At least three people died Friday in North Texas, and a 70-year-old motorist was missing Friday night, all swept off roadways in flash flooding caused by a cold day of steady rain that pushed 2015 into the No. 1 spot in the record books.
A Tarrant County sheriff’s deputy who had attempted to help the missing woman at a low water crossing in southern Tarrant County was swept downstream and clung to a tree for two hours before being rescued by Fort Worth firefighters.
Two of the dead were found Friday morning in Johnson County. The third, Benjamin Floyd, 29, of Wylie was found Friday morning in Garland inside a submerged Hyundai Elantra, a Garland police spokesman said.
According to a news release from Garland police, the vehicle was washed off the road near the Brand and Campbell roads intersection. Floyd, who was on his way to work, called 911 but help did not arrive in time.
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With the rain expected to continue throughout the weekend, the Dallas-Fort Worth area remains under a flood watch until late Saturday.
The National Weather Service reported that 5.12 inches of rain fell Thursday through 7 p.m. Friday, bringing the year’s total to 55.87 inches this year, eclipsing the previous record of 53.54 set in 1991. With more than a month to go, we can set our eyes on 60 inches.
“It’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility,” said Matt Stalley, a meteorologist at the weather service’s Fort Worth office.
Two deaths in Johnson County
In Johnson County, the body of Sandra Jones, 33, of Joshua was found at 8:41 a.m. Friday about a quarter-mile from where her car was washed away in the rain-swollen Rough Creek between Joshua and Godley.
A volunteer firefighter at the bridge trying to warn drivers saw her car go into the water at 12:12 a.m., said Johnson County Sheriff Bob Alford.
“The female was crossing the FM 913 bridge when her car got swept off the bridge,” Alford said. “The creek had expanded to over 100 yards wide at the time her vehicle went into the water.”
Along the border of Mansfield and Johnson County, three people riding in a vehicle were washed into the water shortly after midnight Thursday near the 2400 block of Farm Road 917 in Mansfield.
Mansfield firefighters rescued two men who were clinging to a tree downstream. They told firefighters that a third man had been with them.
The man’s body was recovered downstream near FM 917 between Mesquite Drive and English Trail in Johnson County, said Mansfield Police spokesman Thad Penkala. Johnson County officials identified the dead man as Jose Vargas, 48, of Grapevine.
High water kept several roads in Mansfield closed on Friday afternoon, including Walnut Creek Drive at Magnolia Street, West Broad Street at the Mansfield City limits and Retta Road at the city limits.
‘Situation was too dire’
In Tarrant County’s high water incident, the sheriff’s department received a 911 call at 12:53 a.m. from a family member who said an elderly woman was stranded in a low water crossing of Deer Creek near a relative’s home, said Terry Grisham, a Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department spokesman.
55.87inches of rain this year at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, eclipsing the previous record of 53.54 inches in 1991
Deputy Krystal Salazar responded to the call at about 1 a.m. and saw the woman in a car in the 11600 block of Oak Grove Road in south Tarrant County. She radioed her supervisors that she couldn’t wait for firefighters to arrive.
“The deputy had to make a split-second decision,” Grisham said. “She couldn't wait for dive boats. She felt the situation was too dire.”
At 1:03 a.m., she entered the water after taking off heavy equipment.
“She got into the water and the current became too powerful, too deep,” Grisham said. “Deputy Salazar and the vehicle with the occupant all washed down the creek. At that point, we lost contact with all of them.”
She was swept downstream in Deer Creek but was rescued about 3 a.m. by Fort Worth firefighters using a watercraft.
“For about two hours, we assumed the absolute worst,” said Terry Grisham, a Tarrant County sheriff’s office spokesman. “Then firefighters ran across the deputy downstream holding onto a tree. She had left her gun. She had left her radio to reduce weight so she couldn’t tell us where she was.”
Salazar was transported to a Fort Worth hospital and later released.
“She’s bruised and battered, but she’s OK,” Grisham said.
Salazar, 26, has been with the sheriff’s office for more than five years. She has worked patrol for about 2 1/2 years.
Firefighters were waiting for waters to recede before continuing their search for the missing vehicle and woman, Grisham said.
Cold and wet
The rain, coupled with a cold front that arrived about 5 a.m. Friday, dropping temperatures from 70 at 3 a.m. to 48 degrees at 6 a.m., promises to make the weekend miserable for shoppers, football fans and travelers.
Temperatures fell into the low 40s during the day, which meant it was wet and chilly for the TCU-Baylor football game. Kickoff was delayed 50 minutes by lightning, and light rain was falling. The temperature was about 40.
Forecasts call for an additional 2 to 3 inches of rain in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and a flood watch is in effect through late Saturday night for North Texas.
“The ground is saturated and any additional rainfall will likely cause flooding especially near creeks and streams,” the weather service website said.
While the weather is unpleasant in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, it’s practically unbearable in the Texas Panhandle, where temperatures dipped into the teens, accompanied by snow and sleet. Ice and snow covered dozens of major roads, bridges and overpasses. Winds whipping the snow around kept visibility low in some places, and about 100 traffic crashes had been reported by midafternoon, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety office in Amarillo.
Extra troopers were mobilized to patrol the glazed highways, including heavily traveled Interstate 40, where three people died Thursday when their van skidded across a median and under the trailer of a tractor-trailer. State troopers are trained to drive slower in icy conditions, “and I probably drive slower than all of them,” Barkley said. “But we see people passing us all the time. It’s so frustrating.”
This report includes material from The Associated Press.