HOUSTON - Deluge.
That's the best way to describe the nightmare Houston residents coped with Tuesday, after over 11 inches of rain fell in some spots overnight and into the next day -- inundating byways and highways, slowing first responders, knocking out power and generally bringing the southeast Texas metropolis to a standstill.
Three people in Houston died because of the bad weather in the city, the mayor said. A fourth body has been found but not sure if that death is flood-related at this time. That raises the overall death toll from the storm system that's been ravaging the area, as well as northern Mexico, to at least 24, officials said. At least 16 people are still missing, including three in Houston and 13 in Hays County, which is south of Austin in Central Texas.
"We got hammered," Houston Emergency Management Coordinator Rick Flanagan told CNN's "New Day," echoing sentiments by many others in the region in recent days. "We had cars that were stranded, mobility was stopped ... signals didn't work. It was just a madhouse."
It still is. While the sun appeared Tuesday, more rain remains possible. And even though some parts of Houston were "high and dry," others were not, Mayor Annise Parker said.
"The sun is shining out here right now and the city is slowly getting back to normal, but this is a little bit of a situation of a tale of two cities. Much of Houston was unaffected by the weather, but the parts that were affected by the weather were very severely hit," she told reporters.
Underpasses, patches of highways and areas near waterways such as the San Jacinto River, Cypress Creek and Buffalo Bayou, already strained by weeks of heavy rain, remain inundated.
"The defining feature of Houston is the small rivers that run through the city," Parker said. "Many of them went over their banks and began to flood neighborhoods."
The result of the flash floods and river overruns is "lots and lots of abandoned cars" and large pools of standing water, making for a logistical and traffic nightmare in the United States fourth most populated city.
The mayor said that as many as 4,000 properties in Houston may have suffered "significant damage," although the assessment is complicated by all the water.
"We've seen flooding before, but not nearly to this extreme," said Gage Mueller, a Houston resident for the past 40 years and a Houston Rockets employee who stayed overnight at the Toyota Center because it wasn't safe to go home. "It rains and it rains and it rains, and there's really nowhere for the water to go. ... It's ridiculous."
Governor Greg Abbott issued a Disaster Declaration for both the county and the state after historic flooding that hit the Houston-area and parts of Southeast Texas.