Flooding from a tropical storm hit the Houston area on Thursday, with some calling the situation worse than Hurricane Harvey.
Heavy rainfall inundated the Texas coast, flooding Houston and Beaumont, home to massive oil refining, petrochemical and export facilities. The storm was downgraded to just a tropical depression, but those classifications only measure wind speed. The real threat from Imelda was “major, catastrophic flooding,” according to the National Weather Service.
“Extremely persistent thunderstorms” created the potential for 6 to 12 inches of rain, with higher levels in certain areas. “Storm total rainfall could be in excess of two feet for some areas before the weather finally begins to improve!” the NWS said in a notice. The forecast predicted that through Friday, some parts could see rain reach as high as 25 to 35 inches.
But the Texas Department of Transportation said on Thursday that 41 inches of rain had already hit the area between Beaumont and the town of Winnie (between Beaumont and Houston).
The sudden and rapid flooding of the area caught many by surprise, with thousands of people trapped in their homes and cars. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said that the floods have “caused widespread and severe property damage and threatens loss of life.” He declared a state of disaster across 13 counties. The slow-moving nature of the storm meant that intense rain continued to pummel the region.
The intense flooding echoes the 2017 catastrophe from Hurricane Harvey, which submerged Houston with 50 inches of rain. In fact, some people said current flooding conditions are even worse. “What I’m sitting in right now makes Harvey look like a little thunderstorm,” Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne told ABC13, a local ABC affiliate. “It’s dire out here. I’m fearful for this community right now.