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Drivers, residents rescued from high waters in Texas

Severe flooding has stranded many residents in Dallas area.

 

Storms that spawned at least one tornado swept across central and east Texas on Wednesday, leading to numerous water rescues but not dropping enough rain to make up for the state's historic drought.

Storms pounded Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio overnight. Tornado warnings and watches were in effect for parts of Texas and Louisiana as the line of storms moved east.

Record rainfall drenched the Austin area, which also saw a confirmed tornado that did some minor damage but caused no injuries.

The downpour was celebrated in drought-stricken Washington County near Houston. Emergency management coordinator Robert Smith said the rural area's ranches finally have water and, "I think the cows are doing a jig."


Springlike moisture from the Gulf of Mexico dropped the heaviest rainfall -- 6-8 inches -- on an area east of Austin and San Antonio along IH-35, said Mark Wiley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.

"That's very unusual for this time of year," he said. "It was just so much rain in such a short period of time. In so many areas, the ground is still fairly dry, but it was just so fast that it didn't have anywhere to go, especially in the urban areas."

At least 13 people were rescued from high water in Cedar Creek, an hour southeast of Dallas, reported weather.com. A driver whose car was reportedly submerged on Highway 71 and residents trapped in their home by severe flooding were among those saved, the National Weather Service said.

LM Otero / AP

An SUV sits submerged in high water in Dallas, Texas, on Wednesday. A woman was safely rescued from the vehicle.

In Austin, the Austin Bergstrom International Airport reported 2.79 inches of rainfall in one hour Wednesday morning, weather.com said.

Dallas-Fort Worth Airport canceled about 30 departing flights, myFOXdfw.com reported. The widespread storms began Tuesday afternoon and continued nonstop throughout the night, delivering the heaviest amounts west of Fort Worth.

Strong winds and scattered showers slammed the Houston area early Wednesday, knocking out power to tens of thousands of people, reported NBC affiliate KPRC. Flights were canceled there as well.

Wind gusts of 50 to 55 mph in the early-morning hours knocked down trees and power lines, cutting power to some 20,000 customers.

Flooding is a common hazard in Houston, which got hit with severe weather on Jan. 9, when firefighters had to perform about 140 water rescues. Officials warned drivers to "turn around, not drown" if they approached rising water.

The water rescues from this most recent bout of storms began Tuesday night, reported NBCDFW.com. Late Tuesday, firefighters rescued a motorist who had gotten trapped under a bridge in Rowlett, a suburb of Dallas.

Texas suffered its worst single-year drought in state history in 2011. On Tuesday, a top official told state lawmakers that record wildfires last year caused as much as $11 million in damage to Texas state parks and, coupled with the drought, continue to drive down the parks' visitation rates.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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