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Hermine's rains cause mess in Texas, at least 2 deaths

Image: Central Texas Floods
Greg Moore, a local business owner, checks the damage Wednesday in Belton, Texas.Mitch Green / Temple Daily Telegram via AP
/ Source: staff and news service reports

The slow-moving remnants of Tropical Storm Hermine caused water rescues, evacuations, at least two deaths and commuting headaches in central and north Texas on Wednesday, just as a new tropical storm formed in the deep Atlantic.

In central Texas, some areas have seen 15 inches of rain over two days.

San Antonio on Wednesday saw record rain and the closure of 35 roadways. The city on Tuesday saw power outages to 230,000 customers.

In nearby New Braunfels, residents of up to 1,000 homes along the Guadalupe and Comal rivers were urged to evacuate overnight after Hermine dumped torrential rain across the region. By late morning, most of the evacuation orders were lifted.

Much of Arlington was under water, with firefighters using ladders to reach residents stranded in the upper floors of their homes in one subdivision.

Coffee-colored floodwaters rushed past roller coaster tracks at a Six Flags amusement park.

Bewildered residents surprised by the extent of the flooding waded through waist-deep water in the streets.

Two mobile homes and a house were swept away north of Austin, and dozens of people sought emergency shelter after state and local authorities performed numerous high-water rescues from Austin to Dallas.

Remnants of the storm, downgraded to a tropical depression Tuesday night, appeared to be moving into southern Oklahoma in satellite images and were forecast to move as far north as Kansas in the coming days.

The National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings for many parts of Oklahoma, and the entire state was under a flash flood watch.

The National Weather Service reported that at least one person died in a vehicle submerged by water from a swollen creek in Killeen, north of Austin.

Cleburne fire chief Clint Ishmael told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that a man drowned Wednesday afternoon after being swept away from firefighters who were trying to rescue him from a flooded creek north of Alvarado in Johnson County. The man had been stranded in his pickup truck.

Students at Bear Creek Intermediate School in Keller, located just north of Fort Worth, were evacuated Wednesday morning to a church because of rising floodwaters along Bear Creek. The district's website said that all of the students were safely transported to the church and will have a regular school day there.

Persistent overnight rains in the Dallas area led to power outages and road closures that complicated the Wednesday morning commute, and flood warnings were posted throughout central and north Texas.

The storm on Tuesday brought winds gusting to about 70 mph and downpours to southern Texas but left only minor scrapes in the storm-weary Rio Grande Valley, which is proving resilient this hurricane season after taking a third tropical system on the chin.

The storm struck the flood-prone valley just after the cleanup finished from Hurricane Alex at the start of the summer and an unnamed tropical depression in July. Only last week had Hidalgo County on the U.S.-Mexico border stowed its last water pump.

But Hermine's remnants were expected to cover more of the U.S. than Alex, which swiped Texas in June as a Category 1 storm before plunging southwest and breaking up over Mexico.

"This is going to be much more of a memorable storm than Alex," National Weather Service meteorologist Joseph Tomaselli said.

Hermine made landfall early Tuesday in northeastern Mexico with winds of up to 65 mph, arriving near the same spot as Alex. By Tuesday night, maximum winds speeds had decreased to about 35 mph.

A peeled-back motel roof in the coastal farming town of Raymondville and scattered power outages were about the worst damage in south Texas.

"I think we're lucky. It could've been worse," said Art Nelson, sizing up the hulking aluminum shed that collapsed on a farming plow at his John Deere store in Raymondville.

The Coast Guard said it received multiple reports of vessels in distress late Monday and early Tuesday. Monday evening's incoming tide freed a fishing boat that had run aground in the Brownsville Ship Channel near Port Isabel, but Coast Guard crews and other officials had to rescue 17 crew members and a dog from three other fishing vessels that got stuck near the South Padre Island beach. All were treated for minor injuries, the Coast Guard said Tuesday.

Mexico felt the storm effects much more acutely than Texas on Tuesday as Hermine knocked out power for several hours in the border city of Matamoros and damaged about 20 homes, whose inhabitants were among 3,500 people who evacuated to shelters.

Authorities in Mexico said there were no reports of serious injuries or death, which was welcome news after 12 people in Mexico died in flooding caused by Hurricane Alex earlier this summer.

Authorities had released water from some dams in Mexico to make room for expected runoff. That added more anxiety in the northeast cattle-ranching region where residents already live under the fear of a bloody turf war between drug cartels. Hermine struck around the same area where 72 migrants were killed two weeks ago in what is believed to be the country's worst drug gang massacre to date.

Far out in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Igor formed Wednesday with winds of 40 mph and it is expected to strengthen, the National Hurricane Center said.

At 2 p.m., ET, Igor was 80 miles from the southernmost Cape Verde islands off the coast of Africa.

Igor was still too far out at sea to forecast whether it will impact the U.S. coast.