Record rainfall wreaked havoc across a swath of the Plains and Midwest yesterday, causing flash floods in normally dry riverbeds, spawning tornadoes, and forcing at least 2,000 people in Texas from their homes. A firefighter in Oklahoma was swept to his death: Fox23 reports Claremore Fire Capt. Jason Farley, a 20-year veteran, helped rescue a woman and six children through the window of a flooded home where they were celebrating a girl's 5th birthday party. KFOR reports it's believed rushing water swept him into a storm drain during the rescue; he's thought to have drowned. Two other deaths were reported: A woman in Tulsa died in a traffic-related crash, and in Texas, a man's body was recovered from a flooded area along the Blanco River.
That river rose 26 feet in just one hour and left piles of wreckage 20 feet high, authorities said. Weather.com calls the flash flooding "catastrophic" and reports that in Wimberley, Texas, the Blanco River broke a crest record set in 1929—by 7 feet. "It looks pretty bad out there," said Hays County emergency management coordinator, describing the destruction in Wimberley, a community that is part of a fast-growing corridor between Austin and San Antonio. "We do have whole streets with maybe one or two houses left on them and the rest are just slabs," she said. As many as 400 homes were destroyed in Wimberley, many of them washed away. This May is already the wettest on record for several cities in the southern Plains states, with days still to go and more rain on the way. So far this year, Oklahoma City has recorded 27.37 inches of rain. Last year the state's capital got only 4.29 inches. (Read more Texas stories.)