Tropical Depression Imelda was drenching the Houston area and other parts of southeast Texas for a second straight day on Wednesday, covering some streets near the coast with water and forcing many schools to close in anticipation of flooding to come.
The storm is expected to keep deluging eastern Texas and parts of Louisiana into Thursday, and has put nearly 8 million people under flash flood watches in those two states.
Houston could see more than 12 inches of rain by the time the storm ends — which would be the highest amount for one storm since Hurricane Harvey in 2017. As many as 20 to 25 inches could fall in isolated areas around East Texas.
Water was filling streets and creeping up to historic buildings Wednesday in Galveston’s Strand District, ABC affiliate KTRK reported. A number of Galveston roads were impassable, the city’s government said.
Roads also were flooding in the Houston area. Several cars stalled Wednesday on a flooded road near Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport, leaving drivers waiting for help or for waters to recede.
“We encourage people that if they don’t need to be out in the streets, to please stay home,” Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said.
Imelda’s winds also have knocked over trees in areas southeast of the city, such as the Clear Lake district, KTRK reported.
Houston’s main school district was open Wednesday, though it canceled after-school activities. Many other districts in the region, including Galveston schools, closed because of the storm, in some cases because of anticipated flooding.
The heaviest rains will push Wednesday afternoon into the Houston area, raising the prospects of flooding, especially in eastern Houston and the Galveston area, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said.
From Tuesday into Wednesday morning, the storm dropped 14 inches of rain in some areas southwest of Galveston, and 3 to 9 inches of rain in Harris County, where Houston is.
Rescue teams prepare to help
Rescue teams across southeastern Texas geared up to help as needed.
“Our forte is water rescue, both flood rescue and swift water rescue,” Palmer Buck, with Task Force 1, told the station. “I have crews from Fort Worth fire, as well as Longview fire that will be stationed here overnight.”
A National Guard team was expected to arrive Wednesday, as well.
Houston knows flood problems well
Imelda formed Tuesday afternoon over the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall as a tropical storm near Freeport, the National Hurricane Center said. But even before it was named, the system was raining on coastal Texas.
Houston is no stranger to flooding. In May, for instance, heavy rain led to significant flooding in streets, homes and businesses.
Hurricane Harvey especially created major problems in the Houston area in late August 2017, causing disastrous flooding, claiming dozens of lives and causing billions of dollars in damage.
Harvey busted the U.S. record for rainfall from a single storm, dumping more than 60 inches about 90 miles east of Houston. It left 34 inches of rain at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, and more than 40 inches in areas east of the city.
Houston’s layout and city planning are part of what makes its flooding problems worse, experts have said.
Urban sprawl over past decades has turned water-absorbing greenery into concrete. Weak regulations have failed to properly estimate the potential hazards of flooding. And poor reservoir and land management have revealed a lack of long-term planning on these issues, the experts have said.
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