Deaths as freezing rain, floods, ice hit central U.S.
Fort Worth, Texas — At least two people died in fast-moving floodwaters in Texas as freezing rain and flooding pummeled the central U.S. Friday, and forecasters warned that the chilling weather would worsen over the holiday weekend.
Authorities said freezing rain and high winds also caused at least two fatal traffic accidents in western Kansas on Thursday.
Forecasters have issued flash flood watches and warnings from North Texas up to St. Louis, with up to 4 inches of rain in some places as the storm system made its slow trek to the northeast.
“There’s a pretty substantial shield of rain extending from parts of Texas across a lot of Oklahoma and into the mid-Mississippi Valley,” said John Hart, a meteorologist with the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
In North Texas, where more than 4 inches of rain overnight in the Dallas-Forth Worth area pushed the annual rainfall total into the record books, at least two people have died after being washed away in the deep, rapid floodwaters. A third person remains missing.
Firefighters in Garland, Texas, found a body inside a submerged Hyundai Elantra early Friday, fire department spokesman Merrill Balanciere said. That driver’s name hasn’t been released.
Crews found a second body — that of a 33-year-old woman — just after 8 a.m. on Friday, downstream from her vehicle just west of Forth Worth. Sandra Jones’ car was washed off the road in waters flowing 10 to 12 feet above the banks of Rock Creek, Johnson County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tim Jones said.
Firefighters in Fort Worth are waiting for the water to recede before deploying a dive team to continue searching for another woman whose car was swept away in a flood, according to spokesman Kyle Falkner.
A total 55.23 inches of rain has been recorded at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport this year, topping the annual rainfall record of 53.54 inches set in 1991. National Weather Service forecaster Matt Stalley says rain is forecast in the area through Sunday.
The state transportation department discouraged travel in the Texas Panhandle after the storm front left dozens of major roads, bridges and overpasses covered in ice and snow. Winds whipping around snow also kept visibility low in some places.
Elsewhere, an ice storm warning was in effect for western Oklahoma until noon Saturday, while a winter weather advisory and a flash flood watch were issued for parts of central Oklahoma. The National Weather Service warned of freezing rain and sleet in northern and western Oklahoma Friday, with up to a half inch of ice possible in some areas.
The weather service also issued flood warnings throughout Arkansas, saying much of central and western Arkansas could see 5 to 7 inches of rain through Sunday, while the Ouachita Mountain region could get more than 8 inches.
The Kansas Highway Patrol attributed two traffic fatalities on Thursday to icy roads in western Kansas.
The weather service issued a winter storm warning for sections of central and southern Kansas through early Saturday and said up to a quarter inch of sleet and ice could hit the state by Friday night.