I-35W reopens in Johnson County, but high-water rescues continue

Flash flooding in Johnson County caused several water rescues and briefly closed Interstate 35W near Alvarado.

“It’s still ongoing but it has stopped raining for now,” said Johnson County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Tim Jones. “We’ve still got several rescues under way.”

One successful rescue occurred near Bethesda Road in Johnson County and another search was still under way along the Nolan River, Jones said.

Johnson County Emergency Management reported 36 roads had been closed, including Interstate 35W near U.S. 67 in Alvarado.

National Guard troops were standing by in Alvarado and Cleburne. One water rescue was under way at Old Foamy Road south of Cleburne.

One subdivion, Hill of Homes west of Cleburne, was briefly cut off by high water over a bridge out of the subdivision.

National Weather Service meteorologist Dennis Cain said the large swath of rain should begin moving out of Tarrant County around 5 p.m.

“There will be some more isolated showers popping up,” Cain said. “They may be tiny but they can produce a lot of rain. The next round of widespread rain will probably develop Friday afternoon. That may be the last of the widespread rain but we’ll have to wait and see.”

Earlier Thursday, heavy rain forced the closure of I-35 between Waco and Temple. The interstate reopened about 10:30 a.m. There was flooding along Texas 7 southeast of Waco near Marlin Wednesday morning.

There’s no severe threat with these storms but there will be plenty of lightning.

“It’s going to be very loud at times,” said NWS meteorologist Mark Fox.

‘I’m nervous about it’

Wednesday night and early Thursday, flash flooding forced numerous high-water rescues in Hood County and officials were bracing for emergency calls as the storms rolled in.

“I'm nervous about it, to tell you the truth,” said Hood County Judge Darrell Cockerham. “We had that storm start pouring and just hang over us. It seemed like it would never stop.”

But the heavier bands of rain had stayed in Johnson County, sparing Hood County the worst of the storms.

“We’ve been lucky so far,” Cockerham said. “It’s been nothing like last night.”

Decordova Bend Estates was hit hard Wednesday, Cockerham said, with Texas Task Force One assisting in high-water rescues.

“We had one woman who suddenly had three feet of water in her home,” Cockerham said. “We would have been overwhelmed without those state resources.”

Hood County sheriff deputies and local police and firefighters handled 11 high-water rescues, from cars and homes, on Tuesday and 19 Wednesday.

“But unofficially we've had a lot more than that,” said Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds. “In a lot of cases, the deputies will just help someone and move on.”

The hardest hit areas were Acton and Decordova Wednesday night, Deeds said.

Gov. Greg Abbott was scheduled to be in Granbury for a 4:30 p.m. news conference to discuss the flooding.

‘Still a serious flood’

Farther upstream, floodwaters appeared to be cresting Thursday morning at the flood-prone Horseshoe Bend area. It was projected to crest at 26.61 feet, which is just below major flood level, and more than two feet less than was originally forecast.

“That's still a serious flood, but it looks like we got some good news this morning,” said Joel Kertok, a Parker County spokesman. “We're not out of the woods yet, with more rain in the forecast.”

The heavy rainfall is forcing the Brazos River Authority to release water from Possum Kingdom Lake into the Brazos. From the lake, the Brazos goes through Parker and Hood counties before reaching Lake Granbury, where floodgates are also open.

Judi Pierce, a BRA spokeswoman, said the inflows appeared to have crested into Possum Kingdom Lake, which may allow them to hold off opening a third flood gate.

“We’re waiting on the rain to see how much they get up there,” Pierce said. “That could change everything.”

Horseshoe Bend resident Bart Salter, who owns 13 rental houses in the rural subdivision, said that even though the river isn't as high as predicted, he remains worried about more rain and additional releases from Possum Kingdom.

“This isn't over just yet,” Salter said. “If it starts raining again, it could get a whole lot worse.”

The BRA has been criticized by many Horseshoe Bend residents for the repeated floods over the last year but Kertok said they deserve some credit for handling the flood.

“I think the BRA has done a good job of managing the system and preventing the flooding from being much worse,” Kertok said.

Rainfall has been steady

Hood County received 1.71 inches of precipitation from 7 a.m. Wednesday to 7 a.m. Thursday, National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Bishop said.

In Parker County, where officials have urged voluntary evacuations, Annetta South got 1.41 inches during the 24 hours, Bishop said.

Elsewhere in North Texas, Bowie saw the most rain at 3.64 inches, Bishop said, and farther north U.S. 287 was closed from Brown Road to Cline Road in Clay County, east of Wichita Falls.

Thursday will stay cloudy with a 70 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms and heavy rainfall likely, according to the NWS website. Highs will reach the upper 70s.

Chances stay at 70 percent overnight with showers and thunderstorms likely, according to the site.

Showers and thunderstorms are likely Friday, too, with chances hitting 60 percent, and highs reaching the upper 70s.

Saturday will start cloudy, then clear up and become partly sunny. Highs will reach the mid-80s, and chances for rain for drop to 50 percent.

The sun will return Sunday, with highs reaching the mid-80s and skies staying mostly clear, according to the weather service.

Staff writers Gordon Dickson, Judy Wiley and Dylan Bradley contributed to this report, which includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Bill Hanna: 817-390-7698, @fwhanna