Weather & Extreme Events

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May 26, 2015 (AFP) -- Flash flooding from record rains in Texas and Oklahoma left at least three people dead and destroyed hundreds of homes, authorities said Sunday, warning Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared states of disaster in 24 counties as severe weather lashed the region. 

"I strongly urge all Texans to exercise every possible precaution to ensure their safety and the safety of their families and neighbors," Abbott said in a statement.

Authorities in the Texas city of San Marcos ordered residents to evacuate as flood waters rose menacingly around them, following torrential rain that turned streets into meandering rivers.

Cars and trucks were submerged and people used inflatable lounge chairs to float down the street, in surreal scenes.

As many as 400 homes in the surrounding area were destroyed, authorities said, and San Marcos opened temporary shelters to host residents who could not return home.

At least 12 people are reported missing in Texas, said Kharley Smith, emergency response coordinator for Hays County, which includes San Marcos.

Search parties 

She said people were forming their own search parties along the Blanco River, and warned them against this, saying it was dangerous.

"We have local resources, regional and state assets that are actively doing search and rescues," Smith told a news conference.

"It's not safe for the general public to go down and do those rescue or search operations themselves."

The city council said the river had broken record levels set in the 1920s.

Fire Marshal Ken Bell told CNN that at least one person was confirmed dead and crews were searching for three missing people.

At least two people also died in Oklahoma, north of Texas.

A firefighter in the town of Claremore died when he was swept into a storm drain while trying to help a resident in floodwaters, CNN said, and a woman in Tulsa died after her car hydroplaned.

The National Weather Service warned that strong to severe thunderstorms were expected across a large stretch of the central and southern plains toward the Mississippi River Valley.

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