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LIVE: Flooding from Imelda turns deadly in Texas as rainfall totals approach 4 feet

Kevin Byrne

Imelda loaded widespread flooding across southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana with over 40 inches of rain falling in several communities. The catastrophic flooding is bringing back unwanted memories of Hurricane Harvey, which devastated the region back in 2017.

Hundreds of water rescues have been performed across the region with the worst of the flooding taking place near Beaumont, Texas, located east of Houston.

At least two fatalities have been reported in Texas amid the widespread flooding. The first happened in Jefferson County when a person drowned while trying to move a horse to safety. The second occurred in Harris County after a vehicle with several occupants became submerged while attempting to drive through a flooded road.

The latest rainfall reports from Imelda as of 9 a.m. CDT Friday, Sept. 20.

Authorities have urged residents to shelter in place and seek higher ground if possible. However, despite the warnings, there have been over 400 high-water rescues, many of which taking place after people attempted to drive through floodwaters. Officials said there were also nearly 1,000 weather-related calls for service.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster for 13 counties that were experiencing the flooding. Gov. Abbott also declared a state of emergency to give counties access to state resources as they respond to the flooding.

"The State of Texas is working closely with local officials and emergency personnel to provide the resources they need to keep Texans safe from Tropical Storm Imelda," Abbott said in a statement. "I thank our first responders who are acting swiftly to help the communities that are facing this severe weather event. I urge all those in the path of this storm to take the necessary precautions and heed all warnings from local officials."

As the rain tapered off by Thursday night, several locations have already been inundated with feet of rain, including multiple communities topped the 40-inch mark. The highest total rainfall report so far has been 43.35 inches at Taylor's Bayou in Port Arthur, Texas. Texas Greens Bayou, northeast of Houston, recorded 9.68 inches in 3 hours during the middle of the day Thursday.

The torrents of rain that Imelda unleashed set numerous records, and the storm also became the seventh-wettest tropical cyclone in U.S. history.

For Houston, Thursday was the wettest calendar day ever recorded in the month of September and the fifth wettest day ever recorded. Houston's Hobby Airport set daily records on Tuesday and Wednesday and the monthly total is now 11.37 inches, good for the third wettest September on record for that site.

While Houston initially avoided the heaviest rainfall from Imelda, heavier bands of rain began shifting southward over the city as of late Thursday morning, and Bayous were rising rapidly, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

On Thursday afternoon, a very heavy rain band east of Houston continued to drop copious rainfall amounts of 3 to 4 inches per hour, adding to the significant and even major flooding that is ongoing, forecasters said.

Imelda first came to life on Tuesday as a depression before it rapidly grew into a short-lived tropical storm.

Following landfall in Freeport, Texas, the storm crept inland and began to trigger the deluge. Forecasters say the threats of flooding will spread northward toward the Arklatex region on Friday. Lingering downpours along the southeast Texas coast can further delay the recession of floodwaters.

The flooding rain has resulted in an increase in power outages and travel shutdowns. Due to the impacts from Imelda, there were no arriving flights into Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Thursday. Additionally, more than 70,000 were without power for a time. Interstate 10 was shut down in both directions near Fannett while access to I-10 was also limited near Beaumont as many access roads were flooded.

In Vidor and Winnie, officials interviewed by separate media outlets both spoke of the dangerous waters and the severity being worse than Harvey in 2017.

Vidor, Texas, Police Chief Rod Carroll told KFDM News that the situation in town was "catastrophic" and the flooding in town was worse than Harvey.

Videos on social media Thursday morning showed numerous water rescues being carried out by airboats, including some by the Texas Game Warden.

The Beaumont Police Department urged residents to seek shelter and move to higher ground Thursday morning as many access roads were flooded around town. Officials said that rescues and evacuation requests were being prioritized.

As flooding overwhelmed many access roads, access to Interstate 10 and Highway 69 from Beaumont became "extremely limited," the police department said. The City of Beaumont closed non-essential offices on Thursday.

Lamar University said it was closing its campus on Thursday and urged students and faculty to stay off the roads and avoid areas with standing water.

Beaumont received nearly 2 inches of rain in one hour on Wednesday night and has picked up over 18 inches of rain since Wednesday morning.

Farther south, Chambers County Emergency Management stated early Thursday morning that significant flooding was occurring in Winnie, with water coming into homes and businesses. Riceland Hospital has been evacuated, and a flood shelter has been opened at White's Park Community Center.

The Chambers County Sheriff's Office said the community of Winnie was "devastated" by rising water and high water rescue vehicles and airboats had been deployed.

In an interview with ABC News, Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne said the flooding in Winnie was "absolutely horrible" and homes and businesses that never got water during Hurricane Harvey in 2017 have been overwhelmed by flooding.

Elsewhere in Beaumont, the dual ABC/NBC affiliate,12 News, was forced to evacuate Thursday morning due to the rising floodwaters. The station said on its Facebook page that news anchors would broadcast from their sister station KHOU 11 out of Houston.

Imelda could be responsible for a few tornadoes that spun up in Chambers and Harris counties on Wednesday. Beaumont was under a tornado warning for a time early Thursday morning, but there have been no initial reports of a confirmed tornado.

What's left of Imelda will dissipate by Friday, but the threat of ongoing flooding will persist across eastern Texas through the weekend as rivers and streams continue to rise.

Scroll down to read real-time updates of Imelda's flooding.

10:22 a.m. CDT Friday:

Tina and Robert Horne attempted to make a mid-storm trip to Walmart at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday. It wasn't until 9:00 p.m. that they made it home.

"I hit that water and poof, that was it," Robert Thorne said. "My car was floating."

The couple was caught in floodwaters in Splendora, Texas. Impressively, couple managed to hold onto their grocery bags.

8:43 a.m. CDT Friday:

Officials closed a stretch of Interstate 10 east of Houston on Friday to inspect it for damage after several barges slammed into a bridge along the swollen San Jacinto River.

Aerial footage captured by AccuWeather National Reporter Jonathan Petramala showed one of the barges jammed underneath the barren interstate.

7:59 a.m. CDT Friday:

As the floodwaters overwhelmed homes in the Beaumont area, some people reportedly found snakes that had entered apartments from a nearby creek, according to CNN.

At least 200 vehicles had to be removed late Thursday but hundreds more remain, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said.

7:19 a.m. CDT Friday:

AccuWeather National Weather Reporter Jonathan Petramala is in Texas this morning, reporting on damage dealt by Imelda.

6:30 a.m. CDT Friday:

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez gave a press briefing Friday morning to discuss a swift water rescue involving a sheriff's deputy during the overnight hours Friday.

Gonzalzez said the deputy, who was not identified but is a veteran of the department, was swept away by floodwaters as he attempted to help a citizen in high water along a street in Huffman, Texas, which is located near the outer reaches of Lake Houston.

While the sheriff's office lost contact with the deputy for a time, the deputy and citizen were eventually both located and were said to be in good condition.

Gonzalez said it was a multi-agency response involving the Coast Guard as well as the Houston Police Department.

4:30 a.m. CDT Friday:

After barges broke loose on the San Jacinto River and struck a bridge along I-10, officials say they are fearful that the barges may contain combustible materials, according to KHOU.

Crews will not be able to inspect the bridge for damage until water levels lower on the river.

3:00 a.m. CDT Friday:

Jeff Lindner, meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District, reports on Twitter that I-10 is closed in both directions at the San Jacinto River after multiple barges struck a bridge.

2:20 a.m. CDT Friday:

Dozens of roadways remain closed across southeastern Texas due to flooding, including portions of Interstate 10, according to the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT).

This map shows roads that are flooded and closed across southeastern Texas early Friday morning. (Image/TXDOT)

11:00 p.m. CDT Thursday:

The Harris County Sheriff's Office reports that their dispatchers have fielded 992 weather-related calls for service on Thursday. This includes 407 high-water rescues, 22 major accidents and 323 stranded vehicles.

9:40 p.m. CDT Thursday:

The National Weather Service office in Houston reports that Bush-Intercontinental Airport set an all-time record rainfall for any day in September with 9.20 inches recorded on Thursday.

An unofficial rainfall amount of 43.15 inches was reported near Fannett, Texas, from Tuesday morning to Thursday evening.

8:30 p.m. CDT Thursday:

The Houston mayor's communication team reported that over 200 vehicles have been recovered from floodwaters.

