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Search underway for Texas deputy who reported her vehicle was flooded after severe storms

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AUSTIN, Texas — Rescue crews in Central Texas were searching Thursday for a sheriff's deputy who radioed for help minutes before her empty patrol car was found submerged by floodwaters, while heavy rains in West Texas caused dozens of streets and some houses to flood.

Roger Wade, a spokesman for the Travis County Sheriff's Office, said the deputy was checking low-water crossings during storms. She radioed shortly before 2 a.m. CDT Thursday, saying her vehicle was being washed away in an Austin-area subdivision.

"We believe she was swept into the low-water crossing by water going down the street," said Wade, who identified the deputy only as a seven-year veteran of the department.

Austin-Travis County EMS was contending with three other swift-water rescues in the region, Cmdr. Mike Benavides said. No injuries were reported in those rescues.

The Austin area received 5 to 7 inches of rain early Thursday, said Cory Van Pelt, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in New Braunfels. Rainfall from remnants of Hurricane Odile pelted parts of the U.S. Southwest, including in Texas from El Paso to Houston.

"We are getting moisture from Odile," Van Pelt said. "We also got a lot of Gulf of Mexico moisture that came in, a combination of the two."

PHOTO: Women use a plastic sheet to try and stay dry in downtown Conroe, Texas, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Heavy rains continue to hit the region with several power outages reported in the downtown area and continuing west toward Lake Conroe. (AP Photo/ The Courier, Jason Fochtman)
Women use a plastic sheet to try and stay dry in downtown Conroe, Texas, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Heavy rains continue to hit the region with several power outages reported in the downtown area and continuing west toward Lake Conroe. (AP Photo/ The Courier, Jason Fochtman)

Austin Energy reported about 1,100 customers without power Thursday.

Heavy rain also caused flooding in far West Texas, where a portion of Interstate 10 remained closed for several hours Wednesday night and fire crews responded to more than 100 weather-related calls.

Forecasters issued a flash flood watch through Thursday night for the El Paso area, where two people were rescued from a swamped vehicle. A third person who swam to safety was being treated for minor injuries, El Paso Fire Department Battalion Chief Carlos Franco said.

"We're moving, we can't live here anymore," said Jesús Contreras, whose house flooded Wednesday night.

His and other homes located at the lowest end of a central El Paso street flooded with about a foot of water. "This is like a funnel, all the water that comes from the mountains, from other streets just comes down here," he said.

Greg Lundeen, a National Weather Service meteorologist for the El Paso area, said some areas of east El Paso received up to 3 inches of rain in an hour Wednesday night and that rain is expected to continue falling over the next 18 hours.

Several hundred homes and businesses in the El Paso area lost electricity, according to El Paso Electric.

In southeastern New Mexico, the town of La Union saw up to 3 inches of rainfall, forcing residents to scramble to keep water out of their homes.

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PHOTO: A woman uses a plastic sheet to try and stay dry in downtown Conroe, Texas, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Heavy rains continue to hit the region with several power outages reported in the downtown area and continuing west toward Lake Conroe. (AP Photo/ The Courier, Jason Fochtman)
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