Texans Brace for More Rain, Snakes and Fire Ants More rain is forecast for northern and central Texas, hit by a major storm system that has caused massive flooding. But they also face snakes and fire ants that have also been washed from their homes.
NPR logo Texans Brace for More Rain, Snakes and Fire Ants

Texans Brace for More Rain, Snakes and Fire Ants

Weary from a deluge that has claimed 11 lives in the last 10 days, Texans braced for yet another downpour expected to pound the Hill Country Thursday morning.

Almost a week of nonstop rain - including 18 inches near Marble Falls early Wednesday morning - left dozens of people stranded on rooftops, cars and in trees. No fatalities were immediately reported in the latest series of summertime rainstorms, but 11 have died in the past week and a half in Texas.

But even as the battle the raging water, residents could also encounter problems with snakes and fire ants, who have also been washed out of their homes, experts said.

In the last few days, the quiet retirement, vacation and commuter town of Marble Falls in the Texas Hill Country about 40 miles northwest of Austin has found itself situated at the confluence of two major systems that have created an almost unheard of amount of precipitation.

A stalled low-pressure system over Texas gorged itself on warm, moist tropical air surging up from the Gulf of Mexico. Then another storm system lumbered in from the west to join the fray, said Bob Rose, chief meteorologist for the Lower Colorado River Authority in Austin.

"For some reason the storms decided to stay put for about 8-10 hours Tuesday night into Wednesday morning," Rose said.

"They became very, very efficient rainmakers. And we were seeing rainfall rates of about 8 inches per hour," he said. "It's just something which was almost unheard of here, tremendous amount of rain."

Whitman Creek grew into a raging river, inundating businesses and homes. Strange sights became commonplace in Marble Falls. Four Frito-Lay trucks washed away, dumping their cargos of chips into the waterway.

"There's a train on a siding that's been lifted off tracks by floodwaters that coursed through that area," said Roy Bode, the publisher of the Highlander Newspaper in Marble Falls.

"Nineteen inches of rain in any community will cause a lot of destruction and that's certainly been the case here," he added.

Miraculously, no one was hurt and no one drowned in Marble Falls.

To the north, the town of Granbury-southwest of Fort Worth-had a similar experience.

But elsewhere, the storms have killed at least 11 people, including a 13-year-old boy washed down a flooded creek Tuesday night in the Dallas suburb of Garland.

In the subdivision Lake Granbury Harbor, about sixty homes went underwater after a violent downpour caused Robinson Creek to breech its banks. Residents had to quickly move to higher ground. Some barely made it, said Hood County Fire Marshal Roger Deeds.

"There were people hanging in trees and on the roofs of sheds and homes," Deeds said. "[We] couldn't get to them at first until we got boats out there."

The June thunderstorms have ended a prolonged drought in North-Central Texas, flooding lakes that only a few months ago were fringed with sun-baked mud and land-locked boat docks.

The floodgates were open Wednesday at Possum Kingdom Lake west of Fort Worth. Parker County Judge Mark Riley said, below the dam, several hundred homes went underwater when the Brazos River reached flood stage.

"But as the water begins to recede and people start going back into their homes, that's when they're going to find the snakes get a little crazy and they come from everywhere, and you do have fire ants this time of year," he said.

Typically, when washed out of their mound, red fire ants will collect around the queen and the brood, and the entire colony will float-like a raft-until it reaches higher ground.

Chris Sansone, extension entomologist in San Angelo, Texas, said ants are a big problem in a flooded subdivision.

"People may be moving out at night, walking in these floodwaters and sometimes that raft of ants will hit on a person," he said. "The ants don't know if that's high ground or a person. And the ants obviously start attacking once the person realizes a group of ants is climbing up on top of him."

Central and North Texans may want to keep that in mind as they eye the forecast for the rest of the week: more heavy rains and flash flooding are predicted.

With additional reporting from The Associated Press