HOUSTON (CN) –Tropical Depression Imelda, sauntering through southeast Texas at 5 mph, flooded some homes with 5 feet of water early Thursday, forced a hospital to evacuate patients and shut down a stretch of Interstate 10.
Imelda dropped around 30 inches of rain within 24 hours in parts of Jefferson County, Texas, on the Louisiana border, and local media reported more than 1,000 people have called 911 pleading to be rescued from their flooded homes.
In neighboring Orange County, Vidor Police Chief Rod Carroll urged people to stay off the roads as the deluge caused havoc.
“People can’t see the road, and they are driving off the street and into ditches. We are working to get to people as fast as we can,” Carroll told the Beaumont Enterprise.
Orange County Sheriff Keith Merritt said Thursday morning that his department has deployed five high-water rescue trucks, and the truck he is in has rescued about 40 people, the Enterprise reported.
In Chambers County, west of Beaumont, first responders evacuated patients from Riceland Medical Center in a bus early Thursday after the hospital took on 4 to 6 inches of floodwater.
Area officials said homes that did not flood from Hurricane Harvey’s record rainfall in August 2017 are flooding now.
Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne was in Winnie, population 3,500, 30 miles southwest of Beaumont early Thursday.
“What I’m sitting in right now makes Harvey look like a little thunderstorm. It’s dire out here. I’m fearful for this community right now,” he told Houston’s ABC affiliate KTRK.
The Red Cross has opened shelters in Winnie and Orange, Texas.
The National Weather Service issued a bulletin around 2 a.m. Thursday warning that Imelda could drop an additional 6 to 12 inches of rain Thursday in southeast Texas, and the National Hurricane Center announced at 4 a.m. the storm has dumped 35 inches in some areas.
The National Hurricane Center said Imelda is moving north through the region at 5 mph producing 30 mph winds. “A gradual weakening is forecast during the next 24 hours,” it said.
The Texas Department of Transportation said Thursday morning Interstate 10 eastbound lanes are closed in Chambers County because they are underwater.
Imelda’s rains also continued to pound Houston on Thursday. Planes were grounded at 10 a.m. at Bush Intercontinental Airport, 20 miles northeast of downtown.
Mayor Sylvester Turner urged people to stay put.
“If you’re in school, if you’re at work, or you’re at home, stay there. If you are on the road look out for high water and if possible pull over to a safe place,” he said on Twitter.
Riding in the bed of a rescue truck in the northern Houston suburb Kingwood, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo posted footage on Twitter and said HPD and the Houston Fire Department have boats in the water. “We’ve already had to rescue a bunch of people on highways out here and now we’re going into flooded neighborhoods,” Acevedo said.
Turner said first responders had staged rescue boats and trucks all over the city ahead of the storm, which meteorologists expect to clear the region by 5 p.m. Thursday.