DALLAS, TEXAS (BLOOMBERG) - A massive rainstorm in North Texas drenched parts of the Dallas-Fort Worth area with more than a foot of water, swamping roadways, triggering flash flood warnings and killing at least one person in what experts call a once-in-200-years event.
A 60-year-old woman died after flood waters fed by torrential rainfall swept away her car, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins reported on Twitter.
He also declared a state of disaster in the county following an intense storm that dropped more than 9 inches of rain at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport - the second-wettest 24-hour period in the airport's history, according to the the National Weather Service.
"It fell too fast, too furious," said Jonathan Porter, chief meteorologist at commercial forecaster Accuweather.
Climate change has fuelled more frequent historic rains and flooding since a warmer atmosphere tends to support greater moisture, which has lead to an acceleration of these kinds of extreme rainfall events, he said.
Police in Fort Worth responded to more than 50 water-related emergencies overnight and the city's fire department asked people to stay home, according to tweets from the agencies.
Photos posted online show cars on surface streets submerged to their windshields and highways that look like rivers. Parts of Dallas received more than 14 inches of rainfall in the past day, according to city records.
"It's a one-in-200-year event, at least," said Ryan Truchelut, chief meteorologist at commercial forecaster WeatherTiger. "That's not normal, by any means," he said.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data backed up that point. Average annual rainfall in the area is about 35 inches, so some neighbourhoods had as much rain as would normally fall in four months, he said.
The period before the downpour was abnormally dry, with less than an inch of rain in July and August up until a few days ago, Truchelut said. The heavy rain comes after a moisture surge out of the Pacific Ocean combined with moist air from the Gulf of Mexico, he said.
The heaviest rainfall began to shift into Central Texas at about 1pm local time, but flooding will remain in North Texas for at least a few more hours, according to the National Weather Service.
"They will get a chance to dry out overnight and through the rest of the week," Truchelut said, adding that the weather will move east with potential for rainfall of up to 5 inches in Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi in the coming days.