Water Rescues Begin as Imelda Soaks East Texas

HOUSTON (AP) -
According to Matagorda County Constable Bill Orton, Sargent received 22 inches of rain since Imelda started impacted the area on Tuesday. Photographed from above Sargent, Texas, Wednesday. ( Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP)

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.

No reports of deaths or injuries related to the storm were immediately reported Thursday.

In Winnie, a town of about 3,200 people located 60 miles 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, a city of just under 120,000 people that’s located about 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, authorities said all service roads are impassable and two local hospitals are inaccessible, the Beaumont Enterprise reported. The Beaumont Police Department said on Twitter that 911 has 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 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 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.

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.

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 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.