Hundreds call for help as “life-threatening” storm drenches Texas

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Rain from Tropical Depression Imelda deluged parts of Texas and Louisiana on Thursday, prompting hundreds of water rescues, a hospital evacuation and road closures in areas east of Houston that were hit hard by Hurricane Harvey two years ago. Forecasters warned that Imelda could bring up to 35 inches of rain this week in some areas of Texas through Friday.

The storm system also brought the risk of severe weather and prompted tornado warnings Thursday morning in the areas hit hardest by the flooding. In Winnie, a town of about 3,200 people located 60 miles east of Houston, a hospital was evacuated and water was inundating several homes and businesses.

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The Chambers County Sheriff’s Office said Winnie was “being devastated by rising water” and water rescues were ongoing. In 2017, the CBSN Originals documentary “Thicker Than Water” explored the devastation Harvey caused in Winnie.

Thicker Than Water

The worst of Thursday’s flooding was east of Houston, and some local officials said the rainfall was causing flooding worse than what happened during Harvey. The National Weather Service said Imelda was the first named storm to impact the Houston area since Harvey dumped nearly 50 inches of rain on parts of the flood-prone city in August 2017, flooding more than 150,000 homes in the Houston area and causing an estimated $125 billion in damage in Texas.

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In Beaumont, a city of just under 120,000 people that’s located about 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, authorities said all service roads were impassable and two local hospitals were inaccessible, the Beaumont Enterprise reported. “Please shelter in place and seek high ground,” the Beaumont Police Department said on Twitter.

The department said 911 had received requests for more than 250 high water rescues and 270 evacuations. “It’s bad. Homes that did not flood in Harvey are flooding now,” Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick said.

During Harvey, Beaumont’s only pump station was swamped by floodwaters, leaving residents without water service for more than a week. The weather service issued a flash flood emergency for several counties, saying “life-threatening amounts of rainfall” have fallen and more was expected in the area Thursday.

Imelda’s center was located about 110 miles north of Houston early Thursday and was moving north-northwest at 5 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Heavy rainfall occurred Wednesday in many areas and spawned several weak tornadoes in the Baytown area, about 25 miles east of Houston, damaging trees, barns and sheds and causing minor damage to some homes and vehicles.

Angel Marshman wades through floodwaters from Tropical Depression Imelda after trying to start his flooded car September 18, 2019, in Galveston, Texas. AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Coastal counties, including Brazoria, Matagorda and Galveston, were hit hard by rainfall through Wednesday. Sargent, a town of about 2,700 residents in Matagorda County, had received nearly 20 inches of rain since Tuesday.

Karen Romero, who lives with her husband in Sargent, said Wednesday this was the most rain she has had in her neighborhood in her nine years living there. “The rain (Tuesday) night was just massive sheets of rain and lightning storms,” said Romero, 57.

She said her home, located along a creek, was not in danger of flooding as it sits on stilts, like many others nearby. In the Houston area, the rainfall flooded some roadways Wednesday, stranding drivers, and caused several creeks and bayous to rise to high levels.

The National Hurricane Center said Imelda weakened to a tropical depression after making landfall Tuesday near Freeport, Texas, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph.

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