PALESTINE, Tx. — By the time Lenda Asberry and her four grandchildren tried to leave home in the dark of night, rapidly rising floodwaters already were up to the roof, police in eastern Texas say — too late, it turned out, for a safe escape.
Asberry, 64, and her grandchildren, ages 6 to 9, died early Saturday after being swept away by floodwaters in Palestine, police said. It was part of a system of severe storms that left one other person missing, damaged dozens of homes and threatened more flash-flooding in storm-weary Texas and other parts of the South.
“They were talking to her telling her to come this way, come this way keep walking,” Asberry’s son, Doniell Hudnall, told CNN affiliate KLTV. “They say she was trying and once she took so many steps or whatever. I guess she got weak.”
Asberry’s nephew Derrick Asberry told the station she was trying to help the small children to safety.
Several inches of rain fell in less than an hour after midnight in Palestine, about a 110-mile drive southeast of Dallas, particularly endangering a group of homes in a low-lying area near a creek — including the home where Asberry and her four grandchildren were staying, police spokesman James Muniz said.
“The water came up extremely quickly. The people tried to get out, but before they could get out, the water was already at the roof of the house,” Muniz said.
“They did make it outside the residence and they were all swept away,” he said.
People called 911 as the water rose to that house and a few other homes.
The bodies of Asberry; Jamonicka Johnson, 6; Von Anthony Johnson Jr., 7; Devonte Asberry, 8; and Venetia Asberry, 9, were found after the water receded about three hours later, Muniz said.
In the same county, floodwaters from a creek swept a man away from his vehicle off U.S. 79 shortly after midnight, Anderson County Sheriff Greg Taylor said. The body of Giovanni Olivas was found Saturday.
“The water was rising so he got out of his vehicle. Some folks on the other side of the creek tried to help him, and he didn’t make it,” Taylor said. “He washed away.”
Here’s what else we know about what the storm system:
Tornadoes may have hit east of Dallas
About 80 miles east of Dallas, a severe storm — possibly with two tornadoes — tore through the small city of Lindale on Friday evening, damaging dozens of homes, Fire Chief Jerry Garner said. Three people were treated for minor injuries.
“We’ve got power lines down all over the area — trees down, blocking roads,” Garner said.
Early Saturday, two Boeing 737 planes were damaged by straight-line winds at their terminal gates at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, the National Weather Service said. No injuries were reported; further details weren’t immediately available.
More storms threaten the South
Slow-moving thunderstorms Saturday threatened parts of the South with flash flooding, including most of Louisiana, western Mississippi, eastern Texas and the Houston area, which was hit with deadly flooding earlier this month.
The bad weather prompted organizers of one of the world’s most famous music festivals to cancel part of the program.
Officials with Jazz Fest in New Orleans announced the decision just before acts including Stevie Wonder, Beck, Snoop Dogg, Arturo Sandoval and Buddy Guy were to take to their respective stages. Organizers told patrons to check Facebook and Twitter for updates on Sunday’s schedule.
The Houston area has already seen its wettest April on record, with almost 14 inches of rain so far. The previous record was almost 11 inches in April 1976.
Saturday’s storms could bring hazardous wind gusts and flooding, and isolated hail and tornadoes are also possible.
The heaviest rainfall was expected across southeastern Texas and southern Louisiana, with possible widespread rain of 4 to 6 inches.
CNN affiliate KTRK reported between 3 and 5 inches fell north of Houston before the worst of the storms moved out of the region.