Texas weathers Patricia remnants with minimal damage
Despite a foot of rain over the weekend, the Lone Star State was spared the devastation caused by storms earlier this year.
Drenching storms that the remnants of Hurricane Patricia dragged into Texas finally cleared Sunday without leaving behind the death or devastation of torrential rain and floods that hit the state earlier in the year.
Some parts of Texas have been pounded by more than a foot of rain since Friday, shutting down busy highways and derailing a train. But relentless showers were gratefully the only comparison to Memorial Day storms that killed more than 30 people in Texas and Oklahoma and stranded 2,500 cars around Houston.
One man remained missing near San Antonio after authorities say he was caught by floodwaters, but no deaths in Texas have been confirmed. By Sunday morning, as swollen bayous around Houston receded and closed roads reopened in Austin, daybreak also revealed scant damage.
"We're going to stand down the emergency management operations and call it a day," said Galveston County Judge Mark Henry, who had issued a voluntary evacuation covering roughly 4,000 homes.
Patricia roared ashore in Mexico on Friday as a Category 5 terror that barreled toward land with winds up to 200 mph. But the arrival of the most powerful hurricane on record in the Western Hemisphere caused remarkably little destruction, and what was left of Patricia by the time the weakened storm straggled into parched Texas was greeted with both relief and unease.
A hot and dry summer in Texas revived drought conditions that a wet spring all but wiped out. A deluge in late May overwhelmed saturated areas and caused deadly flooding, and nine inches of rain dumped in parts of Houston this weekend was the most since those spring storms.
But officials said months of sweltering Texas weather made for a more manageable drenching, which also fell at a steady rate instead of in buckets.
"We had much drier grounds that could handle more of the rainfall and soak it in," National Weather Service Meteorologist Scott Overpeck said. "We had drought conditions we were dealing with."
Lessons learned from the May floods also seemed to keep more drivers out of danger, authorities said. Only roughly two dozen cars were towed from flooded roads in Houston and emergency crews responded to only a handful of rescues, said Francisco Sanchez, a spokesman for Harris County's emergency management division.
"The public responded well. For the most part they heeded our warnings," Sanchez said.
The soaking helped firefighters near Austin fully contain a long-simmering wildfire that had burned 7 square miles and destroyed nearly 70 homes. Clearing skies also allowed a Formula One championship in Austin to proceed after the rain washed out weekend qualifying laps and threatened a race that brings fans from around the globe.
On Saturday, a Union Pacific freight train derailed before dawn Saturday near Corsicana, about 50 miles south of Dallas, because a creek overflowed and washed away the tracks, said Jeff DeGraff, a railroad spokesman. The two crew members swam to safety and nobody was hurt, and several rail cars loaded with gravel were partly submerged, he said.
In San Antonio, a man walking his dog before dawn Saturday was swept into a flooded drainage ditch and disappeared, fire officials said. The dog is safe but the man remained missing as of Sunday.