HOUSTON (CN) – Five people died Tuesday and thousands of homes were damaged as storms flooded freeways and bayous, stranding motorists and closing businesses and courts.
Thunderstorms that began Monday night and lasted until Tuesday morning dropped enough rain in Harris County to fill the Astrodome more than 500 times, the Houston Chronicle reported. Houston is the seat of Harris County.
Gov. Greg Abbott declared the county a disaster zone.The Harris County Courthouse was closed Tuesday, as were many downtown freeway exits, blocked by police motorcycles, their blue and red lights flashing.
A sign on Interstate 10, through the middle of Houston, warned drivers: “Don’t drown. Turn around.”
That didn’t help early morning commuters stranded on Interstate 45 north of Houston by the swiftly rising waters.
The cover photo of Wednesday’s Houston Chronicle shows cars washed bumper to bumper onto Interstate 45’s shoulder, hoods popped, like an impromptu junkyard on a river.
The storm significantly damaged 4,000 homes in Houston. More than the four deaths already reported are expected when the bayous recede.
Known as the Bayou City for the estimated 2,500 miles of waterways that wind through the area, Houston was built on a vast coastal plain; its downtown is 50 feet above sea level.
Low-lying streets often flood within minutes of heavy rain and make driving through the ponds a crap shoot.
The strength of Monday’s storm and floods left many drivers with no choice but to abandon their cars.
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