Texas spared the worst, Midwest braces for remnants of Bill

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An already-soaked Midwest on Thursday faced the prospect of more rain and flooding as a slow-moving tropical depression trekked northeast from Texas after drenching that state.

Authorities in southern Oklahoma meanwhile prepared to resume the hunt for a 2-year-old child who was swept away by high water at a rain-swollen creek on Wednesday.

Forecasters said 3 to 8 inches of rain could fall from Oklahoma to Illinois by the end of the week as the low-pressure system churned toward Missouri and Illinois.

Tropical Depression Bill, the second named tropical system of the year, dropped more than 11 inches of rain southwest of Houston on Wednesday, but a pocket of dry air swooped in from the east to spare Texas major problems.

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Bill arrived after record rainfall inundated Texas in late May, swelling rivers and threatening dams from border to border. While the storm dropped enough water to shutter airports and flood roads, its impact was much less severe than had been anticipated.

“Even though the state is facing challenges, it looks like we have been able to avoid the worst,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said.

The threat late Wednesday shifted to Arkansas and Oklahoma.

“The band (of the storm) is only about 75 miles wide, but that’s where the concern for flooding and road closures exists,” said John Hart, a meteorologist at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma. “That narrow corridor is going to be a pretty big deal.”

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Volunteers in Oklahoma’s Okmulgee County filled thousands of sandbags Wednesday to prepare for the storm — the region’s second major rainmaker in three weeks.

“We’ve never had to deal with back-to-back massive flooding situations,” Okmulgee County emergency management director Tim Craighton said.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said it would resume the search for the missing toddler at 7 a.m. in Ardmore, Oklahoma. The 2-year-old was swept away in Hickory Creek after running away from a relative, Ardmore Police Department Assistant Chief Kevin Norris said.

More than 5 inches of rain fell in Ardmore on Wednesday.

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May was Oklahoma’s wettest month ever. Five people died in floods and another person was killed in a tornado last month, and already on Wednesday officials closed roads because of high water.

On the east side of the storm — typically a tropical system’s strongest side in the northern hemisphere — severe thunderstorm warnings were already up in Arkansas, with the threat of small tornadoes and damaging winds.

Once the storm passes into Missouri and Illinois, the runoff is expected to fill the Arkansas and Red rivers, which crested well above flood stages earlier this month. Arkansas transportation officials closed major routes and farmers headed back to the fields to replant fields after floodwaters rousted seedlings from the ground.

“It’s really hard. You can’t get a plan together,” said Robert Stobaugh, a farmer who owns about 6,000 acres near the Arkansas River west of Little Rock. “This second flood, … it adds to the cost, aggravation and worry.”

High water was already causing problems in Missouri, even ahead of Bill’s arrival. A motorist died when high water swept his car from an eastern Missouri road and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers declared an emergency in its Kansas City District while delivering 43,000 sandbags for use in the Blue River basin.

Meteorologists warned residents of Missouri and Illinois to watch for high water into the weekend.

Juozapavicius reported from Tulsa, Oklahoma.