3 dead in Southeast Texas storms

HOUSTON – Severe thunderstorms with torrential rains and at least one tornado hit Southeast Texas on Monday, killing three people, destroying homes, flooding roads and shutting down schools.

Two women were found dead in a sport utility vehicle in floodwaters between 8 and 12 feet deep in Houston, and a body was also discovered in another submerged vehicle in Fort Bend County.

A tow truck driver pulled the SUV from a road feeding onto Interstate 45 in Houston and found the two bodies, said Police Lt. Tom Jennings. The victims weren’t identified, but Jennings said they were both in their 20s or early 30s. They apparently drowned, he said.

As much as 10 inches of rain were reported in the Houston-Galveston area overnight, closing numerous roads and some public school systems. Southwest of Houston, in Fort Bend County, roads were closed and widespread flooding was reported.

The Texas Department of Public Safety was alerted to a submerged vehicle on a state road near the Brazoria County line early Monday and a body was discovered inside. No other information was immediately available about the death.

More rain was expected across Texas on Monday, although floodwaters were receding in Harris County by late morning. No power outages were reported, said Keith Lejeune, alert manager of the county’s EMS. There were some delays reported at both the city’s major airports.

Parts of Interstates 10 and 45 were shut down around Houston, and the University of Houston and several other schools were closed. Twenty bayous overflowed their banks, but county officials said no evacuations were ordered.

A tornado struck east of Houston near the Jefferson County town of China, not far from the Louisiana border, said emergency management spokeswoman Darlene Koch. The National Weather Service confirmed the tornado, and Koch said five mobile homes and two houses were destroyed. No injuries were reported.

Koch said the storm brought 40-mph wind gusts and knocked over trees, causing an undetermined amount of power outages.

In the Texas Coastal Bend, as many as 20 homes were damaged as a suspected tornado roared through the small Lavaca Bay community of Magnolia Beach before daybreak Monday, Calhoun County Sheriff B.B. Browning said.

That was up to one fifth of the homes in the town 75 miles northeast of Corpus Christi, he said. The only injury reported was a cut thumb a man suffered from flying glass, he said.

Up to 4 inches of rain overnight prompted flash flood warnings in parts of North and West Texas.

But by Monday morning, parts of Dallas County had only gotten up to 2 1/2 inches of rain, said Stacie Hanes, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth. She said rains in North Texas were expected to slow and dissipate by the afternoon.

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