Heavy but brief thunderstorms Monday afternoon stranded drivers throughout McLennan County with flash flooding, forcing police to pull many out of standing water.
A confirmed tornado produced heavy damage near Pidcoke in Coryell County. That storm caused power outages and warning sirens in Gatesville.
High winds with gusts of around 60 mph accompanied the storm, but the Tribune-Herald was unable to confirm any significant damage in the area Monday evening.
The heavy rain started about 3 p.m., with Waco Regional Airport receiving 1.65 inches of rain in the next two hours. The first flooding was reported soon afterward.
Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said the most severe flooding appeared to be near LaSalle Avenue and Primrose Drive, where drivers attempted to steer through water, but the depth flooded their engines.
Swanton said police responded to calls across the city to help stranded vehicles, but no severe rescues in moving water were needed. Drivers never should attempt to drive through moving water, Swanton said.
Multiple shoppers trying to enter the Bellmead H-E-B store on Interstate 35 drove into a drainage ditch because the water hid the entrance to the store, said Kory Martin, Bellmead police detective and public information officer.
Martin said the ditch claimed a few vehicles, but only one needed an extraction team to drag it out.
The Texas Department of Transportation closed its southbound access roads at exit 319 near Woodlawn Road and 325 near Moonlight Drive because of high water and debris on the road.
Crews were working to clear the lanes Monday evening.
By 5:30 p.m., area police departments said the water was receding. A tornado watch that Waco had been under for much of the day was lifted about that time.
With the ground saturated from weeks of rain — May 4 was the last day on which no rain fell at Waco Regional Airport — flooding remained the central concern.
Jason Dunn with the National Weather Service’s Fort Worth office said the Waco area has a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms Tuesday afternoon, but that any storms that do develop are likely to be severe, meaning with hail at least ¾-inch in diameter and winds of at least 58 mph. Unlike Monday’s line of storms, the ones that pop up Tuesday are expected to be individual storm cells, with localized flooding possible, Dunn said.