Remnants of Bill flood Oklahoma roads as storm trudges north

Remnants of Bill flood Oklahoma roads as storm trudges north

By CLAUDIA LAUER and JUSTIN JUOZAPAVICIUS
Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A powerful storm that made landfall in Texas this week trudged slowly northward through the nation's midsection Thursday, causing rivers and creeks to swell, forcing the closure of several Oklahoma highways and contributing to the disappearance of a little boy.

Although there were no reports of injuries in Oklahoma caused by Tropical Depression Bill, authorities were searching for a 2-year-old boy who was swept away by a rain-swollen creek Wednesday near Ardmore, a community north of the Texas border. The area received about 6.4 inches of rain, and the moisture dislodged boulders onto a stretch of Interstate 35, forcing the closure of the major highway connecting Oklahoma City and Dallas.

The storm has caused a lot less damage than had been expected before it made landfall Tuesday along the southeastern Texas coast. But forecasters warned that although there was nothing like the flooding experienced over Memorial Day weekend, the storm could still cause rivers to swell dangerously as it moves northeastward and blows itself out over the coming days.

The National Weather Service said Thursday that it had dumped 6 to 11 inches of rain on parts of southern Oklahoma and a half-inch to 2 inches on the eastern part of the state.

Flash flood watches were in effect for the eastern Oklahoma and northwestern Arkansas and were expected to last until Thursday night and Friday morning, respectively. Forecasters expected the storm to dump an additional 3 to 8 inches of rain on an area stretching as far north as Illinois by the end of the week.

Tropical Depression Bill, the second named tropical system of the year, dropped more than 11 inches of rain southwest of Houston on Wednesday, but a pocket of dry air swooped in from the east to spare the state major problems.

Although the storm could cause rivers to swell dangerously or overflow their banks, Texas appears to have avoided the type of damage it had anticipated.

"Even though the state is facing challenges, it looks like we have been able to avoid the worst," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said.

May was the wettest month on record for Texas and Oklahoma, and storms over Memorial Day weekend and just after it caused major flooding in both states and were blamed for the deaths of more than 30 people in the two states, most of them in Texas.

In the Ardmore area, searchers resumed looking for the missing 2-year-old after dawn on Thursday. The boy was swept away by Hickory Creek after running away from a relative, police Capt. Eric Hamblin said.

On the east side of the storm, which is typically a tropical system's strongest side in the northern hemisphere - severe thunderstorm warnings were in place for parts of Arkansas, with the threat of small tornadoes and damaging winds.

Once the storm passes into Missouri and Illinois, the runoff is expected to fill the Arkansas and Red rivers, which crested well above flood stages earlier this month. Arkansas transportation officials closed major routes and farmers headed back to the fields to replant fields after floodwaters rousted seedlings from the ground.

"It's really hard. You can't get a plan together," said Robert Stobaugh, a farmer who owns about 6,000 acres near the Arkansas River west of Little Rock. "This second flood ... adds to the cost, aggravation and worry."

High water was already causing problems in Missouri, even ahead of Bill's arrival. A motorist died when high water swept his car from an eastern Missouri road and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers declared an emergency in its Kansas City District while delivering 43,000 sandbags for use in the Blue River basin.

Meteorologists warned residents of Missouri and Illinois to watch for high water into the weekend.

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Juozapavicius reported from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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Associated Press writers David Warren in Dallas; Betsy Blaney in Lubbock, Texas; and Allen Reed in Little Rock, Arkansas, contributed to this report.

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