Rescue teams in southeast Texas are getting ready for Imelda, which is forecast to bring flooding to the area even after weakening to a tropical depression.
The storm, which early Wednesday was about 25 miles north-northwest of Houston, is expected to drop 6 to 12 inches of rain in the next two to three days across portions of eastern Texas, the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center said. As much as 18 inches could fall in isolated spots.
That “would be the highest storm total rainfall since Hurricane Harvey in 2017,” CNN meteorologist Judson Jones said. That storm busted the US record for rainfall from a single storm, dumping more than 60 inches about 90 miles east of Houston.
Imelda is slowly moving inland and has the potential to be among the more destructive storms in the US in recent months because of the amount of rainfall, CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri said.
Red flag warnings have gone up along the coast of Galveston, Texas. And the federal search and rescue team Texas A&M Task Force 1 has moved into the city in preparation for possible rescues, according to KTRK.
“Our forte is water rescue, both flood rescue and swift water rescue,” Palmer Buck, with Task Force 1, told the station. “I have crews from Fort Worth fire, as well as Longview fire that will be stationed here overnight.”
A National Guard team is expected to arrive Wednesday, as well, KTRK reported.
In Houston, flash flood conditions could continue through Friday and residents should stay indoors, Fire Chief Samuel Peña told KTRK.
Could be the highest rainfall since Harvey
After drenching coastal Texas and southwestern Louisiana through Wednesday, the storm system is expected to douse eastern Texas and western Louisiana on Thursday, the hurricane center said.
Imelda formed Tuesday afternoon over the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall near Freeport, Texas, the National Hurricane Center said. But even before it was named, the system began raining on coastal Texas.
As much as 9 inches of rain had fallen by Wednesday morning in some areas southeast of Houston, according to the Harris County Flood Warning System. Most parts of Houston saw 2 to 4 inches of rain.
Schools cancel class and activities
Several schools in the Houston-Galveston area announced they would cancel activities for Wednesday because of Imelda.
“The combination of pre-dawn rain and high tide indicate a probable safety issue for students and staff. Safe travel to and from Galveston ISD is a primary concern,” the Galveston Independent School District said in a statement.
The Houston Independent School District canceled after-school activities and sporting events Wednesday, and the Harris County Department of Education announced that all of its Wednesday adult education classes would be canceled.
Other school closures for Wednesday are in effect for College of the Mainland, Galveston College, all Houston Community College campuses and the Texas City ISD.
Houston knows flood problems well
Harvey deluged the Houston area for days in late August 2017, causing disastrous flooding, claiming dozens of lives and causing billions of dollars in damage.
During that storm, more than 34 inches of rain was recorded at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, and more than 40 inches of rain was recorded in areas east of the city.
Houston is no stranger to flooding. In May, for instance, heavy rain led to significant flooding in streets, homes and businesses.
The city’s layout and city planning are part of what makes its flooding problem worse, experts have said.
Urban sprawl over past decades has turned water-absorbing greenery into concrete. Weak regulations have failed to properly estimate the potential hazards of flooding. And poor reservoir and land management have revealed a lack of long-term planning on these issues, the experts have said.