for residents along a 15-mile stretch of the San Antonio River southeast of San Antonio, from Elmendorf to below Floresville. That bend of the river was expected to peak at 62 feet by Sunday morning.

A flash flood warning was out for nearly two dozen counties, with 2 to 4 inches of rain forecast to fall overnight.


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