Four dead, 3 still missing after Hermine flooding

September 10, 2010 4:13:26 AM PDT
At least three people were still missing early Friday after flooding caused by the remnants of Tropical Storm Hermine swept vehicles from Texas roads and overpowered swimmers in the Guadalupe River. With at least four people killed in the flooding, officials planned to resume their search after daylight Friday for a missing swimmer and two motorists.

Authorities on Thursday recovered the body of Derek Joel-Nelson Clemens, 23, of Baldwin, Mich., from the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels. Floodwaters Wednesday had swept him and friend Nikos Paraskevopoulos, 28, of Alexandria, La., as they swam. Clemens' friend was still missing when the search was suspended for the night Thursday, and search officials hold dim hopes of finding him alive.

Two Texas motorists also are missing, officials said. Calvin Gibson, 57, was swept away near San Antonio when he tried to drive over a flooded creek, Bexar County spokeswoman Laura Jesse said. Authorities also continued to search in Austin for a woman whose sport utility vehicle was swept off the road by swollen Bull Creek.

Hermine caused relatively few problems when it made landfall as a tropical storm Monday night, and as the remnants moved north into Texas and Oklahoma, the flooding caught some people off guard. The sudden flooding in Texas on Wednesday led to more than 100 high-water rescues.

A 49-year-old man drowned after driving his pickup truck into a flooded crossing near Alvarado, and another person died in a vehicle submerged by water from a swollen creek near Austin, the National Weather Service said.

In eastern Oklahoma, a 19-year-old man drowned after his vehicle was swept off the road early Thursday. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said it's unclear whether Jackie Warford was thrown from his vehicle or crawled out to try to swim to safety, but he became tangled in brush.

Pointing out that many of the dead and missing were swept away in their vehicles, Texas Gov. Rick Perry urged people not to try to cross swollen creeks or flooded roadways.

"I don't care how big your pickup truck is or how good a driver you think you are," said Perry, who toured central parts of the state Thursday.

Some of the state's most intense flooding occurred in low-lying pockets of Arlington, a suburb 22 miles west of Dallas. Debris -- including smashed pool tables, pianos and kitchen appliances -- were piled up in yards and against smashed fences.

More than 1,200 people in the town of Holland, about 45 miles northeast of Austin, were without water because of storm damage, Perry said. Authorities were trucking in bottled water, he said.

Jason Dunn, a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Texas, said even when tropical storms lose their power over open water, they can still carry tremendous amounts of rain across land.

"A good majority" of fatalities from tropical systems come from inland flooding, Dunn said.

The storm also spawned several tornadoes near Dallas and in southern Oklahoma. The strongest was one that touched down just southwest of Dallas Love Field near the Trinity River with estimated three-second gusts of 110 to 137 mph, according to the National Weather Service. It damaged warehouses and slammed a tractor-trailer rig into a brick paint warehouse, toppling the building front onto the cab. The driver suffered minor injuries.

In northwest Arkansas, the storm dropped 3 to 5 inches of rain before moving east and led LPGA officials to cancel Thursday's scheduled Pro-Am before the P&G Northwest Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers. About a dozen roads were closed in southwest Missouri because of flooding, though no injuries or damage was reported, officials said.

Hermine was the third tropical system this year to hit the Rio Grande Valley, a flood-prone area that encompasses northeastern Mexico and southeastern Texas.

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