Up to a foot of Texas rain prompts flooding, rescues

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HOUSTON -- Flooding across Central Texas inundated roads and buildings Thursday, stranding residents and prompting dramatic rescues after storms dropped as much as a foot of rain in places overnight.

Since midnight, emergency crews had responded to 81 flood-related incidents in Travis County, which surrounds Austin. Those included 32 water rescues and 46 flood assistance and barricade calls, Austin fire officials said.

Hundreds of homes in Travis County have been affected by floodwater, and several shelters have been opened for those displaced, Austin fire officials said. "Those numbers are on the low side, because we're doing so much in so many areas that isn't being reported," Austin Fire Battalion Chief Thayer Smith said. Chief Smith said several of those rescued were taken to a hospital to be checked, but no serious injuries or deaths had been reported.

A cold front strung out from eastern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico may spread unsettled weather across much of the East Coast today. Showers and thunderstorms along the front's southern end may spread across the Southeast, focusing from the Carolinas through eastern Louisiana. Some of these thunderstorms may produce heavy downpours, which could lead to flash floods, particularly across central Georgia and into the Florida Panhandle.

Rain will cover the Northeast's coast, with showers across the region's interior. Many showers may continue only throughout the morning, while lasting all day in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Winds will also pick up behind this front, making for a windy day across the Northeast.

Showers will dot the Midwest and part of the northern Plains ahead of a cold front moving in from central Canada. A few snowflakes may even mix in with showers in northern Minnesota and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. While this front will not bring much precipitation to the Plains, it will bring gusty winds to the Dakotas and into Nebraska and Kansas.

As much colder air moves in Saturday night into Sunday across the Northeast, there may be brief periods of wet snow over upstate New York and northern New England. There may be an inch or two in the mountains.

One of the most dramatic rescues in Texas on Thursday morning involved a woman in labor. The woman was stranded in "a notorious flood area," Chief Smith said, cut off by two low-water crossings. Rescue crews were able to rescue her by boat, he said.

Chief Smith said the creek had reached its 100-year flood plain, a level not seen since 1991. "We're chasing that rising water into other neighborhoods," he said, adding that "the biggest issue was a lot of these areas in town near the creek, the rain gauges were at 9 inches, so we had a very concentrated rain in this area."

The heaviest rain began at 9 p.m. CDT on Wednesday and continued overnight.

By late morning, Chief Smith said rainstorms had shifted out of Austin and to the east. "I'm starting to see the sun come out -- we're done with the rain," he said.

Rains were already pounding Houston early Thursday, where a flash-flood watch was issued through 4 p.m. CDT.

The New York Times contributed.


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