Train Derails In Texas As Rain, Floodwaters Soak State

Emergency crews respond to a train derailment in Navarro County, Texas, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. NAVARRO COUNTY OFFICE OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT

DALLAS – Heavy rains that brought a flood threat to North and Central Texas will spread into South Texas on Sunday as a stalled cold front causing the downpours is reinforced by remnants of Hurricane Patricia.

Much of the Texas heartland was under a flash flood watch early Saturday as the National Weather Service expected the Austin-San Antonio area to receive up to a foot of rain while already inundated sections of North Texas were expected to experience up to 7 more inches of rain.

In the latest sign of the floodwaters’ impact, a Union Pacific freight train derailed in flooded North Texas, near Corsicana, where the tracks washed away. Two crewmembers who were on board escaped by swimming to safety.

Union Pacific spokesman Jeff DeGraff said the derailment happened around 3:30 a.m. CDT Saturday in an area four miles north of Corsicana. DeGraff said Chambers Creek was overflowing and washed out the tracks.

One locomotive and several rail cars, hauling loose gravel, went into the water and were partly submerged, DeGraff said. Both crewmembers on board “swam to high ground” and were rescued by emergency responders, he said. Nobody was hurt.

The 64-car train was traveling from Midlothian to Houston. DeGraff had no immediate details on how many cars went off the tracks since the flooded area was not accessible to cleanup crews.

Flash floods already have closed major highways in parts of North Texas. Floodwaters from more than 13 inches of rain closed Interstate 45 near Corsicana, backing up traffic for 12 miles, and closed parts of heavily traveled Interstate 35 near Waco.

Texas was contending with multiple storm systems, prompting emergency officials to gear up for heavy rains through the weekend and widespread flooding that may follow.

The rains already have scrambled the schedule of high school and college football games, forcing postponement of some games and rescheduling of others for earlier in the day.

Flight tracker flightaware.com reported nearly 100 flights canceled Saturday at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

But for emergency officials, a primary concern is the widespread flooding expected over the weekend. Officials in Hidalgo County planned to hand out free sandbags to help residents prepare for the expected deluge. Heavy rains, gusty winds and tidal rises of up to 5 feet prompted a coastal flood advisory for the upper Texas Gulf Coast.

The potential for flooding comes five months after torrential spring storms caused more than 30 deaths and left large swaths of the state underwater.

The Memorial Day weekend brought an astonishing amount of rainfall, with some isolated areas receiving more than 20 inches. Homes were either damaged or swept away by river water southwest of Austin, about 1,500 homes in the Houston area alone sustained flood damage, and neighborhoods throughout the state were cut off by rising waters.

Little rain had fallen since then.

More than half of the state’s 254 counties had outdoor burn bans in effect Friday, due to previous dry conditions, the Texas A&M Forest Service reported.

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