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After storm, Texas areas prepare for Patricia

Two sons paddle their mom from her flooded home near Downsville, Texas, Saturday. (Jerry Larson/Waco Tribune Herald, via AP)

Two sons paddle their mom from her flooded home near Downsville, Texas, Saturday. (Jerry Larson/Waco Tribune Herald, via AP)

DALLAS – A powerful storm system rumbled through Texas on Saturday, flooding roads and causing a freight train to derail as parts of the state braced for the remnants of Hurricane Patricia to arrive.

Many parts of Texas, including some of its biggest cities, were under flash flood watches through today or Monday. The remnants of Patricia, which was downgraded to a tropical depression and was expected to reach northern Mexico by Saturday night, may add to the rain falling in South and Central Texas, said Jesse Moore, a National Weather Service forecaster in Fort Worth.

Patricia left surprisingly little damage in Mexico on Saturday and quickly dissipated into an ordinary low-pressure system that posed little threat beyond heavy rain.

The hurricane’s most powerful punch hit a sparsely populated stretch of Mexico’s Pacific Coast before the system crashed into mountains that sapped its potentially catastrophic force. The popular beach city of Puerto Vallarta and the port of Manzanillo were spared the brunt of the violent weather.

There were no reports of deaths or injuries, said Roberto Lopez Lara, interior secretary for the state of Jalisco. It was a remarkable outcome, considering that Patricia had been a Category 5 hurricane with winds up to 200 mph before it came ashore with slightly less power in an area dotted with a few upscale hotels.

The storm system already moving through Texas dumped nearly 2 feet of rain on parts of the state since Friday, causing flooding that blocked several major roadways.

Galveston County Judge Mark Henry on Saturday issued a voluntary evacuation for Bolivar Peninsula, just northeast of Galveston Island, after forecasters predicted that the area would get 8 to 12 inches of rain and tides that are 4 to 5 feet high.

The judge warned that residents who don’t leave might find themselves cut off from emergency services as the heaviest winds and rains come ashore. The storm was expected to reach the area by around 6 p.m. Saturday.

“Elderly residents and people with medical conditions should make plans to leave the area before dark,” Henry said.

County spokeswoman Brittany Rainville said there were buses waiting to evacuate people, but no one had yet shown up to leave as of early Saturday afternoon. She said about 4,000 people live on the peninsula.

In San Antonio, a man walking his dog before dawn early Saturday was swept into a flooded drainage ditch and disappeared, fire officials said. Firefighters searched for two hours but had to stop due to bad weather. They planned to resume as soon as possible. The dog is safe.

A driver in the Central Texas town of Temple heading to work Saturday morning was saved after he was able to get out of his car that was floating in floodwaters and grabbed a tree. Temple police say the man called 911 from his cellphone to summon help. Firefighters retrieved him and walked him to safety.

A Union Pacific freight train derailed before dawn on Saturday near Corsicana, about 50 miles south of Dallas, because a creek overflowed and washed away the tracks, said Jeff DeGraff, a railroad spokesman. The two crew members swam to safety and nobody was hurt, he said.

“They (crew) escaped the train after it stopped and swam to high ground,” DeGraff said. “A Navarro County rescue team was able to get in and pull them to safety; they are back safe on dry ground.”

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