HOUSTON - Rain from Tropical Depression Imelda deluged parts of Texas and Louisiana on Thursday, prompting hundreds of water rescues, a hospital evacuation and road closures in areas east of Houston that were hit hard by Hurricane Harvey two years ago.
Forecasters warned that Imelda could bring up to 35 inches of rain this week in some areas of Texas through Friday. The storm system also brought the risk of severe weather and prompted tornado warnings Thursday morning in the areas hit hardest by the flooding.
The worst of the flooding was east of Houston, and some local officials said the rainfall was causing flooding worse than what happened during Hurricane Harvey.
In Winnie, a town of about 3,200 people located 60 miles east of Houston, a hospital was evacuated and water inundated several homes and businesses. Emergency workers rescued about 200 people, while Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne said Thursday that about 50 additional households were on a waiting list to be rescued.
Airboats from the sheriff's office and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department were helping with the rescues, along with high-water vehicles, Hawthorne said, who added that the town “looks like a lake.”
He said it's the worst storm-related flooding he's seen after going through hurricanes including Rita in 2005, Ike in 2008, and Harvey two years ago.
In Beaumont, a city of just under 120,000 people northeast of Winnie and located about 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, authorities said all service roads were impassable Thursday and two local hospitals were inaccessible, according to the Beaumont Enterprise.
Flooding is pictured outside of a home in Winnie, Texas, alongside a flooded gas station in Beaumont. (Photo credit: Chambers County Sheriff's Office / Jeffrey Rue via Storyful)
The Beaumont Police Department said on Twitter that 911 had received more than 590 flood-related calls as of 8 a.m. Thursday.
"It's bad. Homes that did not flood in Harvey are flooding now," Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick said. During Harvey, Beaumont's only pump station was swamped by floodwaters , leaving residents without water service for more than a week.
Video posted by Texas Game Wardens showed rescuers moving through flooded waters in Beaumont to reach people in homes.
Just east of Beaumont in the town of Vidor, a family was seen trying to find higher ground amid heavy flooding.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency for several counties, saying "life-threatening amounts of rainfall" have fallen and more was expected in the area Thursday. Imelda's center was located about 110 miles north of Houston early Thursday and was moving north-northwest at 5 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Heavy rainfall occurred Wednesday in many areas and spawned several weak tornadoes in the Baytown area, about 25 miles east of Houston, damaging trees, barns and sheds and causing minor damage to some homes and vehicles.
In Conroe, a town located about 40 miles north of Houston, a vehicle was captured on video nose down next to a storm drain.
In the Houston area, the rainfall flooded some roadways Wednesday, stranding drivers, and caused several creeks and bayous to rise to high levels.
The National Hurricane Center said Imelda weakened to a tropical depression after making landfall Tuesday near Freeport, Texas, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph.
The weather service said Imelda is the first named storm to impact the Houston area since Hurricane Harvey dumped nearly 50 inches of rain on parts of the flood-prone city in August 2017, flooding more than 150,000 homes in the Houston area and causing an estimated $125 billion in damage in Texas.
This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.