3 people have died as Tropical Depression Imelda strikes Texas with flash floods 'worse than Harvey'

Sara Kiley Watson
tropical depression imelda texas

AP Photo/David J. Phillip


  • Tropical Depression Imelda is hitting southeastern Texas with devastating flooding.
  • Fannet, Texas saw 43 inches of rain, making it one of the top ten wettest cyclones in United States history. 
  • Officials say the flooding could be worse than that of Hurricane Harvey, which hit the same area two years ago.
  • Hurricane Harvey caused around $125 billion in damages in 2017.
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Southeast Texas is being swamped by massive amounts of rain, reaching over 33 inches in the town of Hamshire and 43 inches in Fannet due to Tropical Depression Imelda. Much of this rain fell in the last 24 hours.

In the next 24 hours, additional rain up to one inch is possible in eastern Texas as deep tropical moisture moves onshore from the Gulf of Mexico, ABC News reports. 

Three people have died so far due to Imelda's stormy remnants, including a 19-year-old who was drowned and electrocuted while attempting to move his horse to safety. 

Winnie, a town in Chambers County, faced a flash flood emergency yesterday, forcing the evacuation of Riceland Medical Center that took on four to six inches of water. Some officials have even called the flooding "worse than Harvey." 

"What I'm sitting in right now makes Harvey look like a little thunderstorm," Sheriff Brian Hawthorne said to ABC 13. Hawthorne estimated yesterday that close to one in five of the 2,500 residents of Winnie currently have water in their homes.

Other areas east of Houston, which were impacted severely by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, are experiencing severe flooding. In the city of Beaumont, police have reported hundreds of calls for rescues and are begging people to not drive on flooded roads. Even the local news station had to evacuate yesterday as the building took on 17 inches of rain over 24 hours.

"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."

The storm is causing enormous destruction

Preliminary estimates by the National Weather Service suggest that Jefferson County was bombarded by over 40 inches of rain in 72 hours, making Imelda the seventh wettest tropical cyclone in American history. Homes that weren't flooded by Harvey are flooding now, Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick told the Associated Press yesterday. 

In Baytown, 26 miles east of Houston, a tornado that launched a 100-gallon propane tank into a resident's home has added to the destruction, CNN reported yesterday.

The National Weather Service put in place flash flood warnings for parts of Texas through this afternoon. They warn that heavy rain will cause flooding of small creeks and streams, urban areas, highways, streets, and underpasses, and to avoid driving on flooded roads. 

Tropical Storm Imelda was downgraded to a tropical depression after moving making landfall near Freeport on Tuesday afternoon from the Gulf of Mexico. 

imelda texas

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

This is the first time a named storm has impacted the Houston region since Hurricane Harvey hit in the late summer of 2017. During Harvey, the Gulf Coast experienced record flooding and wind speeds, leading to an "unprecedented" and "catastrophic" rainfall event for the state, according to the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center.

Experts called Harvey a "500-year flood," despite having experienced three previous floods of its strength in the decade before. Houston and the surrounding region are especially vulnerable to detrimental flooding because of the flatness of the land, failure to follow the federal wetlands mandate and developments that block drainage systems.

Hurricane Harvey tied with Katrina for being the costliest hurricane to ever hit US soil with damages reaching up to $125 billion. Recovery has been slow, as Texas has been waiting for billions in recovery money since February 2018

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