As relentless rains continued to pound Southeastern Texas, a woman tried to keep her toddler safe.
Authorities said 41-year-old Colette Sulcer was traveling Tuesday afternoon down an Interstate 10 service road in Beaumont, about 85 miles east of Houston, when her vehicle hit high waters.
More than two inches of rain was falling per hour and wind gusts had reached 38 mph. Sulcer pulled into a nearby parking lot and got trapped, police said, so she grabbed her child, got out of the car and fled.
Similar scenes have played out across Texas as high winds, heavy rains and floods brought by Harvey sweep across the southeastern part of the state: a moment of terror and a desperate attempt to reach safety. But this one ended tragically. Unlike many others who have been able to flee from the devastating floodwaters, police said Sulcer and her 3-year-old daughter, who has not been publicly identified, were swept into a canal.
When first responders reached them, police said, Sulcer was floating facedown in rising floodwaters.
The toddler, police said, was clinging to her mother’s back.
The child lived, but Sulcer died, police said.
“It’s a true testament of a mother’s will to sacrifice her life to keep her child alive,” Officer Haley Morrow, a Beaumont police spokeswoman, told The Washington Post on Wednesday.
Morrow said two Beaumont police officers and two fire rescue divers spotted the toddler, who was wearing a small, pink backpack, and pulled the two from the water. Rescuers were able to save the child, police said, but Sulcer never regained consciousness.
The rains had eased up on Houston, moving Tuesday toward the Beaumont-Port Arthur area to the east.
As The Washington Post’s Jason Samenow reported, more than 26 inches of rain fell Tuesday in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area — including a foot of rain that poured down in just six hours. Since Friday, the area has received more than 45 inches.
It’s unclear why Sulcer was on the road — whether she was trying to get home, or out of town — as she and her daughter were swept up in water rushing from a drainage canal, police said.
Beaumont officers responded to the scene about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday where the woman and her daughter had been carried about a half-mile downstream toward a railroad trestle.
“Water was up to the trestle and first responders would not have been able to save the child if they had floated under it,” police said late Tuesday in the statement. “Officers pulled the child and the mother into the boat.”
Police said the toddler was alert but was suffering from hypothermia.
Rescuers performed CPR on Sulcer but could not revive her. Her death added to a mounting toll that has reached at least 22 people.
The child was transported to a nearby hospital, where she was listed in stable condition, police said. Morrow, with the Beaumont Police Department, said Wednesday that the child is being cared for by family members.
This report has been updated.