Flash Flooding Races Through Texas, Oklahoma After Record Rainfall

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Severe storms are creating massive flooding in Texas, Oklahoma and throughout the Great Plains. Meteorologists say this downpour most likely ended the years long drought for that portion of the West — but it comes at a high cost.

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Transcript

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A storm front in Texas, Oklahoma and parts of the Midwest has spawned tornadoes and is causing major flooding. At least three people have died, and about 12 are still reported missing. The governor of Texas declared states of disaster in 24 counties. But as bad as this group of storms has been, it could bring the end of several years of drought in the region. NPR's Sonari Glinton reports.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: The best way to imagine this group of storms that stretch from the Gulf of Mexico to Illinois is as a wall of water and destruction marching across the middle of the country.

BRUCE PEELE: We've talked to a number of the old-timers that have lived here forever, and they said they've never seen anything this bad.

GLINTON: Bruce Peele is mayor of Blanco in Central Texas. He says, as far as he can tell, it's been record flooding.

PEELE: And it's pretty much devastated the state park here and taken out a number of homes and ruined our water system and sewer system - and so pretty bad.

GLINTON: Peele and other local leaders say they've only begun to survey the amount of damage done as the water continues to fall. Official reports are of nine inches of rain with some in the region reporting they've gotten as much as 18.

JIM BARHO: My name is Jim Barho. I'm the EMC for Burnet County.

GLINTON: Burnet County is just west of Austin. Barho says his part of the state isn't getting as much damage as nearby areas. Where his county is using resources is rescuing drivers who think they can make it through flooded overpasses and the like.

BARHO: In this hill country area which is referred to as flash flood alley, with the ground saturated as much as it's been over the past two or three weeks, we get a tremendous amount of water that rises and goes up over these low-water crossings. And it's extremely dangerous.

GLINTON: Hundreds of people have been forced to flee their homes in Texas and Oklahoma. Meanwhile, Doug Speager with the National Weather Service in Norman, Okla., says he doesn't expect the rain to let up this week, but it's not all bad, especially when you consider that much of the region has been threatened by extreme drought.

DOUG SPEAGER: For most areas of Oklahoma and Texas, the drought has definitely been knocked down. The downside is definitely the flooding that we've been experiencing over the last couple of weeks.

GLINTON: Speager says severe river flooding will continue throughout the area for a while but...

SPEAGER: The drought is definitely not an issue anymore. And in fact, some of our reservoirs are filling up nicely that had been very, very low.

GLINTON: Local and state officials in the region say they were hoping and praying for rain for years. They just didn't expect it to come all at once. Sonari Glinton, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.