HOUSTON– The bodies of two missing drivers were found Saturday in Texas, raising the death toll to four from flooding in the state after torrential rain inundated rivers and waterways, authorities said.
The threat of severe weather had lessened in Texas over the long Memorial Day holiday weekend and the focus now is on homes that could be flooded by slowly rising waters. Evacuation orders were issued on Saturday for parts of two Texas cities along the Brazos River near Houston.
“The skies are clear and things look good. But we want to make sure people understand that we are not out of the woods yet. We have to keep an eye on water that’s coming through our bayou system,” said Francisco Sanchez, a spokesman for the Office of Emergency Management in Harris County, where Houston is located.
In Kansas, the Wichita Fire Department said Saturday that it’s searching for an 11-year-old boy who went missing after he was swept away by a swollen creek Friday night.
Wichita Fire Department battalion chief Scott Brown said his department has 12 divers, three search-and-rescue dogs and an airplane searching for any sign of Devon Cooley.
Near Austin in Travis County — which saw up to nine inches of rain this week — officials planned to resume aerial searches on Sunday for two missing people whose vehicle was swept off a flooded roadway, said emergency services spokeswoman Lisa Block.
In Washington County, Texas, located between Austin and Houston, County Judge John Brieden said the bodies of two missing motorists were found Saturday in separate parts of the rural county. The body of Pyarali Rajebhi Umatiya, 59, of College Station, was found in a submerged vehicle.
The body of Darren Charles Mitchell, 21, a National Guardsman from Navasota, was found about a mile downstream from where his overturned truck had been located earlier.
On Friday, Mitchell’s family told CBS affiliate KHOU he called his sister Thursday evening to tell her he was trapped in high water.
“He just said he was alright and he made it out of the truck,” Ro Mitchell said.
But in a haunting Facebook post at 6:29 p.m., Mitchell shared a photo of from inside his submerged truck and wrote “And all I wanted to do was go home.”
Lashandoe Smith told KHOU she watched in horror as Mitchell’s truck was swept into the water.
“And he got out of his truck, he got in the bed of his truck, he got back out, on top of his truck, and then all of the sudden he got back in his truck. And like maybe 10 15 minutes after he was in his truck, it just flipped and he topsided into the water,” Smith said as she choked back tears. “It just disappeared. Once it flipped, you didn’t see tires, his truck, nothing. It just tumbled over.”
More than 16.5 inches of rain fell in some parts of Washington County on Thursday and Friday. The downpour washed away mobile homes and flooded other structures. Authorities performed more than 50 water rescues.
The two other deaths in the county were Lela Holland, 64, of Washington, Texas, whose mobile home was swamped by floodwaters, and Jimmy Wayne Schaeffer, 49, of Brenham, who was swept away after driving his truck into high water.
The rising water in several Houston-area rivers and creeks prompted Harris County officials to ask about 750 families in the Northwood Pines subdivision to voluntarily evacuate their homes and apartments on Saturday.
Officials also warned residents living near the west fork of the San Jacinto River, north of Houston, that rising waters were likely to flood homes, even those that are elevated, Sanchez said.
In Fort Bend County, southwest of Houston, officials warned residents the Brazos River was likely to rise to the highest level ever recorded in the county, which county Judge Robert Hebert called “a serious incident.”
The city of Simonton issued a mandatory evacuation for most of its 800 residents, said Mayor Louis Boudreaux.
Rosenberg, also in Fort Bend County, issued its own mandatory evacuation of some homes near the Brazos River. The evacuation order was to take effect at 2 p.m. Sunday. The city has a population of 34,000.