Death toll could increase from Hermine flooding as search slows for 2 missing Texas swimmers

By Paul J. Weber, AP
Thursday, September 9, 2010

Texas officials stop search for 2 missing swimmers

SAN ANTONIO — Authorities in Texas say it is unlikely they will find alive two missing swimmers swept away by floodwaters from the remnants of Tropical Storm Hermine (hur-MEEN’).

Authorities ended foot patrols along the swollen riverbanks Thursday and pulled back helicopters making aerial sweeps. The men were swimming Wednesday in the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels, about 30 miles north of San Antonio.

The search went from rescue to recovery after the two men didn’t turn up Thursday. New Braunfels fire marshal Patrick O’Connell says the river’s slowing current would have allowed them to climb the banks to safety.

O’Connell says if they were alive, they would have been able to get to a phone.

At least two other people died and another two remain missing in the storms.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Authorities in the San Antonio area searched Thursday for a man who drove into a flooded road, making him the fourth person swept away by floodwaters from the remnants of Tropical Storm Hermine.

The man drove into the rushing water Wednesday, despite his wife urging him to stop, Bexar County spokeswoman Laura Jesse said. The man’s wife and children were following in a separate car, and the wife called to tell him not to drive into the water, but he did it anyway, Jesse said.

Bexar County search teams resumed the search for the man at daybreak Thursday, she said.

Authorities used helicopters belonging to two San Antonio television stations to search near the creek because the state didn’t have one to spare, Jesse said.

The husband was one of four people missing in the Hermine-fueled flooding that caught much of Texas by surprise. Hermine packed a relatively light punch when it made landfall Monday night, and many Texas residents said they felt unprepared for Wednesday’s sudden flooding.

Also missing were two swimmers in the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels, about 30 miles north of San Antonio. Authorities in Austin resumed their search Thursday for a woman whose black Lexus SUV was swept off the road by swollen Bull Creek.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry toured central parts of the state by helicopter Thursday. He told reporters more than 1,200 people in the town of Holland, about 45 miles northeast of Austin, were without water because of storm damage. Authorities were trucking in bottled water, Perry said.

The storms spawned several tornados near Dallas and in southern Oklahoma, and forced more than 100 high-water rescues in Texas. Not all were successful; flash flooding killed at least two motorists.

Near Alvarado, 20 miles south of Arlington, fifteen rescuers tried to save a 49-year-old man who apparently drove his pickup truck into a flooded crossing. One rescuer got to within 50 feet of the man but couldn’t continue because it was too dangerous, Alvarado fire Chief Richard Van Winkle said. The man’s body was found hours later after the waters receded.

“This will weigh on us for a long time,” Van Winkle said.

Another person died in a vehicle submerged by water from a swollen creek in Killeen, north of Austin, the National Weather Service said.

Associated Press writers Jeff Carlton in Arlington, Linda Stewart Ball in Seagoville, Jay Root in Belton, Rochelle Hines and Ken Miller in Oklahoma City, and Jamie Stengle, Terry Wallace, Danny Robbins and Schuyler Dixon in Dallas contributed to this report.

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