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Imelda rainfall 'worst than Hurricane Harvey' in parts of southeast Texas


By Bethany Blankley

Three days into the tropical depression Imelda, an area of Southeast Texas still remains under flash flood warnings.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster for the southeast counties of Brazoria, Chambers, Galveston, Hardin, Harris, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, Newton, Orange and San Jacinto.

“The State of Texas is working closely with local officials and emergency personnel to provide the resources they need to keep Texans safe from Tropical Storm Imelda,” Abbott said.

The National Weather Service office in Houston said Imelda is the seventh wettest tropical cyclone in U.S. history.

In Jefferson County, located in the Gulf Prairie region of southeast Texas, more than 42.6 inches fell in three days. In Hamshire, 25 inches fell in 12 hours, AccuWeather reported. AccuWeather meteorologists predicted localized rain totals could reach 55 inches in the county before Friday’s end.

"It's bad. Homes that did not flood in Harvey are flooding now," Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick told the Beaumont Enterprise.

Heavy rainfall and flash floods in Harris County alone caused 1,700 combined rescues and evacuations. Wind gusts of up to 50 mph were reported in Houston, the National Weather Service said.

Some of its 4.7 million residents may not see waters recede until the weekend although officials are working around the clock to clear roads, debris, and abandoned vehicles, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said. Water-swollen grounds make trees more susceptible to falling over, and flash flooding remains a serious concern, the weather service warned.

Two men have been reported dead, one in Jefferson County, another in Harris County. A 19-year-old man was electrocuted and drowned while trying to move his horse during a lightning storm in Jefferson County, according to the sheriff’s office. Another man also died after he was rescued from a submerged van in Harris County.

Three people reported minor injuries after a flat roof of a post office facility collapsed from the pounding rain, officials said.

After the full ground stop issued at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, the airport has struggled to manage delays in arrivals—which average roughly four hours, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Metro Houston public transportation is still shut down, and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said “high water assets” are still being deployed throughout the city.

The southeast town of Beaumont, devastated by Hurricane Harvey, was again submerged by more than 20 inches of rain.

"The 911 operations center has experienced a heavy call load with over 250 high water rescues and 270 evacuation requests," the Beaumont Police Department tweeted. "If there is an immediate threat to life safety, call 911."

In Winnie, vehicles were nearly completely submerged in water. Riceland Medical Center evacuated staff and patients. Riceland Healthcare’s chief financial officer Mo Danishmund told the Houston Chronicle the flooding was "worse than Hurricane Harvey."

High water rescue vehicles and airboats were deployed to rescue residents from their rooftops.

According to Weather.com, between Wednesday and Thursday, 43.15 inches of rain fell in North Fork Taylors Bayou, 33.58 inches near Hamshire, 25.07 inches at Pine Island Bayou, 23.24 inches at the East Fork of the San Jacinto River, 21.69 inches at San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, 20.40 inches at Beaumont/Port Arthur Regional Airport, 19.59 inches in Humble, and 11.64 inches at Houston's Intercontinental Airport.

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