Sunday 17 November, 2019

Water rescues underway as Imelda drenches parts of Texas

Rain from Tropical Depression Imelda deluged parts of Texas and Louisiana on Thursday, prompting water rescues, a hospital evacuation and road closures in areas east of Houston.

Forecasters warned that Imelda could bring up to 35 inches (90 centimetres) of rain this week in some areas of Texas through Friday.

In the Texas town of Winnie, about 60 miles (95 kilometres) east of Houston, a hospital was evacuated and water is inundating several homes and businesses. The Chambers County Sheriff's Office said Winnie is "being devastated by rising water" and water rescues are ongoing.

The worst of the flooding is east of Houston, and some local officials said the rainfall Thursday is causing flooding worse than what happened during Hurricane Harvey.

In Beaumont, authorities said all service roads are impassable and two local hospitals are inaccessible, the Beaumont Enterprise reported.

"It's bad. Homes that did not flood in Harvey are flooding now," Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick said.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency for several counties, saying "life-threatening amounts of rainfall" have fallen and more is expected in the area Thursday. Imelda's centre was located about 110 miles (180 kilometres) north of Houston early Thursday and was moving north-northwest at 5 mph (7 kph), 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 (40 kilometres) east of Houston, damaging trees, barns and sheds and causing minor damage to some homes and vehicles.

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 (50 centimetres) 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 (64 kph).

The weather service said Imelda is the first named storm to impact the Houston area since Hurricane Harvey dumped nearly 50 inches (130 centimetres) 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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