Like Harvey, Imelda's Torrential Rains Render Southeast Texas Roads Impassable

Sep 20, 2019

From Texas Standard:

Tropical Depression Imelda dumped as much as 43 inches of rain in parts of Southeast Texas over the past few days. Weather experts rank Imelda as the seventh-wettest tropical storm in U.S. history, but the extent of the damage is unclear.

What is known is that two people have died, and Gov. Greg Abbott has declared a state of disaster for 13 Southeast Texas counties. Texas Standard’s Michael Marks is near Huffman, about 25 miles east of Houston. He tried to reach Beaumont, but says flooding made roads impassable.

“I have been trying to make my way east to get to some of those harder-hit areas,” Marks says. “Just haven’t been able to do it as a consequence of the water on some of these roads.

During his drive out on Thursday, Marks says he met with people affected by the storm at a Buc-ee’s in Katy, west of Houston. Some were fleeing the region, while others were driving toward it to check on flooded properties. He also spoke to people in living in Beaumont, including Chuck Kiker who’s a rancher southwest of the city.

"Last night on the news, they were saying, you know, this system’s gonna keep moving north. We might get 10, 12 inches," Kiker said. "They were wrong. It sat right on top of us all night long."

In areas where over 40 inches of rain fell in one day, it accounted for more than half of all annual rainfall. Marks says the speed and intensity of Imelda is what surprised residents.

“The Beaumont Enterprise described it as a ‘sucker punch’ in their newspaper today," Marks said. "And that seems accurate from talking to some of the folks in this area – that they knew it was coming; they didn’t know that it would be this bad.” 

In Huffman, residents experienced heavy flooding during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. One family, the Davelas, almost lost their church during that storm. After Imelda, they feared it might happen again. Marks met with them Friday morning at the Calvary United Baptist Church. They didn’t know what they were going to find, he says. But it turns out it hadn’t flooded. Pamela Davela, the pastor’s daughter, told Marks she was relieved.

"Harvey flooded the church," she said. "The church is just barely hanging on now. Financially, just the money that it took – 'cause the church didn’t have flood insurance. But we had lots of churches that donated money. We were able to get it back together. So if it had flooded again, the church probably wouldn’t have survived."

Now, Marks says, it’s hot and humid in Huffman. Rain is forecasted later Friday, but nothing like what fell earlier.

Written by Caroline Covington.