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Authorities in Jefferson County were searching Thursday morning for a woman who may have been swept away by flash flooding overnight along Buck Creek in the Hematite area.

Sgt. Al Nothum of the Missouri Highway Patrol said a "credible witness" who is a firefighter saw a young woman on top of a car, waving her arms, Wednesday night as floodwaters began to engulf the vehicle. The water was about halfway up the car, then she tumbled into the darkness, the witness told police.

The firefighter had been driving on Highway 67 between about 10:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. when he looked to his right and saw the woman. Then he saw a van on the same road coming toward the woman's car. The van got washed away in this waterway of Buck Creek and may have knocked the woman's car, sending it into the creek too.

On Thursday morning, searchers found three vehicles in about a mile stretch of Buck Creek, including one completely covered in mud. One was a passenger car, which is what the woman may have been on; it was dark and rainy and the firefighter didn't get a good look at what kind of car she was on, Nothum said. Two were GMC vans. Police located the owner of one of the vans, who said he abandoned it because of the high water. Police were still trying to find who owns the other two vehicles.

The patrol's marine unit was going to launch boats about 2 1/2 miles up the creek to search for any survivors.

Police say they don't know if the woman is in the water or got out on her own. Adding to the mystery: A woman called her aunt to say she was trapped and needed help, but then the call went dead. They don't know if the caller was the same woman the witness had spotted. Nothum said investigators are trying to contact the aunt again Thursday morning to see if her niece has shown up. Nothum also said he is trying to pin down the time of the call.