May 17, 2015 2:36 PM

Storm system pushes east after drenching Plains

The Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) A powerful storm system stretched from Texas to Minnesota on Sunday, bringing heavy rains, flash flooding and the possibility of more severe weather.

Scattered severe storms were expected to develop Sunday afternoon and evening in eastern Minnesota, western Wisconsin and parts of Missouri, Illinois and Arkansas.

Rain-soaked Texas saw flash flood warnings, high-water rescues and motorists stranded on roads overwhelmed by torrential rains. A river in northwest Oklahoma threatened to top its banks and affected crops, oil wells and rural roads, while 2 to 3 inches of rain fell in three hours in parts of Arkansas, prompting a flash flood warning.

"We've gotten a lot of rain in a short time," Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Cain said. "The ground is saturated, so every time we get another big soaking, the rain causes more flash flooding."

The storm system is the result of a cold front extending from the north central Plains into the southern Plains that pushed up behind warm, moist air, according to Bill Bunting, chief of operations for the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

"It's a very strong upper level disturbance," Bunting said, noting it stretched at one point nearly to the U.S. border with Mexico. "It's as extensive an area as we've seen this year."

The Dallas-Fort Worth area received between 3 to 5 inches of rain overnight, according to National Weather Service senior meteorologist Eric Martello, and total rainfall is running about 5 inches above normal for this time of year. In Johnson County, which WFAA reported received 5 to 8 inches of rain overnight, people had to be rescued from their homes. San Antonio and Austin also saw flooding Sunday.

Damaging tornadoes and strong winds blew through the Plains on Saturday and early Sunday, though there were no reports of deaths or injuries.

The National Weather Service said tornadoes touched down near Elmer and Tipton in southwest Oklahoma on Sunday, with state emergency officials say the most significant damage was to homes, businesses and power lines. One also touched down Saturday east of Kansas City, Missouri.

A storm in Lyon County, Kansas, was strong enough to push railcars off the tracks on Saturday, and the National Weather Service said a tornado. Trees, farm buildings and empty railcars were toppled in central Iowa early Sunday morning.


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