‘It’s bad’: Hundreds of water rescues as Imelda soaks Texas
Published 8:30 am Friday, September 20, 2019
BEAUMONT, Texas — The remnants of Tropical Depression Imelda unleashed torrential rain Thursday in parts of Texas and Louisiana, prompting hundreds of water rescues, a hospital evacuation and road closures as the powerful storm system drew comparisons to Hurricane Harvey two years ago.
Although the amount of predicted rainfall is massive — forecasters say some places could see 40 inches (100 centimeters) or more this week — Imelda’s deluge is largely targeting areas east of Houston, including the small town of Winnie and the city of Beaumont.
Still, the Houston area faced heavy rains Thursday, leading forecasters to issue a flash flood emergency through midday Thursday for Harris County. In that area, forecasters said 3 to 5 inches (7.5 centimeters to 12.5 centimeters) of rain is possible per hour.
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Sylvester Turner, the mayor of Houston — the fourth-largest city in the U.S. — joined other Texas officials in urging drivers to stay off the roads.
Imelda is the first named storm to impact the Houston area since Harvey hovered for days in August 2017 and inundated the flood-prone Gulf Coast. The storm dumped more than 5 feet (1.5 meters) of water on the town of Nederland, Texas, near the Louisiana border.
No reports of deaths or injuries related to the storm were immediately reported Thursday.
East of Houston, some local officials said the rainfall was causing flooding worse than what happened during Harvey. In Winnie, a town of about 3,200 people 60 miles (95 kilometers) east of Houston, a hospital was evacuated and water was inundating several homes and businesses.
“It’s as bad as I’ve ever seen it. Right now I’m in an absolute deluge of rain,” Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne said Thursday morning as he took cover under a carport at an auto dealership in Winnie. The town “looks like a lake.”
Hawthorne said emergency workers rescued about 200 people overnight, and that an additional 50 households were on a waiting list to be rescued Thursday morning. Hawthorne said some residents were up on their roofs because of rising floodwaters.
Airboats from the sheriff’s office and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department were helping with the rescues, along with high-water vehicles, Hawthorne said.
“Right now, as a Texas sheriff, the only thing that I really want is for people to pray that it will quit raining,” he added.
Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman Sarah Dupre said officials do not know exactly how many people were stranded in their cars on a more-than-25-mile-stretch of Interstate 10 that was closed between Winnie and Beaumont. Louisiana officials also closed a portion of Interstate 10 heading west into Texas.
Dupre said the department was currently working with local law enforcement on a plan to get people off the roadway.