Tropical Storm "Imelda" hits Freeport, Texas - significant to life-threatening flash floods expected
Tropical Storm "Imelda" on September 17, 2019. Credit: NASA Terra/MODIS
Tropical Storm "Imelda" formed at 17:45 UTC on September 17, 2019, as the 9th named storm of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season. Shortly after, Imelda made landfall near Freeport, Texas. Heavy rainfall and life-threatening flash flooding is expected to spread inland over the next day or two, NHC warns.
The National Hurricane Center began monitoring a tropical wave for signs of development on September 14. Tracking west across the Atlantic, it organized into a tropical depression on the afternoon of September 17 just offshore of the Texas coast. As it neared the coastline, tropical-storm-force winds were reported on the coast and it was upgraded to Tropical Storm "Imelda."
Imelda made landfall near Freeport, Texas at 18:00 UTC (13:00 CDT) with maximum sustained winds of 65 km/h (40 mph).
At 21:00 UTC, its center was located about 50 km (31 miles) W of Galveston and 45 km (30 miles) SSE of Houston, Texas.
Imelda's maximum sustained winds were 65 km/h (40 mph) and the system was moving N at 11 km/h (7 mph) with minimum central pressure of 1 006 hPa.
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Sargent to Port Bolivar.
Imelda's N motion is expected to continue through early Wednesday, September 18, followed by NNW motion Wednesday night and Thursday, September 19.
On the forecast track, the center will continue moving farther inland across eastern Texas tonight and Wednesday.
Imelda is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 150 to 300 mm (6 - 12 inches) with isolated amounts of 460 mm (18 inches) across the upper coastal region of Texas, including the Houston and Galveston areas.
Rainfall amounts of 100 to 150 mm (4 to 6 inches) with isolated totals of 250 mm (10 inches) are possible across portions of southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana through Thursday.
This rainfall may produce significant to life-threatening flash floods
UPDATE: Water level has almost reached first step leading to bottom floor of apartments at Settler’s Cove and is about knee high when you stand in the middle of it. Rain doesn’t show any signs of letting up soon. This could get interesting. @12NewsNow #txwx #Imelda pic.twitter.com/qQUsHDVsHv— Ben Parsons (@BenParsons7) September 19, 2019
This appears to be next "feeder band" of #Imelda, which could lead to a significant flash flood over Houston by the morning commute. A life-threatening flash flood is already underway east of us in parts of Chambers, Liberty, and Jefferson counties. https://t.co/R9qGjv4FIk pic.twitter.com/3T0F2m7dxC— Travis Herzog (@TravisABC13) September 19, 2019
A flash flood emergency is taking place in Chambers and Liberty counties. The SO says “The community of Winnie is being devastated by rising water. The sheriff’s office has deployed high water rescue vehicles and airboats.” #Imelda #flashflood pic.twitter.com/sSx1wr2KLv— Sally MacDonald (@SallyMacFox26) September 19, 2019
Storms over SE Texas associated with #Imelda have a strong convective nature. Storms have a very high lightning density with overshooting tops occasionally as cold as -90ºC! #txwx pic.twitter.com/R1SswTUrXs— Ryan Allen (@1900hurricane) September 19, 2019
Scary spotter report here from near Winnie, TX along I-10 due to rain from #Imelda. Radar storm total estimates going over 20 inches and wouldn't be surprised if that was underdone in some areas. #txwx pic.twitter.com/VBWWcvFic6— Donald Van Dyke (@DVDFortyTwo) September 19, 2019
A flash flood emergency has been issued for portions of Beaumont and Vidor, Texas, as #Imelda has dropped 5-10" of rain on the area. Water rescues and evacuations are ongoing: https://t.co/tozDz4lyPl pic.twitter.com/wREHuJDHFF— AccuWeather (@breakingweather) September 19, 2019
Torrential rains from tropical storm Imelda kill 2, flood homes and snarl travel around HoustonTropical Storm Imelda dumped torrential rains over the Houston-area, killing at least two people, while rescuers in boats pulled hundreds from flooded cars, the airport temporarily halted flights and tens of thousands of people lost power.
Heavy rains had abated by Thursday evening, although flash flood watches remained in effect through Friday morning and rescuers were still working to reach stranded motorists and those trapped in homes late into the night as floodwaters were slow to drain off. The National Hurricane Center said in a late Thursday bulletin that up to 45 inches (1100 mm) of rain will have fallen in some areas by the time the storm blows off on Friday afternoon.
Ed Gonzalez, sheriff for Harris County, which includes Houston, confirmed the second death from the storm. He tweeted on Thursday that he was at the scene where first-responders tried to save a man who had driven his white van headlong into deep waters. “The water level was about 8’ (8 feet) high,” Gonzalez wrote, describing the incident. “The driver paused briefly, then accelerated into it the water, causing his van to go under.” Gonzalez said the man driving the van was pulled from the vehicle after some 20 minutes underwater and was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
The other victim of the storm was electrocuted southeast of Houston while trying to move his horse to safety, according to a statement on the Facebook page of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department. No other details were provided.
George Bush Intercontinental Airport halted all flights for about two hours, and Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster covering more than a dozen counties.
Hundreds of motorists were stranded in their vehicles as some of Houston’s main roadways flooded, submerging cars. Firefighters, police and ordinary citizens were out in boats and all-terrain vehicles to pick up people trapped in their homes by the rising waters. The storm knocked out power to around 100,000 people in Houston and southeast Texas, according to reports from energy companies, while work at oil refineries in the area was slowed or halted.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city was better prepared to rescue stranded residents and deal with flooding than when Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017, leading to dozens of deaths in Houston and billions of dollars in damage. The small town of Winnie, about 60 miles (100 km) east of Houston, was also badly hit. Officials there evacuated Riceland Hospital and tried to rescue people marooned in their vehicles after roads turned into lakes. Parts of Interstate 10, a major east-west highway, were closed near Winnie. Imelda made landfall as a tropical storm near Freeport, Texas, on Tuesday.