Imelda produced heavy rain in parts of Texas. The National Weather Service warned of life-threatening flash floods.
As floodwaters began slowing receding in Houston on Friday, police worked to clear freeways of hundreds of stranded vehicles after four days of relentless rain and deadly flooding along the Texas Gulf coast from the remnants of Tropical Depression Imelda.
The flooding along the coast left two people dead from drowning and brought parts of Texas and the Gulf area to a near standstill.
The National Weather Service said preliminary estimates suggested that Jefferson County, which is 80 miles east of Houston along the coast, was deluged with more than 40 inches of rain over 72 hours, which would make it the seventh wettest tropical cyclone in U.S. history.
The weather service said the 9.18 inches of rain that hit Houston on Thursday set a record for the wettest September day.
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Officials in Harris County, where Houston is located, warned that some of their 4.7 million residents might not see high waters recede in their neighborhoods until the weekend.
County officials reported at least 1,700 high-water rescues and evacuations as rising water overwhelmed the city. At least 120 people took refuge in six storm shelters.
The weather service, forecasting scattered showers and thunderstorms for Friday, said the activity will not be as strong or organized as Thursday’s drenching, but warned that “rivers remain high and soil is saturated, so any additional rain could yield flooding.”
As the torrential rains saturated the area, a 19-year-old man drowned and was electrocuted while trying to move his horse to safety, according to Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. In Houston, a man in his 40s or 50s drowned when he tried to drive a van through 8-foot-deep floodwaters during rush hour Thursday near the George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
Officials in Liberty County, which adjoins Harris County to the east, issued a shelter-in-place order Thursday after some areas of the county saw as many as 26 inches of rain over the last two days, the Chronicle reported.
Large sections of Interstate 10, Houston’s main east-west artery, were shut down by the high water.
“We’re still putting water on top of water,” said Jeff Linder, meteorologist of the Harris County Flood Control District.
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In Jefferson County, where Beaumont and Port Arthur are located, the Office of Emergency Management quoted Doug Canant, an engineer for a drainage district, as saying basins were filling and “getting water three times the amount they were designed for.”
“Rain is falling faster than we can drain,” he said, according to the Beaumont Enterprise.
Residents of Beaumont, which was submerged by more than 20 inches of rain in some parts, also echoed the overwhelming amount of water that caught much of the city by surprise.
“The water kept rising. It kept rising. I couldn’t believe it,” said Ruby Trahan Robinson, 63, as she settled in a shelter in a town just outside Beaumont.
Many officials compared the flooding from Imelda with the devastation from Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm that slammed the state in August 2017.
Contributing: Associated Press
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