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Houston area preparing for heavy rain, flooding from Imelda

JUAN A. LOZANO
Tropical Weather Gulf Weather moves over the city of Houston on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. ( Marie D. De Jesús /Houston Chronicle via AP)

HOUSTON (AP) — Officials in the Houston area were preparing high-water vehicles and staging rescue boats Tuesday as Tropical Storm Imelda moved in from the Gulf of Mexico, threatening to dump up to 18 inches of rain in parts of Southeast Texas and southwestern Louisiana over the next few days.

The storm, which formed Tuesday, made landfall near Freeport, Texas, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph.

Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist and director of flood operations for the Harris County Flood Control District in Houston, said the main threat from Imelda remained the potential for heavy rainfall and flooding.

"We have a few things in our favor. The ground is dry. It's been dry for a while here as we've come through summer," Lindner said. "The initial parts of this rainfall will go toward saturating the ground."

Ken Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center, said the Houston area, along with parts of the upper Texas coast and East Texas, could get "significant rainfall" through Thursday as the storm moves north. Imelda's rain bands were also stretching across into Louisiana.

Imelda was the first named storm to impact the Houston area since Hurricane Harvey , according to the National Weather Service. Harvey dumped nearly 50 inches (130 centimeters) of rain on parts of the flood-prone city in August 2017, flooding more than 150,000 homes in the Houston area and causing an estimated $125 billion in damage in Texas.

Lindner says while there is the potential for some isolated structure flooding in the Houston area, widespread house flooding from Imelda "doesn't look likely at this point."

But Lindner said that residents who live in flood prone areas should still be mindful and take some extra precautions.

Some parts of Harris County and neighboring Galveston County had already received about 4 inches of rain through Tuesday afternoon.

The Galveston school district announced it was canceling classes on Wednesday.

In a tweet Tuesday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner asked residents to be "alert and weather aware."

Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday placed numerous resources on standby across Texas. The Texas Division of Emergency Management will be rostering four boat squads in coastal areas. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will be moving boats to support the Beaumont area and adjacent regions.

Meanwhile Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said Hurricane Humberto in the Atlantic Ocean is posing a stronger threat to Bermuda, though it was more than 500 miles away. Meteorologists also said newly formed Tropical Storm Lorena in the Pacific Ocean could produce heavy rains and flooding in Mexico by Thursday.

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