Culture / Newsy

Shocking Scenes from Imelda’s Unexpected Wrath — the Storm That Left Houston Weather Forecasters Flat Footed

All Heck Quickly Broke Loose on Another Painful Underwater Houston Day

BY // 09.19.19

When the remains of Tropical Storm Imelda hit Houston on Thursday, they felt like anything but leftovers. Horrific rains pounded much of the Houston area, defying weather forecasters (again), proving that when it comes to water in the Bayou City you can never be sure that the worst has passed.

After much of Houston avoided serious rainfall incidents on Tuesday and Wednesday, despite weather predictions to the contrary, many people in the city understandably went about business as usual on Thursday. There was little call not to do so. HISD didn’t consider cancelling schools on Thursday after many students were teased by the prospect of having Wednesday off. There were few airport warnings either.

Then, all heck quickly broke loose — with little advance notice from the region’s meteorologists and would be weather gurus.

“This happened very quickly,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a press conference. “But it’s just demonstrating that in this day and time, climate change is real. And we no longer have to be concerned just with a hurricane.

“We have to be concerned with almost any sort of weather system that can quickly evolve into a major storm and produce a great deal of rain.”

Turner admitted that the intensity of the Thursdays storms were unexpected after Imelda, which already had been downgraded to a tropical depression, appeared to be moving east of the city on Wednesday.

So much for that.

This storm turned local roads into rivers, highways into parking lots, flooded homes, triggered interminable lightning delays at both IAH and Hobby airports and necessitated hundreds of high-water rescues. Before 11 am, schools were calling parents and telling them they could pick up their kids early. But by then, many of the roads around the schools were flooded.

Welcome to your classic Houston Catch 22.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo issued an official disaster declaration shortly after noon as the rains just kept coming. As usual, some areas of Houston were much harder hit than others — often with no quickly apparent rhyme or reason . As many as 1,000 people were rescued from high waters just on the East Side of Houston alone, according to some reports.

Some communities are detailing damage “worse than Harvey” — with the unexpectedness of it adding to the shock.

“Major, catastrophic flooding is occurring across much of southeast Texas,” the National Weather Service declared in its official early Thursday evening update. With more rain in the forecast for Friday, the National Weather Service now says some areas could see rain totals reach as high as 30 to 40 inches before everything is done.

HISD quickly canceled school for Friday with the message to parents noting that students and staff needed to “recover” from Thursday’s flooding.

With the wounds of Harvey still fresh for so many, this was another day of wet worry and high anxiety in a city that’s seen far too many days like this in recent years.

As usual, regular people with Instagram accounts turned out to be some of the best chroniclers of the storm that defied the forecasters. Click through the photo gallery above and below this story for some shocking images of Imelda’s wrath — and the major cleanup task it’s leaving behind.

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