Parts of Texas were hit hard Tuesday night into Wednesday by the latest in a long line of tropical systems, as heavy rain caused flash flooding and led to at least one high-water rescue in San Antonio. But the most recent storm is unlike any other that has impacted the Gulf Coast states so far this year.
Pamela turned deadly on Thursday after a 5-year-old girl and a woman were trapped in two separate cars and swept away in floodwaters in Bexar County, Texas. First responders spent all day trying to rescue the two, but officials confirmed on Thursday that neither survived.
The woman and 5-year-old were the first fatalities confirmed from Pamela as of Thursday evening. Multiple water rescues had to be conducted on Wednesday night as highways were transformed into rivers, and AccuWeather's Bill Wadell reported that some children were clinging to trees in Bexar County, Texas, as they awaited rescue.
Typically when a tropical system strikes Texas, it has origins in the Atlantic hurricane basin, but Pamela, which barreled through the heart of Texas as a tropical rainstorm, can be traced back to the eastern Pacific Ocean where it was once a Category 1 hurricane.
It is "pretty unusual for Pacific tropical systems to drive moisture into Texas and beyond," AccuWeather Senior Vice President Jon Porter said. He added that events like this have happened only a few times over the past 75 years and are often associated with serious flash flooding.
Pamela initially took shape as a tropical depression on Sunday, Oct. 10, before gradually strengthening into a hurricane leading up to landfall on Wednesday morning near Estacion Dimas, Mexico.
Esta imagen satelital, proporcionada por la Oficina Nacional de Administración Oceánica y Atmosférica de Estados Unidos (NOAA, por sus siglas en inglés), muestra a la tormenta tropical Pamela la mañana del lunes 11 de octubre de 2021, en el Pacífico mexicano. (NOAA/NESDIS/STAR VA vía AP)
Significant flooding was reported close to the landfall location, including in El Rosario, Mexico, where hundreds of homes were inundated with water, Uno TV reported.
Farther up the coast in the populated city of Mazatlan, Mexico, civil defense officials reported rough surf, some damage, power outages and flooding from Pamela, The Associated Press said, but it was not as bad as areas to the south closer to where landfall occurred.
As Pamela traversed Mexico, tropical moisture surged across Texas late Wednesday through Thursday sending flooding downpours across heavily populated areas of the Lone Star State.
A commercial area is damaged after the passing of Hurricane Pamela in Mazatlan, Mexico, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. Hurricane Pamela made landfall on Mexico's Pacific coast just north of Mazatlan on Wednesday, bringing high winds and rain to the port city. (AP Photo/Roberto Echeagaray)
The worst of the rain focused around San Antonio and Austin, but downpours soaked areas farther north into Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri.
San Antonio reported around 3.5 inches of rain from Pamela, which is just 0.25 of an inch shy of the city's average rainfall for all of October. More than double that fell a few miles east in Gonzales, Texas, where upwards of 7 inches of rain fell in the same timeframe. Radar estimates showed a pocket of 8 to 10 inches of rain southwest of Gonzales.
The water level of the Blanco River at San Marcos, Texas, located between Austin and San Antonio, spiked 17 feet in a matter of hours, cresting at 24.7 feet early Thursday morning. This was the third-highest water level ever recorded at this part of the river, according to AccuWeather Senior Weather Editor Jesse Ferrell.
And the flooding threat continued into Friday.
Three other rivers in this part of Texas were projected to reach major flood stage due to the rain, including Sandies Creek near Westhoff, San Marcos River at Luling and Guadalupe River near Bloomington. The NOAA river gauge at Sandies Creek was expected to crest at 27.6 feet Friday, a mark that would be the third-highest stage reported by the gauge. The record is 29.06 feet in 1992.
This map shows the amount of rain that fell across the south-central U.S. from Wednesday morning through Thursday morning. (AccuWeather)
Multiple water rescues had to be conducted on Wednesday night as highways were transformed into rivers.
San Antonio resident Paul Gonzales was out on Wednesday night and witnessed people attempting to drive through a flooded road.
"It just came so fast in one big wall and they still drove through it," Gonzalez told KSAT. Firefighters were called to the scene where they were able to rescue the stranded passengers. "That car's going to be a total loss, so I hope they have insurance."
Pamela was rated a 1 on the AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes for the U.S. due to the heightened risk of flooding, widespread disruptions and economic impact. In Mexico where it made landfall, Pamela was rated a 2 on the scale.
Fortunately for the waterlogged areas of Texas, drier conditions are lined up for the weekend, allowing time for the floodwaters to recede.
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