Tropical Storm Drenches Houston; More Hurricanes Forming

Vehicles splash through heavy water filling Chimney Rock, south of Brays Bayou in Houston, on Tuesday. (Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP)

HOUSTON (CN) – Tropical Storm Imelda dumped 7 inches of rain on southeast Texas on Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, and though it’s been downgraded to a tropical depression, a flash flood warning remains in effect.

Imelda caught residents of Greater Houston off guard when it made landfall with 40 mph winds Tuesday afternoon in Freeport, 60 miles south of Houston, but first responders were prepared.

Houston firefighters readied high-water vehicles, motorboats and jet skis Tuesday night, a sobering reminder of Hurricane Harvey.

Imelda is the first named storm to hit the region since Harvey flooded thousands of Houston-area homes in August 2017, and overwhelmed first responders who did not have enough equipment or ataffing to rescue residents of entire neighborhoods who had to flee their homes in waist-deep water.

Many school districts in the area canceled classes Wednesday and Harris County, whose seat is Houston, called off 8 a.m. jury duty service.

As a light drizzle fell Wednesday morning in Houston, officials urged people to avoid driving if possible.

But the only high water spots were on a small stretch of access road parallel to Interstate 45 south of Houston, according to Houston TranStar, a traffic management service.

Harris County Flood Control District meteorologist Jeff Lindner said early Wednesday he had not received any reports of structures flooding and he doesn’t expect Imelda to cause widespread home flooding, though he said some areas could get up to 12 inches.

Lindner said two factors are reducing the risk: The ground is dry from a hot summer and soaked up Imelda’s first bands of rain, and the storm has brought steady, not gushing, downpours that have not overwhelmed watersheds. All area bayous are within their banks, he said.

Still, the National Weather Service says there is a 100% chance of heavy rain in the Houston-Galveston area Wednesday and forecast it will continue through Thursday.

The NWS also has a flash flood watch in effect for the eight counties that make up the Houston region and as far east as Lake Charles, La., near the Texas-Louisiana border.

Governor Greg Abbott on Monday deployed boat rescue teams from the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to low-lying coastal areas around Houston and to Beaumont.

Meanwhile, residents of Bermuda are bracing for Hurricane Humberto, a Category 3 storm that could brush the British island. Authorities there have ordered schools and government offices to close Wednesday afternoon.

Also Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said newly formed Tropical Storm Lorena in the Pacific Ocean could produce heavy rains and flooding in Mexico by Thursday. Forecasters expect it to become a hurricane Friday as it approaches shore. They warned of heavy rains and flooding to resorts from Zihuatanejo to Cabo Corrientes. Lorena had top winds of 60 mph early Wednesday and was centered about 145 miles southwest of Zihuatanejo, moving northwest at 14 mph.

Farther off Mexico’s Pacific Coast, Tropical Storm Mario also was expected to be a hurricane by Friday as it approaches the southern tip of Baja California and becomes nearly stationary through Friday night.

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