An unrelenting Tropical Depression Imelda is causing serious flooding in parts of southeastern Texas on Thursday morning, covering roads, trapping people in vehicles and homes, and sending rescuers scrambling to get to those most in need.
Flooding is most serious north and east of Houston, 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 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.
“People have snakes in their apartments from the creek. … (We) also have elderly disabled people stuck in their apartments.”
From inside, he 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.
“We are on the second floor, so we should be good. If not, there is always the roof,” he said.
Imelda has brought intense rain to southeastern Texas since coming ashore from the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday. Some places already have received more than 20 inches — and another 5 to 10 inches of rain could come, for storm totals up to 35 inches in spots.
In Beaumont, police said the city has received 12 to 20 inches 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, 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.
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 Chambers County, which includes Winnie, at least 200 homes were taking on water, Sheriff Brian Hawthorne 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
Imelda is currently in East Texas and slowly moving to east and then north, meaning eastern Texas, western Louisiana and portions of Arkansas could be hit by its rain, according to CNN Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.
Those areas might not get relief until Friday afternoon, CNN Meteorologist Michael Guy said.
Flash flood watches are in effect Thursday more millions of people across East Texas and western Louisiana.
In Louisiana, Imelda 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 Imelda’s flooding.
Still, the city may receive more than 12 inches of rain before the storm is over, and some streets flooded Wednesday.