Torrential storms envelop Texas

Torrential storms that have taken at least 11 lives over the past week dumped up to 18 inches (45 centimeters) of rain on parts of central Texas early Wednesday, stranding dozens of people on roofs, in trees and in vehicles.

The downpour and winds were so treacherous early Wednesday that helicopters were forced to abruptly halt efforts to rescue people from rooftops.

The rain was heaviest in the Marble Falls area, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) northwest of Austin, Texas, where Mayor Raymond Whitman said there were 32 high-water rescues.

Much of the water had receded by Wednesday afternoon, but city officials expected several more inches (centimeters) of rain over the next 24 hours.

"The ground is fully saturated ... it could be severe," Whitman said. "If people do not pay attention and move to high ground, it is very possible that there will be fatalities."

Parts of Oklahoma also were soaked Wednesday, with rain falling on Oklahoma City for the 15th consecutive day, breaking a 70-year-old record. Flooding closed some roads in central and northeastern Oklahoma.

In Texas, Whitman said two bridges were washed out in the Marble Falls area and the city water plant was damaged, leaving about two-thirds of the city without water.

"This is the worst I've ever seen it in my lifetime," said Whitman, 47, who has lived in the town his entire life.

The weather was so stormy during the early morning that helicopter crews had to abandon several rescue attempts, Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services spokesman Warren Hassinger. He said four rescue attempts were halted before dawn and he didn't know what happened to the people needing help.

One aborted rescue mission had attempted to get four people from the roof of a house where water was about 4 feet (1.2 meters) from the top of the building. They had pulled a possible drowning victim from the water, Hassinger said.

One successful helicopter-assisted rescue plucked a Williamson County sheriff's deputy and another person from atop the lawman's car along the San Gabriel River near Georgetown, Hassinger said.

The Texas National Guard sent about 150 troops and 50 vehicles to help in central Texas and other areas from the Oklahoma state line to the Rio Grande Valley. The storm runoff also caused flooding downstream and flood gates were opened at several dams, the Lower Colorado River Authority said.

In Parker County, west of Fort Worth, a county judge ordered mandatory evacuation of residential areas along the Brazos River after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the gates at the Possum Kingdom dam.