Texas Storms Bring Destructive Flooding, More Tornadoes

by Elisha Fieldstadt /  / Updated 

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Deadly storms continued to wreak havoc in Texas Saturday as the downpours and heavy winds moved east, killing up to six people and leaving behind a path of destruction.

A stretch of the Southeast from eastern Texas to the southwest corner of Alabama was under flash flood warnings and watches, according to the National Weather Service, which warned the region could anticipate “damaging winds, hail and isolated short-lived tornadoes.”

Three people in Travis County, near Austin, were killed after being washed away by floodwaters Friday, county officials said. Another person died after their vehicle was swept away by floodwaters at Joint Base San Antonio Camp Bullis in Bexar County, officials said.

Sisters Briana Arriaga, right, and Angelina Arriaga, left, look over their father's truck that was found overturned in a neighbor's front lawn near Elroy, Texas on Saturday after nearby Dry Creek overflowed.Ralph Barrera / Austin American-Statesman via AP

The City of Houston said it was investigating reports of two weather-related fatalities, but the cause of the deaths was not been confirmed Saturday.

In Travis County, one body was found Friday night and two bodies were found Saturday morning.

One of the bodies found Saturday was a woman in her 60s who was swept away from her home with her husband. The husband was found alive. Travis County officials have not named anyone who was killed in the floods, but the woman’s granddaughter, Andrea Garza, identified the woman in her 60s as Inez Garza.

Garza said her grandfather was telling her grandmother “to hold onto something” when the flood hit. He told his wife to “just grab onto anything possible,” Garza said, adding that her grandmother couldn’t swim.

Related: Deadly Floods, Possible Tornadoes Strike Texas as Storm Sweeps Through

Harris County, nearly 200 miles to the east of Travis County, bore the brunt of the dangerous weather early Saturday. A tornado swept through parts of Friendswood, about 20 miles south of Houston, carrying winds topping 100 mph in some spots, according to the National Weather Service.

Image: Friendswood Tornado
David McCullough looks through his damaged house after a tornado hit the area earlier in the morning, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015, in Friendswood, Texas.Jon Shapley / Houston Chronicle via AP

Six tornadoes in all were confirmed around Houston and Galveston Saturday, the National Weather Service said.

The twisters ranged from an EF-0 with 75 mph winds that damaged the Brazos Mall in Lake Jackson to an EF-2 tornado with 115 mph winds that caused "extensive roof damage" to several homes in La Porte.

Up to 11 inches of rain had fallen in parts of the county by noon Saturday, according to the Harris County Flood Control District. Areas near Houston saw up to 2 to 3 inches of rainfall per hour, according to NBC affiliate KHOU.

Houston emergency management officials said that bayous and creeks would remain swollen through at least Sunday morning, even after the rain had stopped by early Saturday evening. They warned families out celebrating Halloween to keep trick-or-treaters far away from flooded areas.

More than 40 structures in Houston were flooded, according to the city’s office of emergency management. The Houston Fire Department said they had conducted more than 130 high water rescues in 12 hours. More than 40 homes in Galveston were damaged, according to the NWS.

The Houston area was still drying out from rains that soaked Texas last week as the remnants of Hurricane Patricia passed through. San Antonio and Austin were also still waterlogged when the cities were hard hit by downpours Friday.

Photos: Violent Storms Batter Central Texas

An estimated 14 inches of rain fell near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport Friday, according to the NWS. Parts of Travis County got 7 inches of rain in just an hour and a half Friday, the weather service said.

"It's amazing how powerful (storms) can be,” Travis County sheriff’s Sgt. Demetrie Mitchell said. "I think we forget that we are in flash flood alley."

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