HOUSTON – A deadly night of heavy rains and flash floods in Houston. Police say at least four people died in flood waters that trapped drivers on area streets and highways for several hours.
As much as eleven inches of rain fell on some areas, with the southwest sections of Houston the hardest hit.
“The defining feature of Houston is the small rivers that run through the city,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “And many of them went over their banks and began to flood neighborhoods. And our focus shifted to making sure that folks who might be trapped in their houses or on dry land with rising water had access to rescue.”
Houston fire fighters responded to about 500 calls for water rescues, most of the calls from stranded motorists, but some calls came from people who got trapped after getting into small boats to see the flooding up close and personal.
“Any time you see high water, don’t drive into it,” warned Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. “We say that over and over. But even worse is when you look out and you see a vehicle already stranded in the middle of it. If they didn’t make it though, why do you think you’re going to make it through?”
We ran into Daniel Hernandez who was riding around in his jacked-up pick-up helping stranded motorists get to safety.
“I got a 4X4 and chains. I can help them out, get them going, or sometimes if the road is blocked we’ll just put chains on the vehicle and pull them out of the way.”
The Galleria area was in the middle of the storm. Flood waters covered the lower levels of the parking garages, but the waters receded quickly during the morning, allowing the shopping mecca to open around noon for business as nearly usual.
But it sure wasn’t business as usual for LeTourneau Interests at 5819 Milwee. Heavy rains caused the roof to collapse on the office furniture store.
Tim LeTourneau is the owner. “A lot of rain very quickly. And the roof collapsed. Could have been some wind as well. It was pretty windy last night. We’re cleaning out the water right now. And we’ll start tomorrow just emptying out the showroom.”
The folks in Bellaire got hit with nearly 8 inches of rain that flooded many streets and neighborhoods.
“We woke up at 3 o’clock in the morning,” said Nathan Barrett. (My wife) came out here and it was to the point where we couldn’t do anything at that point. Just kind of watched and hoped that it didn’t get any worse.”
Other folks slept through most of the storm, and didn’t find out what happened until they got up. James Selmon was one of them. “My mother-in-law is visiting from North Carolina. And she came down and she said, ‘You know, your street is flooded.’ Unbelievable. This is like the worst it’s been, like I said, in about ten to fifteen years.”
Some people have compared the flooding to what happened with tropical storm Allison in June of 2001, but Bellaire’s city engineer James Andrews says it’s not quite the same.
“Inside the Loop during Allison, it was a different rain event. It really, it was a localized rain. That in one period in three hours we had nine inches of rain, which is considerable. And it kind of filled up the area like a bathtub, versus this is a situation where, I believe, that the bayou came out of its banks.”
Weather forecasters say we can expect more rain this week, which will undoubtedly lead to more flooding and more frustrated commuters just trying to get from one place to another in the city of bayous.