Young boy dies in Texas floodwaters as authorities make more than 200 rescues across state

May 5, 2024, 8:30 PM

The bridge over Lake Houston, along West Lake Houston Parkway from Kingwood to Atascocita, was clos...

The bridge over Lake Houston, along West Lake Houston Parkway from Kingwood to Atascocita, was closed due to high water on May 4 in Kingwood, Texas. (Jason Fochtman, Houston Chronicle/AP via CNN Newsource)

(Jason Fochtman, Houston Chronicle/AP via CNN Newsource)

(CNN) — The body of a young boy was recovered from floodwaters near Fort Worth, Texas, on Sunday, as search and rescue teams statewide continue to patrol streets and neighborhoods inundated by rainfall.

The death is the first reported fatality following storms that have prompted disaster declarations for over a third of the state’s counties.

Johnson County Emergency Management Coordinator Jamie Moore said the deceased boy was found after authorities responded to an overnight call for a vehicle stuck in rapidly moving water. The three occupants escaped but a 911 caller said they were swept into the floodwaters when they tried to get to safe ground, according to Moore.

A man and woman were rescued, said Moore, who was involved in the search.

“I hope you will keep this family in your prayers,” Moore told CNN.

Thousands of people impacted

With days of rain, rivers farther south have swollen, leaving homes and businesses flooded and thousands of people displaced.

At least 224 people have been rescued from homes and vehicles in Harris County, an official said Saturday night, with evacuation orders and flood watches in place, as more rain descended on the state Sunday, with a bull’s-eye of excessive rainfall over the already waterlogged Houston area. No deaths or serious injuries had been reported in that area, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo told CNN, adding 153 pets have also been rescued during the deluge.

“It’s been really sad to see the impact of people’s livelihoods, homes, infrastructure as well as just the public infrastructure,” Hidalgo told CNN on Saturday.

“We’re really asking folks to give it a minute before they go back home.”

CNN’s Rosa Flores rode in a boat Sunday with rescuers from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and said the craft passed over fences and mailboxes. Stop signs were at eye level.

In some areas, the water had receded Sunday but was still very high.

The first responders took CNN to an area where the banks of the San Jacinto River were not visible.

‘Hard to tell’

“It’s kinda hard to tell where the river ends,” Lt. David Jasper said.

Many people in Houston were evacuated before the worst of the severe weather, Brent Taylor, chief communications officer for the Houston Office of Emergency Management, told CNN’s Amara Walker.

“We have Houston Police and Houston Fire who are patrolling these neighborhoods that are near the river and where the water is gone so high,” Taylor said. “There’s been some instances where it’s someone just yelling for help saying, ‘Hey, I’m stuck over here!’”

“We have high water rescue vehicles. We have Jet Skis, we have air boats. Our Houston Public Works Department has dump trucks that can be outfitted to move people through those high waters, so it really is a unified effort to make sure that these Houstonians are staying safe,” he added.

Not everyone wanted to leave their homes, Deputy Darrell Bailey of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office told CNN’s crew on their ride-along.

“They have a lot of people in the area who don’t want to leave because they’d have no place to go and they don’t want to go to the shelter,” he said.

The website for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s West Gulf River Forecast Center shows eight river gauges in Texas in major flood stage, 21 in moderate flooding and 38 in minor flooding.

Forecast calls for some rain into Monday

Most of the weekend’s rain fell over western and central Texas, but there was a significant chance of heavier rain in the greater Houston area Sunday.

The National Weather Service office in Houston posted on X at 1:30 p.m. CT, the “next round of storms has arrived and continue to train along the I-10 corridor.”

Jackson, Wharton, and Colorado counties were under a severe thunderstorm watch in effect until 7 p.m. Storm activity is expected to wind down this evening.

Earlier, the office said 1 to 3 more inches of rain were possible by Monday morning. Some areas could see up to 4 to 8 inches.

“Because of multiple rounds of heavy rain over the past week, flooding may be seen earlier than would be expected under typical conditions. Rainfall today will continue to exacerbate existing river flooding,” warned the Houston weather service office.

Rainfall amounts

The rainfall amounts in the region have been huge over the past week, with some areas picking up two months worth of rain in five days. The weather service listed some of the rainfall totals it collected:

  • Groveton, TX- 23.56”
  • Huntsville, TX- 21.76”
  • Splendora, TX- 21.01”
  • Willis, TX- 20.75”
  • Livingston, TX- 18.42”

There is relief on the horizon, however. The rest of the week’s forecast for Houston is showing dry weather and warm temperatures from Monday through Saturday, with lots of sunshine to help dry the region out.

This week’s storms were just the latest in a series of brutal weather events that have pounded the state since early April. Dozens of tornadoes have hit from the Panhandle to the Gulf Coast, some areas of the state have been pounded with softball-sized hail and months of rain has fallen in East Texas in intense spurts, causing rivers to rise to levels not seen since the devastating floods of Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Mandatory evacuations are in place in counties in and around the Houston area, as local officials make comparisons to past disasters. The flooding is “85% worse than Hurricane Harvey,” Emmitt Eldridge, San Jacinto County’s emergency management coordinator, told CNN. “This has been a historic flood for Walker County. We have flooded more from this event than we did during Hurricane Harvey,” Sherri Pegoda, Walker County’s deputy emergency management coordinator, said.

A mandatory evacuation order remains in place for low-lying unincorporated areas of Polk County through Sunday evening, emergency managers said in a Facebook post, as are homes along rivers in Harris and Montgomery counties.

Disaster declarations are active for over a third of Texas counties after Gov. Greg Abbott expanded the storm-related declarations in response to the flooding, according to a news release. Additional counties could be added in the coming days, particularly with more storms in the forecast.

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Young boy dies in Texas floodwaters as authorities make more than 200 rescues across state