Rescues Underway As Imelda Floods Roads, Homes In Southeastern Texas

(CNN) — Remnants of former Tropical Depression Imelda were causing serious floods in Houston suburbs and the Beaumont area Thursday, trapping people in homes and vehicles, spurring urgent rescues, and prompting warnings across southeastern Texas for people to stay indoors.

Meanwhile, Jerry has strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane, according to the National Hurricane Center’s latest advisory.

The storm is the 10th named storm of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season, and follows Hurricane Humberto and Tropical Storm Imelda, the remnants of which are causing flooding in southeastern Texas on Thursday.

Flooding is most serious just north of Houston and to the east, including the city of Beaumont, where police said they’ve received hundreds of calls for rescues and were begging people not to drive because most roads were flooded.

The storm, formerly a tropical storm and a tropical depression, has brought intense rain to southeastern Texas since Tuesday. Many places outside Houston have received more than 10 inches; parts of Jefferson County have seen more than 30; and another 5 to 10 inches of rain could come Thursday.

Recent developments include:

  • Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport stopped takeoffs because of weather late Thursday morning, as a line of heavy thunderstorms hit the area.
  • The National Weather Service urged residents of four Houston-area counties to stay indoors because of flash flooding. This included people in Montgomery, Liberty and Chambers counties, as well as northeastern Harris County, which includes the communities of Kingwood and Humble.
  • In Jefferson County east of Houston, the Green Pond Gulley levy near Beaumont “is deteriorating and could break at any moment,” prompting an evacuation of the Gilbert Lake Estates area, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said.

Desperation in Beaumont

In the Beaumont area of Jefferson County, some neighborhoods looked like lakes Thursday. Video posted by state game wardens showed rescuers in an airboat, speeding down covered streets to surrounded homes.

“The situation here is turning worse by the minute,” Michael Stephens, trapped by floodwaters at an apartment complex in the nearby city of Vidor, told CNN Thursday morning.

“People have snakes in their apartments from the creek. … (We) also have elderly disabled people stuck in their apartments.”

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From inside, Stephens recorded video of people trudging through floodwater outside. He said for this area, the flooding seemed worse than he remembered from 2017’s deadly Hurricane Harvey.

In Beaumont, ankle-deep water had collected in the lobby of the Elegante Hotel, and more was coming in, video recorded by Lupe Torres on Thursday showed.

Beaumont police said the city received 12 to 20 inches of rain from Wednesday evening into Thursday morning, with more to come.

Floodwater poured into Beaumont TV station KBMT Thursday morning, forcing the news staff to move to their sister station in Houston, KHOU, to broadcast.

Drivers trapped on I-10 near Winnie

In the community of Winnie — between Houston and Beaumont — floodwaters intruded onto Interstate 10 and surface streets Thursday morning, trapping motorists on the highway and surrounding businesses. A photo on social media showed a truck almost submerged near a hotel.

Steve Castle told CNN floodwaters had him stuck in his truck on I-10 early Thursday.

“I was supposed to be driving back to Houston. I don’t think I’m going anywhere soon,” Castle said from his truck.

In Chambers County, which includes Winnie, at least 200 homes were taking on water, Sheriff Brian Hawthorne said. The sheriff’s office said it was reaching trapped people with high-water rescue vehicles and airboats.

High-water vehicles also were being used to evacuate several patients from the Winnie hospital, Constable Dennis Dugat told OnScene.TV.

Richard Tyson, waiting out the storm overnight in his bait and tackle shop, said he hasn’t seen flooding like this since Hurricane Harvey — and in this community, he said, Thursday’s flooding might be worse.

More than a foot of water collected in his parking lot, and he cleared items off his floor in case the water comes in, he said.

“There’s no containing this (storm), brother. It’s doing what it wants,” Tyson said.

In Baytown, about 26 miles east of Houston, a tornado added to the damage on Wednesday.

The twister picked up a hundred-gallon propane tank, launching it into the house he was in and sending everything flying, Albert Elizondo said.

“It lasted about three minutes. Boom. I went outside, no porch — nothing,” Elizondo said.

More rain to come Thursday

The storm is in East Texas and slowly moving northeast. Flash flood watches are in effect Thursday more millions of people across East Texas and western Louisiana.

In Louisiana, the storm could bring 3 to 5 more inches of rain — with isolated amounts as high as 10 inches — on Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

Houston itself — long a place with flooding problems due in part to vast concrete sprawl — may escape the worst of this storm’s flooding.

Still, the city may receive more than 12 inches of rain before the storm is over, and some streets flooded Wednesday.

In the Atlantic, Hurricane Jerry had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph — just barely Category 1 level — as of 11 a.m. Thursday. At that time, the storm was about 490 miles east of the Leeward Islands and headed west-northwest at 16 mph, the hurricane center said.

The storm was expected to pass just north of the Leeward Islands on Friday, though tropical storm-force winds and heavy rainfall were possible. The storm would then pass north of Puerto Rico on Saturday and the southeastern Bahamas on Sunday, the hurricane center said.

Tropical storm watches were in effect for Barbuda, Anguilla, St. Maarten, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, Saba and St. Eustatius, the center said in its advisory. Jerry was forecast to strengthen later Thursday before starting to weaken this weekend.

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