Major Flash Flooding Remains a Serious Issue in Southeast Texas

Drivers along Interstate 10 and other freeways found roads made impassible by Tropical Storm Imelda.
Drivers along Interstate 10 and other freeways found roads made impassible by Tropical Storm Imelda. Photo by Doogie Roux
At 2 p.m., a flash flood warning remained in effect for most of southeast Texas through later in the afternoon. Rainfall had lessened across the northern parts of the area, but it does continue to fall and portions of Fort Bend County are getting hit at the moment by a particularly strong band of thunderstorms.

Rainfall rates earlier today across most of the Houston area reached as much as six or seven inches per hour. That amount of rain will rapidly inundate most streets and quickly fill bayous and streams. Many area roadways remain impassible at various locations and it's a safe bet that feder roads and low-lying side streets are as well. City and county officials continue to urge people to stay off the roadways today. Judging by the dozens and dozens of abandoned cars along area roads, that's good advice.

Most of the area bayous remained within their banks but a few managed to reach flood stages. White Oak Bayou near Interstate 10 came out of its banks just after noon and made Interstate 10 impassable. Greens Bayou is out of its banks in several locations and the San Jacinto River has reached major flood stage and will take at least a day or two to get back to normal.

Dramatic high water rescues across southeast Texas played out on the all-day television news coverage along with examples of people not heeding calls to remain inside. One man, caught on Houston Transtar cameras, was shown walking in waist deep water on Interstate 10 at Houston avenue talking on his cell phone, White Oak Bayou raging just feet away. Where was he going? Who knows?

The hardest hit areas since were east and northeast of Houston. Winnie, a small community just west of Beaumont, seemed to take the worst of it, recording rainfall totals rivaling or exceeding Hurricane Harvey with spots reaching 40 inches in 24 hours. North of there near Kingwood, which was also hit hard during Harvey, New Caney saw 30-plus inches of rainfall between late Wednesday and early Thursday.

While Harvey's rainfall was more widespread across central Houston and areas west, the intensity of storms from Tropical Storm Imelda was as bad, perhaps worse, than Tropical Storm Allison. The Houston area has now seen major flood events in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019.

By Thursday evening, water should begin to recede as the rain tapers for most of southeast Texas. But the entire area won't be clear until tomorrow, longer for a few folks along area rivers as they slowly drain into the Gulf of Mexico. This latest flood event for our area still has a while to go before we can dry out and move on, again.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke