Image: A woman holds a baby in a canoe as Texas Guardsmen arrive to assist after flooding in Brookshire, Texas, U.S. April 20, 2016. U.S. Army National Guard/1st Lt. Zachary West/Handout via REUTERS.
By Jon Herskovitz
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – A grandmother and four of her grandchildren were killed and another person also died in floods in Texas caused by storms that unleashed tornadoes, damaging hail and torrential rains on several central U.S. states, officials said on Saturday.
The woman and her grandchildren died in Palestine, Texas, 100 miles (160 km) southeast of Dallas, after escaping a house where flood waters had reached the roof line. They were then swept away, Palestine police Captain James Muniz said.
“They were able to get out but they were washed away,” he said, adding their bodies were recovered on Saturday.
Those killed were identified as Jamonicka Johnson, 6, Von Johnson Jr., 7, Devonte Asberry, 8, Venetia Asberry, 9, and Lenda Asberry, 64, the city said. Palestine police took the bodies to Tyler, Texas, for autopsies, officials said.
A Palestine man, Giovani Olivas, 30, was swept under flood waters around Anderson County Road 370. His body was found late Saturday afternoon, according to Anderson County Sheriff Greg Taylor.
Seven homes were evacuated and temporary shelters were established, officials said. The city received 7.5 inches (19 cm) of rain in less than an hour, which caused the floods.
“I don’t recall ever seeing this much water rise so fast and in such a short period of time,” Palestine Mayor Bob Herrington said in a statement where he also offered condolences to the family of the five victims.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch extending from east Texas into much of Mississippi and a severe thunderstorm watch for New Orleans and the southern Louisiana region.
“Strong to severe thunderstorms are expected today into this evening across the lower Mississippi Valley, Tennessee Valley, Ozarks and the Ohio Valley,” it said.
Strong winds in the Houston area downed trees and cut power lines, the service said. As of 10:30 a.m. local time, more than 4,200 customers in the region were without power, CenterPoint Energy reported.
There were seven reported tornadoes from the storm system on Friday in Texas and Oklahoma, it said. A twister caused damage to several structures and ripped through mobile homes in Ninnekah, about 50 miles (80 km) southwest of Oklahoma City, local news reports said.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Andrew Roche, Susan Thomas, Marguerita Choy and Jacqueline Wong)