Texas' Brazos River hits century high, Houston braces for floods

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - The Brazos River in Texas surged to its highest level in more than a century in an area outside of Houston on Wednesday after floods killed at least six people, damaged hundreds of buildings and turned roads into lakes over the past week.

The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a flash flood watch for large parts of the state, including Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio and Houston. Storms lasting until the weekend could send even more rivers over their banks, it said.

As much as 10 inches of rain could fall in the Houston area in the coming days due to slow-moving thunderstorms, the NWS said, just weeks after eight people were killed in floods. This could touch off another round of flooding in the fourth most-populous U.S. city, it added.

Houston has activated its emergency operations center and opened evacuation shelters as forecasters warned of a new round of heavy rains and flooding.

“After all the rain we have had recently, the ground is saturated in a lot of places. It is just a muddy bog. If we put 1 to 3 inches of rainfall an hour on top of that, it is only going to aggravate flooding,” said Kent Prochazka, a meteorologist with the NWS Houston-Galveston office.

The NWS reported the Brazos River, which winds over 840 miles (1,350 kms) through Texas, reached levels not seen since 1913, about 30 miles southwest of Houston.

In the most recent floods, hundreds of people across the state have fled their homes.

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“It’s scary, we have never had anything like this before,” said Mary Hernandez of Richmond in metropolitan Houston, where evacuations were underway.

Evacuation orders have been issued for parts of Rosenberg, another town along the Brazos and not far from Richmond.

More than 120 high-water boat rescues from buildings and cars have been reported in Fort Bend County, southwest of Houston.

Several rivers in southeastern and eastern Texas were in a major flood stage.

Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales, Brendan O’Brien and Jon Herskovitz; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Chris Reese