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Ceaseless Rain Hinders Search For Missing Flood Victims


The flooding in Texas and Oklahoma that has turned roads to rivers and inundated homes has now claimed at least 29 lives. Rescuers recovered the bodies of four more victims last night. At least 11 others are still missing, and the rain keeps coming. There was flooding on the roads in parts of Texas earlier today, and forecasters issued a flood watch for parts of central and south Texas as heavy storms are expected to dump inches of rain today and into Saturday.

NPR's Nathan Rott reports that the ceaseless rain is making it difficult for emergency workers in their search for the missing.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: The flooding in Texas that started on Memorial Day weekend and hasn't really let up hit different parts of the state in different ways, and it continues to. Will Boettner is with the incident management team that's helping to coordinate search and rescue and recovery efforts.

WILL BOETTNER: The impacts, say, up north by Dallas were intense rainstorms that ultimately saturated the soils.

ROTT: Filling up lakes and reservoirs until the water was spilling onto roads and into homes, bringing interstates, highways and parts of the city to a standstill. In southern Texas - the Houston area - Boettner says it was more...

BOETTNER: ...An insidious rise of water that begins to just inundate everything.

ROTT: But where he is, in central Texas in the small tourist town of Wimberley, the rain came roaring.

BOETTNER: A very large flood just basically cleaned off a huge section of the river banks, took homes, took structures, took woods and trees and everything. And we have continuing rainstorms here, so it's quite a challenge.

ROTT: Quite a challenge is putting it lightly. Many of the missing are thought to be in central Texas, where the topography channels the rain into fast-moving torrents, which Bittner says makes the ongoing search and rescue efforts difficult.

BOETTNER: We have teams that are our crawling through the wreckage and the debris looking for potential victims. And, you know, those guys have to be careful that they don't get caught in a bad weather event, both from rising waters or even the threat of cloud-to-ground lightning.

ROTT: Forecasters are calling for one to two inches of rain today, but there's concern that the slow-moving storm system could stall or slow in its crawl, causing it to sit over central and south Texas. In that scenario, forecasters warn the area could get between four to five inches of rain, which is crazy when you consider how much rain the state's already got. Bill Bunting is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center.

BILL BUNTING: If you go back and look at the last 30 days for precipitation, much of the central and eastern two-thirds of Texas up into Oklahoma and Kansas have seen anywhere from 10 to 15, locally, 20 to 25 inches of rain.

ROTT: Put another way, that's more than 35 trillion gallons of rain just in May. That's enough to cover the entire state of Texas with about eight inches of standing water.

BUNTING: I think folks everywhere are ready for a bit of dry weather.

ROTT: That's certainly the case back in Wimberley.

DUANNE REDUS: It's been a pattern of storm after storm after storm.

ROTT: That's DuAnne Redus. She owns a coffee shop in the heart of town just a couple of blocks from the bloated Blanco River. She says it's been a long week.

REDUS: It's been tiring. It's been joy-filled. It's been community-building. It's been ups and downs and ups and downs.

ROTT: And though they're all working together as a community to get through it, she says they're ready for the rain to stop. Nathan Rott, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nathan Rott is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where he focuses on environment issues and the American West.