Imelda deluges parts of Texas with rain, spawns tornadoes

( Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP)

HOUSTON— Officials in Houston and surrounding communities say so far there have been no severe consequences as Tropical Depression Imelda deluged parts of Southeast Texas with rain.

Glenn LaMont, deputy emergency management coordinator in Brazoria County, south of Houston along the Gulf Coast, said he has seen no reports of flooded homes or people stranded despite heavy rainfall. But he cautioned: “It’s too early to breathe a sigh of relief.”

By late Thursday afternoon, most of the heaviest showers had moved to the east of Houston, into Beaumont, Texas, and southwestern Louisiana. But the storm’s remnants spawned several weak tornadoes in the Baytown area, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of Houston, damaging trees, barns and sheds and causing minor damage to some homes and vehicles.

Forecasters said the Houston area could still face some heavy rainfall on Thursday.

Parts of East Texas could get up to 10 inches (254 millimeters) of rain through Thursday morning as the remnants of Imelda continue moving north and away from Houston, according to the National Weather Service.

Coastal counties, including Brazoria, Matagorda and Galveston, got the most rainfall since Imelda formed on Tuesday. Some parts of the Houston area had received nearly 8 inches (203 millimeters) of rain, while the city of Galveston, which had street flooding, had received nearly 9 inches (229 millimeters), according to preliminary rainfall totals released Wednesday afternoon by the National Weather Service.

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Sargent, a town of about 2,700 residents in Matagorda County, had received nearly 20 inches (508 millimeters) of rain since Tuesday.

Karen Romero, who lives with her husband in Sargent, said this was the most rain she has had in her neighborhood in her nine years living there.

“The rain (Tuesday) night was just massive sheets of rain and lightning storms,” said Romero, 57.

She said her home, located along a creek, was not in danger of flooding as it sits on stilts, like many others nearby.

In the Houston area, the rainfall flooded some roadways, stranding drivers, and caused several creeks and bayous to rise to high levels.

Many schools in the Houston and Galveston area canceled classes Wednesday. However, the Houston school district, the state’s largest, remained open. At least one school district — Galveston — said it was also canceling classes on Thursday.

The National Hurricane Center said Imelda, which made landfall near Freeport, Texas, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (64 kph), had weakened to a tropical depression and was located about 65 miles (105 kilometers) north of Houston.

But the National Weather Service said flash flood watches remained in effect through Thursday for Southeast Texas and southwestern Louisiana.

Imelda is the first named storm to impact the Houston area since Hurricane Harvey, according to the National Weather Service. Harvey dumped nearly 50 inches (130 centimeters) 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.

The National Hurricane Center said Wednesday that Hurricane Humberto in the Atlantic Ocean is posing a stronger threat to Bermuda. The Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph (193 kph) was about 195 miles (314 kilometers) from Bermuda on Wednesday afternoon.

Tropical Storm Jerry became the 10th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, though it remained far from land Wednesday. Meteorologists also said newly formed Tropical Storm Lorena in the Pacific Ocean could produce heavy rains and flooding in Mexico by Thursday.