Imelda Triggers Catastrophic Flooding in Texas; Over 40 Inches of Rain Prompts Rescues, Evacuations

weather.com meteorologists
Published: September 20, 2019

Imelda has dumped prolific amounts of rain in parts of eastern Texas, leading to catastrophic flooding and prompting evacuations and unfortunately, there is some rain still ahead.

More than two feet of rain has fallen across southeast Texas, and several spots have even seen more than 40 inches.

(LATEST: Southeast Texas Flooding Prompts Evacuations, Rescues

Rain lingers across much of Southeast Texas and southwestern Louisiana. Runoff and streamflow will gradually recede through the night, but flooding is still possible into early Friday, especially in urban areas.


Current Radar, Watches and Warnings

Some spots have totaled more than 30 inches of rain over the past three days during Imelda, with more than 43 inches reported southwest of Beaumont in Jefferson County.

Here are a few rainfall totals in Texas as of 4 p.m. CDT Thursday:

-43.15 inches in North Fork Taylors Bayou

-33.58 inches near Hamshire

-25.07 inches at Pine Island Bayou

-23.24 inches at the East Fork of the San Jacinto River

-21.69 inches at San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge

-20.40 inches at Beaumont/Port Arthur Regional Airport

-19.59 inches in Humble

-11.64 inches at Houston's Intercontinental Airport


Imelda Rainfall History, Flood Reports

Imelda dropped enough rain in one day at Houston's Intercontinental Airport to set a record for the wettest 24-hour period in September, breaking Hurricane Ike's record set on September 13, 2008. It was also Houston's 5th wettest 24-hour period on record in any month.

Flash flood watches continue for much of eastern Texas and a portion of western Louisiana.


Flood Alerts

Pockets of light to moderate rain will continue into the overnight hours around southern and eastern Texas and in western Louisiana.

In general, an additional 1 inch of rain is possible in parts of eastern Texas and western Louisiana through Friday. Of course, some areas may see higher amounts where storms stall for a period of several hours. A few spots may see as much as 2 inches of rain.

Rainfall amounts this high will add to flash flooding, particularly in urban areas.

Additional rainfall is possible in northeastern and eastern Texas on Friday while Imelda's moisture lingers over the Lone Star state.


Rainfall Forecast

If you are traveling and encounter a flooded road or underpass, do not attempt to drive through the floodwaters.

The single worst decision you can make in a flash flood is driving your vehicle into floodwaters of unknown depth.

It's easy to misjudge the depth of floodwater, particularly at night. Sometimes the bridge or road masked by floodwater may have been undermined or completely washed out.

Of the 80 flood-related deaths in the U.S. so far in 2019, 53 of them occurred while driving, according to statistics compiled by the National Weather Service in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Storm Recap

Parts of Brazoria, Galveston, Harris, Matagorda and Montgomery counties have picked up over 8 inches of rain from Imelda. The San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge along the coast measured 21.39 inches through 10 p.m. CDT Wednesday, while more than 19 inches has been measured in Sargent.

Rain was also falling at the rate of up to 5 inches an hour early Wednesday morning in Matagorda County, where a flash flood warning was issued. Sargent, Texas, picked up just over 17 inches of rain in 12 hours overnight Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, leaving one county road (FM 457) impassable, according to the National Weather Service.

According to Houston Transtar, some high water was reported Wednesday morning on the south side of the Houston metro area along Interstate 45 in Friendswood, along the south Beltway 8 loop and on the southwest Interstate 610 loop.

A tornado touched down east of Houston late Wednesday afternoon, damaging a barn near Highlands, Texas. No injuries were reported from this twister.

On Thursday, Sept. 19, flooding turned deadly and much of Southeast Texas was put into a flash flood emergency, including the Houston and Beaumont metros.

Midday Thursday, Greens Bayou at US 59 measured 6.24 inches in one hour. Conroe, Texas, measured 5.16 inches of rain in an hour early Thursday morning.

In Jefferson County, Texas, some areas just south of the city of Beaumont picked up over 20 inches of rain in just 12 hours.

Vidor Police Chief Rod Carroll told KFDM News the situation there was "catastrophic", with flooding worse than occurred there during Harvey in 2017.

Numerous water rescues and evacuations occurred in these areas and travel snarled. Schools scrambled on how to get students home safe as water levels rose.

Flooding covered cars, gas pumps, chain link fences, and has even reached the height of traffic lights.

Floodwaters surrounded Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport Thursday afternoon making terminals inaccessible. Metro buses were stranded in floodwaters.

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Galveston has picked up more than a foot of rainfall so far. Broadway Avenue on the island was underwater along with several sections of roadway in the city of Galveston, Thursday afternoon.


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