Texas governor declares disaster due to floods

Cheryl Sanders
September 20, 2019

Forecasters say the Houston area could still face some heavy rainfall on Thursday. Some areas have been swamped with 20 to 42 inches (51 to 107 centimeters) of rain over just three days, causing catastrophic flooding that is among the worst in USA history. Officials tweeted that roads approaching the airport, located in the northern part of Houston, remained flooded.

By late afternoon, the rains had mostly abated but officials warned millions of people in the area to stay put and not move, as it would take several hours for floodwaters to drain off.

Tropical Storm Imelda dumped torrential rains over the Houston-area, killing at least two people, while rescuers in boats pulled hundreds from flooded cars, the airport temporarily halted flights and tens of thousands of people lost power. That storm dumped more than 5 feet (1.5 meters) of water near the Louisiana border, and two years later, it looked in some places like Harvey was playing out all over again. But recent and accelerating climate change is thought to foster conditions that make seasonal tropical storms wetter, windier and potentially more destructive, Live Science previously reported.

East of Houston, some local officials said the rainfall was causing flooding worse than what happened during Harvey.

Morrison died about 60 miles east of Houston and southwest of Beaumont where water rose quickly Thursday.

As of Thursday morning, Interstate 10 is closed in parts of Jefferson and Chambers counties due to flood waters.

Authorities say high-water rescues are underway in some areas because of rising water.

"Right now, as a Texas sheriff, the only thing that I really want is for people to pray that it will quit raining", he added.

A flooded out vehicle is stranded in high water off US 59 as rain from Tropical Depression Imelda inundated the area. Turner made a similar appeal to parents of schoolchildren as the Houston Independent School District - Texas' largest with more than 200,000 students - did not cancel classes or shorten the day unlike neighboring districts in the path of the storm. Law enforcement officers planned to work well into the night to clear freeways of vehicles stalled and abandoned because of flooding, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said.

Earlier on Thursday morning, the USA supermajor shut the chemical plant at the Beaumont petrochemical and refining complex, also due to the flooding from Imelda, Exxon's spokesman Jeremy Eikenberry told Reuters.

Emergency officials said the man, identified by family as Hunter Morrison, was electrocuted and drowned in Jefferson County, Texas.

During Harvey, Beaumont's only pump station was swamped by floodwaters, leaving residents without water service for more than a week.

Coastal counties, including Brazoria, Matagorda and Galveston, were hit hard by rainfall through Wednesday. Some parts of the Houston area had received almost 8 inches (203 millimeters) of rain, while the city of Galveston had received almost 9 inches (229 millimeters).

"It rolled in like a river", she said. Crystal Holmes, a spokeswoman for the department, said the death occurred during a lightning storm.

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