Record rainfall hit already water-logged northern Texas and Oklahoma overnight claiming the life of a firefighter early Sunday, as emergency crews scrambled to pull residents from floodwaters. As rain continues to fall, Oklahoma City has already surpassed its previous rain record and rescuers have carried out at least 48 high-water rescues. As of late Saturday, 3.15 inches had soaked the city, bringing the total for the month to 17.61 inches.
“It … shatters the all-time monthly record of 14.66 inches set in June of 1989,” said CNN weather producer Sean Morris.
In the town of Claremore OK, near Tulsa, a firefighter died while attempting a high-water rescue, according to local emergency manager Thomas Hudson.
Meanwhile in Texas, An elderly man was caught in an SUV in flooding in Boerne, Texas. Bystanders were able to pull him from the vehicle and bring him to safety.
In Hays County, Texas, near Austin, hundreds of people were rescued or evacuated from their homes, according to sheriff’s office spokeswoman Lt. Jeri Skrocki. Many of the rescues were along the Blanco River, she said. Hays County set up emergency shelters in two schools, a community center and a nursing home.
“We have 25 active rescues that we are working right now. We have people on car tops and rooftops awaiting rescue. People in homes are going to higher levels in the homes. Emergency workers are working around the clock trying to get to those people and get them out safely,” said Kristi Wyatt, communications director for the city of San Marcos, the seat of Hays County.
Authorities had to open more evacuation centers because the first one filled up so quickly. “We had over 300 residents at the first location and the second location is getting filled up as well,” Wyatt said.
Wichita Falls, Texas, was warned that its river could widely overflow its banks and severely flood broad swaths of surrounding areas, as well as large parts of the city. Officials published a potential flooding map with a red zone nearly the size of the city.
“Predictions from the National Weather Service indicate that significant flooding along the Wichita River is very likely,” the town’s emergency management agency said. “The National Weather Service is calling this an ‘historic’ flood event.”
Despite the heavy rain, western Oklahoma and parts of the Texas Panhandle and central Texas are still facing moderate drought or abnormally dry conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The rainfall should put a dent in it, though.
But the current deluge might be a bit much.
“I didn’t hesitate telling people… there’s going to come a day when we’re gonna wish the rain would stop,” Wichita Falls Mayor Glenn Barham told CNN affiliate KAUZ. “I think that day is probably here.”