A storm that dumped almost a foot of rain in parts of Denton County on Thursday morning brought flash flooding that stalled cars, stranded motorists, endangered livestock and trapped people in homes, officials said.
Jason Dudd, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, said some areas of the county — particularly near Sanger — received, at times, as much as 2 inches of rain an hour between midnight Wednesday and 5 a.m. Thursday.
Flash flood warnings were issued Thursday for parts of the county and crews started closing several roads.
Jody Gonzalez, Denton County emergency management coordinator, said officials began assembling a task force for swift-water rescues as the morning showers lingered and the creeks continued to rise about 8:30 a.m.
On Odneal Road west of Krum, two people — one in a wheelchair — reported being trapped in a house surrounded by water. Gonzalez said Denton firefighters assisted in helping the two to safety. Three people in another house nearby were rescued from rising water by a boat, he said.
The task force, Gonzalez said, consisted of Denton, Lewisville, Little Elm, The Colony and Carrollton fire departments, as well as emergency management crews from the county.
As showers continued to linger, rescue crews found themselves rushing to Plainview and Mitchell roads to assist two horses and three people caught on what officials called “an island,” otherwise known as their last piece of dry land.
“They went out to rescue one of their horses that was caught in a fence and while doing so, water waist deep continued to rise all around them,” Gonzalez said. “A private citizen got them before the task force did and used a bulldozer to get through the high waters.”
Denton County residents faced a hazardous morning commute as rain fell so hard and fast that it swamped area highways in many locations, slowing drivers who had a tough time maintaining traction, and reduced visibility to almost zero. While many stalled vehicles and accidents occurred across the county, no injuries were reported.
Gonzalez said he watched one vehicle go around a barricade in the road, make it through the water and then stall out.
“Those [barricades] are there for a reason — really listen to the campaign and turn around, don’t drown,” he said.
Sanger resident April Bonine said rising water from a nearby creek left her, her husband and their three children stranded at their home on Tillie Lane on Thursday afternoon. She said the last time she remembers the roads being impassable was in 2007.
“There is only one way in and one way out,” Bonine said of their neighborhood, which has about 15 homes.
On April 24, 2007, Denton saw 5 to 9 inches of rain fall over four hours, causing major flooding and widespread damage.
In June of 2007, an estimated 8 to 12 inches of rain fell in Cooke and Grayson counties during a slow-moving thunderstorm. Downtown Gainesville saw flood waters reach 4 feet high. The system caused flash flooding throughout the region and seven people lost their lives, including a toddler who was swept from her mother’s arms when flood waters rushed through their mobile home neighborhood.
Dudd said rain clusters like the one Thursday are not exactly what meteorologists are talking about when they speak of needing additional rain.
“It’s a little deceiving when you get 10 inches or more in six hours,” he said. “The majority of that will run off into lakes.”
While he said the rain should bring up lake levels, rain really needs to fall at a steady pace over the course of a few days and absorb into the ground to help relieve the lingering drought Texas has been facing.
Dudd said rainfall totals for the year went from 10 1/2 inches below normal to 6 inches below normal for the year in Denton.
The rain also brought relief from rising temperatures. According to records at Denton Enterprise Airport, temperatures dropped 10 degrees from 1 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday. Thursday’s high was listed at 70 degrees.
By 6 p.m. Thursday, only one flood warning remained in effect for the county, according to the National Weather Service. Denton Creek near Justin was expected to rise above flood stage by the evening hours and crest by early Friday morning. By Friday afternoon, officials said the creek should fall below the flood stage.
A 30 percent chance of scattered showers is forecast for today until about 1 p.m., said Joe Harris, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
“Our heavy rainfall potential is over with and chances of any sort of downfall will only continue to diminish as the day wears on,” Harris said.
Staff writers Bj Lewis, Britney Tabor, Les Cockrell and Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe contributed to this report.
MEGAN GRAY-HATFIELD can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.