Submerged subdivisions, impassable roads, overflowing creeks: For the second day in a row, Houston has been struggling to cope with disastrous flooding.
Nearly 18 inches of rain has fallen on parts of Houston and surrounding areas in the past two days, according to the Harris County Flood Warning System. The resulting floodwaters have reportedly led to the deaths of five people.
The city’s schools and city buildings, as well as many private-sector offices, are closed because of perilous road conditions. And the National Weather Service says more rain — and more flooding — is on the way.
“Without a gap to dry out between Monday’s 17 inches in rainfall and upcoming showers, the lighter storms still run a risk of localized flooding,” Ed Mayberry of Houston Public Media reports. “Scores of subdivisions flooded, and power was knocked out to thousands of residents who were urged to shelter in place in this nearly sea-level city.”
Other residents couldn’t safely stay in their flooded homes; at least five shelters have been set up across the city. The Associated Press reports that more than 1,000 people were taken from apartments in the northern part of Houston and moved to a shopping mall; they’re being ferried by buses to shelters, the wire service says.
Major interstates are submerged, including I-10, the AP writes. Mayberry also notes that a retaining wall near Highway 290 has collapsed. And flights through Houston were grounded for much of Monday.
As early as Monday morning, the National Weather Service was already calling the rain event “historic”: More than a foot of rain fell in 12 hours.
And by Monday afternoon, the Houston Press reports, some areas of the city had seen more rain than ever before. Meteorologist Jeff Lindner told the Houston Press that one region didn’t just hit the “500-year” mark for water levels — it beat it, by 2 inches.
The Press continues:
“An average of 7.75 inches drenched the county overall, Linder said, meaning that some 240 billion gallons of water fell across the region — enough to surge through Niagara Falls for 88 consecutive hours.”
There have been more than 1,200 high-water rescues, the Press says.
The National Weather Service is reminding people not to attempt to drive through floodwaters, which often are much deeper than they appear.
Several of the five reported flood-related deaths involved vehicles in high water.
The images on television and social media are dramatic.
On live TV, audiences watched as a man drove into deep floodwaters and yelled out from his window, apparently confused, “What do I do?” A flabbergasted TV reporter shouted that the man needed to leave the car and then waded in to help him out.
Photos and videos on Twitter showed rescuers working to help horses trapped in floodwaters.
A Houston Chronicle photographer captured a man saving an armadillo from high waters. (A second photo showed the armadillo standing, apparently unharmed by the ordeal.)
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner called the weather system “stubborn,” the AP reports. He expressed special sympathy for those whose homes flooded last May after a devastating storm.
“I regret anyone whose home is flooded again,” Turner said, according to the wire service. “There’s nothing I can say that’s going to ease your frustration. We certainly can’t control the weather.”