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“Major, catastrophic flooding is occurring across much of southeast Texas,” the National Weather Service says, warning that Tropical Depression Imelda is producing extreme rainfall. With more intense rain in the forecast, the agency says, some areas could see rain totals of 25 to 35 inches through Friday.
The storm forced Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport to order a full ground stop around 9:30 a.m. local time Thursday.
In a combination that’s proving to be disastrous, Imelda is creeping along at just 5 mph as it drops massive amounts of rain onto eastern Texas and western Louisiana. The warnings of new threats come a day after floodwaters from Imelda already covered streets in Galveston and other coastal areas.
There are no words to describe the rain we’re seeing in Winnie, Texas. It’s relentless. It’s unforgiving. We’re on the ground bringing you LIVE coverage on -> https://t.co/TYCmBA6uYP. #BREAKING #abc13 #hounews pic.twitter.com/dCF7RBtMsK
— Steve Campion (@SteveABC13) September 19, 2019
Torrential rains ravaged the town of Winnie, between Houston and Beaumont, filling roadways with water Thursday morning. The communities of Aldine, Kingwood and Conroe were also hit by floods.
Four inches of rain fell on Cedar Bayou in just an hour, the Harris County Flood Control District reports.
— Ed Gonzalez (@SheriffEd_HCSO) September 19, 2019
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster in 13 counties Thursday, saying the severe weather “has caused widespread and severe property damage and threatens loss of life.”
The Cajun Navy says its volunteers are currently carrying out water rescues in Vidor and Beaumont. The Louisiana-based nonprofit rescue group has issued a call for volunteers to help people stranded by the storm, urging anyone with a “surface drive boat/gatortail” boat who can reach the affected areas to get in touch.
The Coast Guard says it has staged emergency response teams in Jefferson County, Harris County and Houston to help people threatened by the flooding. It adds that shallow-water rescue teams from a Marine Safety Unit in Baton Rouge and helicopters from Air Station Houston are also standing by to help.
“People in distress should use 911 to request assistance,” the Coast Guard says, adding that in the intense time frame of an emergency, social media messages can’t be monitored on all platforms and accounts.
The worst rain is forecast for coastal and southeast Texas, where an additional 5 to 10 inches is expected to fall through Friday, the NWS says. Parts of southwest Louisiana should expect an additional 3 to 5 inches, with isolated totals of 10 inches.
As of 4 a.m. local time, the storm’s center was roughly 110 miles north of Houston. Northeast of the city, large parts of Harris and Jefferson Counties were alerted to a flash flood emergency Thursday morning, as officials urged residents of Port Arthur, Beaumont and nearby areas to seek higher ground and avoid driving or walking through floodwaters.
Flash Flood Emergency including Atascocita TX, Humble TX, Crosby TX until 11:15 AM CDT pic.twitter.com/U4lCMHt0U1
— NWS Houston (@NWSHouston) September 19, 2019
In addition to rain, the storm is bringing maximum sustained winds of near 30 mph, with higher gusts.
“Extremely persistent thunderstorms on the southern flank of the system are producing prolific rainfall and dangerous flash flooding across portions of southeast Texas Thursday morning,” the National Weather Service says in its short-range forecast.
Rainwater inundated streets, cars and yards in part of Beaumont on Thursday as shown in a stunning video shot by a Live Storms Media drone. The early morning footage shows water nearly covering the wheel wells of cars that were parked just outside of houses, in an apparent attempt to keep them safe on high ground.
As seen in the drone video’s survey of the stricken neighborhood, rain continues to fall and lightning flashes from Imelda’s thunderstorms.