Hours of heavy rain caused flooding in parts of Houston on Wednesday, leading officials to tell residents to avoid driving and sparking uncomfortable memories of last summer’s Hurricane Harvey.
Rain quickly drenched the Houston area Wednesday, including 6 inches at Hobby Airport. Because of the rain, parts of Harris County, which includes Houston, remain under flash flood warning until Thursday evening, according to the National Weather Service.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said parts of the city got as much as 8 inches of rain, but things tapered off in the afternoon.
“From all indications, I think we should be OK,” Turner said.
The city canceled its Fourth of July concert and festival, forcing many residents to watch the fireworks show from home.
Victor Adams shot several videos from a Metro bus in Houston showing water from the flooded streets covering the floor of the bus. He also filmed vehicles in the streets, including a large Ford F-Series pickup truck with water halfway up its wheels, as well as a drenched bicyclist riding past.
Video from CNN affiliate KTRK showed several vehicles struggling or stalled in the flooded streets.
Anna M. Silva shot this video of first responders driving through a flooded street west of downtown Houston on Wednesday.
Some tried to brave the waters on foot. Michael Houghton captured this video of a woman walking through a flooded street at the corner of Westheimer and Chimney Rock.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo advised residents to stay off the roadways, and he said the city’s high water rescue vehicles and teams were “staged and ready to roll.” However, Turner said there were no calls for any rescues.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said on Twitter that Texas has offered any and all assistance to Houston and Harris County to help respond to the flooding.
Echoes of Harvey
The flooding was reminiscent of Hurricane Harvey last August, when an unprecedented 50 inches of rain fell on parts of Texas over less than four days. The record precipitation caused disastrous flooding throughout the Houston area, claiming dozens of lives and causing billions of dollars in damage.
Houston had more assets in place on Wednesday than during Hurricane Harvey, Turner said, including 12 high water trucks and 43 boats in position across the city. He said officials were using this rain as a “good trial run” in case a major hurricane hits later this summer.
“A lot of people are very nervous,” Turner said. “This is very close to Hurricane Harvey. Anytime you’ve got a lot of rain, there’s a lot of nervousness.”
Although Harvey’s destruction was unprecedented, Houston’s layout and city planning has made its flooding problem worse, experts have said.
Urban sprawl over the past decades has turned water-absorbing greenery into concrete. Weak regulations have failed to properly estimate the potential hazards of flooding. Finally, poor reservoir and land management have revealed a lack of long-term planning on these issues.
“More planning, I think, would have really reduced the impact (from Harvey),” Sam Brody, a professor at Texas A&M University and an expert on urban and floodplain management said.