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Millions in Texas, Louisiana are under flash flood watches due to torrential rain

Parents use boats to pick up students from schools after nearly a foot of rain fell in Lake Charles, La., on May 17, 2021. (Rick Hickman/American Press via AP and CNN)

(CNN) — Millions across southeast Texas and parts of Louisiana will remain under flash flood watches into Thursday because of torrential rain that has swept through the region, triggering power outages and reports of localized damage.

Flash flood watches were also in effect Wednesday for parts of Arkansas, Mississippi and Oklahoma as slow-moving storms have pounded the south-central US for days. More rain is possible through at least Friday.

At one point early Wednesday, more than 100,000 customers were without power in Texas, according to the website PowerOutage.us. By evening, that number was at around 17,700 customers.

Flash flooding was underway in parts of south-central Texas, including counties to the west of Corpus Christi, according to the National Weather Service. The service warned of high water in creeks, streets, underpasses and low-lying areas.

Storms have brought strong winds, leaving damage. In the Texas community of Seguin outside San Antonio, a tree dropped onto the home of Lora Soto Flores this week, narrowly missing her, she told CNN affiliate KABB.

“I had just got out of there. I went to the restroom and got out, as soon as I got out I closed this door, and that’s when it hit,” collapsing her roof and leaving the restroom covered in debris, she told the San Antonio-based station.

In Fulshear, Texas, about a dozen trees had fallen, blocking roads, the city said in a social media post. Officials urged people to stay away from downed power lines and report them.

In the coastal city of Port Lavaca, the fire department urged residents to stay home and off the roads until the storm passed after receiving multiple reports of stranded motorists.

More than a foot of rain has fallen across portions of Texas and Louisiana since Monday, and 2 to 4 inches could fall in the area Wednesday.

Deadly weather in Louisiana

In Louisiana, at least four people have died this week as a result of the weather, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

According to department spokeswoman Mindy Faciane:

  • A 44-year-old man died when his vehicle crashed into a flooded canal in West Baton Rouge Parish.
  • A 33-year-old man was found dead in a flooded vehicle in East Baton Rouge Parish.
  • A 61-year-old man was found dead in a submerged vehicle in Calcasieu Parish.
  • A 76-year-old man in East Baton Rouge Parish who relied on an oxygen machine died after the machine failed in a power outage, Faciane said.

In neighboring Arkansas, the National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings early Wednesday.

The Arkansas Division of Emergency Management tweeted that 15 people were rescued after at least four homes and eight cars were affected by the flooding in Saline County. “Please be cautious – avoid flooded areas ‘turn around don’t drown,'” the tweet said.

Extreme rainfall closely linked with the climate crisis

Extreme rainfall and increased rainfall rates are closely linked with warming temperatures and the climate crisis.

“The frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation events across the United States have increased … and are expected to continue to increase over the coming century,” according to the US National Climate Assessment in 2018.

This is leading to more 1-in-5-, 1-in-10-, 1-in-100-year-type extreme rainfall events that lead to catastrophic flash flooding.

These trends are consistent, according to scientists, with what is expected in a warming world, as warmer temperatures cause more evaporation which leads to higher levels of water vapor in the atmosphere, which can in turn lead to more frequent and more intense rainfall.

Louisiana has experienced extreme, climate-fueled rainfall before with disastrous consequences, such as in 2016 when deadly flash floods were studied by scientists and found to have been made at least 40% more likely and 12% to 35% more intense because of human greenhouse gas emissions.

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