Flooding fatality: Body of firefighter found in storm drain
CLAREMORE, Oklahoma (KFOR/CNN)– [Breaking news update, posted at 4:56 a.m. ET]
A firefighter died early Sunday while performing a high water rescue operation in Claremore, Oklahoma, said emergency management official Thomas Hudson.
According to KFOR, the body of the firefighter was found in a storm drain two hours after he went missing late Saturday night.
Fire officials told KFOR, the firefighter stepped into high water which dragged him into the storm drain. A second firefighter attempted to save the first, but was also knocked down by the water and had to be rescue.
[Previous story, posted at 4:21 a.m. ET]
Emergency crews scrambled late Saturday to help residents of Oklahoma City cope with record-breaking rains, carrying out 48 high-water rescues. Residents of several neighborhoods called 911 to report flooded homes.
And more heavy rain is on the way, radar showed.
Oklahoma City experienced the wettest month it has ever recorded as rain continued to fall, according to CNN meteorologist Sean Morris.
By late Saturday, 3.15 inches had drenched the city, bringing the total for the month to 17.61 inches. “It … shatters the all-time monthly record of 14.66 inches set in June of 1989,” Morris said.
Wichita Falls ‘historic flood’
In Texas, Wichita Falls was warned that it could experience severe flooding.
“Predictions from the National Weather Service indicate that significant flooding along the Wichita River is very likely,” the town’s emergency management agency said. “The National Weather Service is calling this an ‘historic’ flood event.”
The agency called for the voluntary evacuation of 2,177 homes.
Wichita Falls, too, is enduring the rainiest May ever recorded there and “could set an all-time record for rainiest month ever recorded there by … morning,” Morris said.
And in Wimberly, Texas, the Hays County Sheriff’s office said it had set up emergency shelters in two schools, a community center and a nursing home.
“Currently, we have activated our Emergency Operations Center and are in the process of conducting numerous rescues along the Blanco River in the Wimberley area,” said Lieutenant Jeri Skrocki.
There and in north-central Texas, Memorial Day travelers and residents had been warned of potential flash flooding, the National Weather Service said.
Other soggy states
Other central and southern Plains states also were under flash flood watches Saturday, as heavy rain was falling or was expected to fall on soil already saturated from recent rains, the service said.
Those areas are western portions of Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri and the eastern parts of Oklahoma and Kansas, the agency said. Northeast Colorado was under a similar watch, too.
Thunderstorms pummeled parts of Oklahoma on Saturday morning with 2 inches of rain, and the service gave a precautionary warning to “move to higher ground now” for people in several western counties.
“Turn around,” the service said. “Don’t drown when encountering flooded roads. Most flood deaths occur in vehicles.”
“Campers and hikers should seek higher ground,” the service said.
In middle of drought
Despite the heaving rain, western Oklahoma and parts of the Texas panhandle and central Texas are still facing moderate drought or abnormally dry conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The rainfall should put a dent in it, though
In 2011, drought and wildfire brought heavy damage to Texas. The drought caused at least $5 billion in economic damage, and wildfires damage amounted to tens of millions of dollars, authorities said.