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Rain floods Central Texas

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Posted: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 12:00 pm

Cities clean up after storms sweep through

By Rose L. Thayer, Sean Wardwell and Chris McGuinness

Killeen Daily Herald

Heavy thunderstorms sweeping across Central Texas overnight Tuesday left a trail of flash floods, emergency evacuations and power outages in Bell and Lampasas counties.

"This is atypical," said Joe Harris, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "It was a lot of rainfall."

During a 12-hour span, the weather service reported more than three inches of rain at the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport and more than five inches at Fort Hood's Robert Gray Army Airfield.

Marble-sized hail was reported in Lampasas and Coryell counties and western parts of Bell County, but it wasn't as heavy as predicted, said Harris. "As far as severe weather, I think we dodged a bullet yesterday."

Although the area avoided the worst storms, Killeen residents living along Nolan Creek were evacuated late Monday as creek waters started to rise.

Chana Ferrand and her family received an unexpected wake-up call from police officers banging on her front door on Little Avenue, just after midnight.

The family of four joined about 20 other people at the Killeen Community Center. Half of them, including the Ferrand family, stayed overnight.

"It was just really scary seeing all that water," said Ferrand as she waited for a cab to take her home Tuesday. "I've never been through anything like that before, so it was chaos."

But some residents, such as John Feller, opted to remain in their homes in the Oak Springs Mobile Home Park on Dimple Street.

The eight-year park resident said he's seen worse but credited the city's quick reaction in cutting down trees in the water's path to minimizing the flood damage.

"The fact the creek was able to flow and do what it was supposed to do is what kept this from being as bad as it could have been," said Feller.

John Sutton, director of aviation services at the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport, said seven flights were canceled Tuesday.

"We also experienced some equipment problems due to lightning strikes, specifically a power outage on boarding bridge three and damage to the short-term parking system," he said. "Both are still being repaired."

Schools without power

Three campuses in the Killeen Independent School District were without power Tuesday morning, said Leslie Gilmore, spokesperson for the district.

Maxdale Elementary School and Union Grove Middle School had power restored quickly, but Smith Middle School was without electricity from about 6 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., said Karl Green, an area manager for Oncor. "The outage (at Smith) was caused by lightning striking a transformer."

Despite the outage, Gilmore said the school stayed open.

In Lampasas, Kline Whitis Elementary School lost power due to a failed transformer, according to the district's website. Students were transported to Hanna Springs Elementary School for the remainder of the day.

Numerous county roads with flooded low-water crossings were closed. In the Gatesville Independent School District, bus drivers couldn't cross low-water roads, and students living in those areas found alternate transportation, said Superintendent Stewart Speer, but the district did not experience any power outages.

Although there were no school delays, a brief power outage was reported at Miller Heights Elementary School in the Belton Independent School District, said Judy Owens, spokesperson for the district.

Rising water

Belton took a major hit from the storms, with several areas, including the eastside frontage road of Interstate 35, remaining underwater Tuesday.

Alberto Lechuga lives across the street from Yettie Polk Park, which was mostly submerged.

"About 2:30 a.m. or so the water started rising," he said. "It happens every time we get a good rain. It's just the nature of the river."

Belton City Manager Sam Listi said nine homes were evacuated in the Shirt Tail Bend area along Nolan Creek, but most residents fled before notice was given.

Gatesville police evacuated campers from Fauntleroy Park on the Leon River despite storm waters not breaking the tributary's banks. Water was still three feet from the flood range at noon Tuesday, said Police Chief Nathan Gohlke.

Mason W. Canales contributed to this report.

Central Texas soaked

Reported rain between 9 a.m. Monday and 9 a.m. Tuesday:

Little River: 2.05 inches

Fort Hood Robert Gray Army Airfield: 5.43 inches

Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport: 3.44 inches

Temple: 2.74 inches

Belton Lake: 4 inches

Gatesville Municipal Airport: 2.30 inches

Pidcoke: 2.97 inches

Source: National Weather Service

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