In Beaumont, Exxon Mobil shut down its refinery and chemical plant. In Houston, city buses are underwater and inbound flights to George Bush Intercontinental Airport are being held at their originating airport. In Jefferson County, citizens with boats are being urged to go pick up their neighbors before heading to a safe place.
It’s all very familiar for people who endured Hurricane Harvey just two years ago. Tropical Depression Imelda, mercifully, isn’t expected to linger over Southeast Texas in the same way that Harvey did. But if you’re in certain parts of the region, the impact is much the same—or even worse.
There are no words to describe the rain we’re seeing in Winnie, Texas. It’s relentless. It’s unforgiving. We’re on the ground bringing you LIVE coverage on -> https://t.co/TYCmBA6uYP. #BREAKING #abc13 #hounews pic.twitter.com/dCF7RBtMsK— Steve Campion (@SteveABC13) September 19, 2019
On Thursday morning, Governor Abbott declared a state of emergency in thirteen counties. What we’re seeing in places like Winnie, a town of 3,200 between Port Arthur and Baytown on I-10, is downright unreal—”Worse than Harvey,” according to officials interviewed by the Beaumont Enterprise—and in Vidor, northeast of Beaumont, homes that saw nearly a foot of water creep in during Harvey are now experiencing more than eighteen to twenty inches come in.
In and around Houston, roads are partly underwater. Navigating from one part of the city to another on Thursday afternoon requires multiple route changes along slowly moving highways with floodwaters racing over them. Throughout the region, the best advice is to stay off the roads if possible.
THIS IS CRAZY: Normally a 4-lane highway. Not today.— Katherine Marchand (@KatherineMABC13) September 19, 2019
Everyone going southbound on 59 forced to form a single file line – the left shoulder is the only part that isn’t flooded!
AVOID 59S NEAR NEW CANEY!!#Imelda #Texas #flooding https://t.co/UD7dvMlA5A pic.twitter.com/xoHdGkZg0w
Hurricane Harvey was a 1,000-year flood event. Two years later, in the same region that was battered by that storm, residents are seeing more than forty inches of rain, as Imelda becomes the fifth-largest tropical cyclone to hit the continental United States since 1950—surpassing 2001’s Tropical Storm Allison, with more rain likely to come. Rescues are already under way—as of Thursday morning, 53 people had been rescued in Chambers County, with evacuation and rescue crews awaiting calls from more.
Just Seen LIVE on Air at the @weatherchannel. The US Coast Guard (@USCG) MH65D Dolphin Helicopter having to provide a Medical Rescue on I-10 near Beaumont #Texas. These people have been stuck out there since 3am! #TXwx #Imelda pic.twitter.com/ZbuEgq8hak— James Sinko (@JamesSinko) September 19, 2019