(20 Sep 2019) Emergency crews in the Houston area took advantage of receding floodwaters Friday to begin to assess the damage from one of the wettest tropical cyclones in U.S. history, a storm that led to the deaths of four men and displaced hundreds of people from their homes.
The aftermath from Tropical Storm Imelda, which drew comparisons to Hurricane Harvey two years ago, was blamed for major travel headaches as motorists slogged through water-swollen streets and air travelers faced flight delays and cancellations.
The heaviest rainfall had ended by Thursday night in southeast Texas, but forecasters warned that parts of northeast Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana could see flash flooding as Imelda’s remnants shifted to the north.
Officials in Harris County, which includes Houston, said there had been a combination of at least 1,700 high-water rescues and evacuations to get people to shelter as the longevity and intensity of the rain quickly came to surprise even those who had been bracing for floods. The storm also flooded parts of southwestern Louisiana.
The National Weather Service said preliminary estimates suggested that Jefferson County was deluged with more than 40 inches (102 centimeters) of rain in a span of just 72 hours, which would make it the seventh-wettest tropical cyclone to hit the continental U.S.
Even when Houston was finally rid of the worst, downtown highways remained littered with abandoned cars submerged in water. Thousands of other drivers were at a practical standstill on narrowed lanes near flooded banks.
Imelda is the first named storm to impact the Houston area since Harvey hovered for days and inundated the flood-prone Gulf Coast. 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.
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