Houston Independent School District schools and offices will be closed on Friday, Sept. 20, due to flooding.

7:50 p.m. CDT Thursday:

Dispatchers at the Harris County Sheriff's Office have fielded 866 weather-related calls for service, including 369 high-water rescues on Thursday, according to an update.

6:50 p.m. CDT Thursday:

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez confirmed that there has been a second fatality from Imelda. A male occupant had been pulled from a submerged van and pronounced dead at the hospital. There is no current information in if he was the only person in the vehicle.

The occupant had been traveling westbound on Will Clayton when he reached an area where water levels were about 8 feet high. According to Gonzalez, the occupant had paused briefly before accelerating into the water, and his van went under.

6:40 p.m. CDT Thursday:

The Harris County Sheriff's Office posted that its dispatchers have fielded 790 weather-related calls, including 350 high-water rescues as of Thursday afternoon.

5:30 p.m. CDT Thursday:

The National Weather Service's preliminary highest storm total rainfall amount of 43.15 inches in Jefferson County, Texas, would make Imelda the 4th wettest tropical cyclone to impact Texas. Harvey brought 60.58 inches in Nederland, Texas, making it the wettest tropical cyclone in United States history. With the preliminary report from the NWS, Imelda would be the 7th wettest tropical cyclone in United States history.

5:20 p.m. CDT Thursday:

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office confirmed the first known fatality from Imelda, Hunter Morrison. The office posted on Facebook that Morrison had been trying to move his horse, was electrocuted and drowned.

5:15 p.m. CDT Thursday:

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has declared a state of emergency amid flooding from Imelda. The declaration will add to the water rescue squads already deployed and open state resources to counties affected by the flooding.

"I urge all those in the path of this storm to take the necessary precautions and heed all warnings from local officials," Abbott told the Texas Tribune.

4:15 p.m. CDT Thursday:

Imelda has weakened to a tropical rainstorm and will continue to impact areas of southeastern Texas.

3:45 p.m. CDT Thursday:

The Associated Press reports that there has been a combination of at least 1,000 high-water rescues and evacuations in Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston.

A high school football player and two other good Samaritan are credited with saving a mother and toddler from their car, which had gotten caught in the floodwaters, on Thursday afternoon, according to KHOU 11.

Jayden Payne, a fullback and linebacker for the Aldine High School Mustangs, along with two others jumped into the floodwaters to rescue the mom and toddler. Their car had gone into a flooded ditch beside the school, according to the news outlet.

2:15 p.m. CDT Thursday:

The Spring Fire Department firefighters have reportedly rescued nearly 100 people as of Thursday afternoon.

The AccuWeather Local StormMax™ rainfall amount is projected to be 55 inches; Houston typically receives 49.77 inches of precipitation in an entire year.

1:35 p.m. CDT Thursday: 
Aerial views from Beaumont, about 85 miles northeast of Houston, showed a town under water
. By midday, Beaumont had been pounded with 19.38 inches of rain from Imelda.

1:27 p.m. CDT Thursday: 

Sometimes, a disaster brings out the best in people. Amid Imelda's relentless rainfall, these good Samaritans went out of their way to help stranded residents and their pets get to safety in Liberty, Texas, a Houston suburb.

1:15 p.m. CDT Thursday:

Due to Imelda's persistent and dangerous rainfall amounts, AccuWeather forecasters have increased the storm's rating to 3 on the AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes, reflecting the high risk to lives and property in eastern Texas and far southwestern Louisiana. AccuWeather founder and CEO Joel Myers predicted the storm could cause $6 billion to $8 billion in damages along the Gulf Coast.

1:07 p.m. CDT Thursday:

Harris County, Texas, officials reported that a flat roof collapsed due to floodwaters, injuring three people. The three victims were transported to a nearby hospital to be treated for minor injuries.

11:59 a.m. CDT Thursday:

Over 78,000 residents in southeastern Texas are currently without power, according to poweroutage.us.

Officials are telling people to stay away from downed power lines and to seek shelter indoors.

Rice University in Houston has also declared a flash food warning for its campus. In a tweet, the university urged off-campus student to not travel during the storm and to prepare for 4-8 inches of additional rain.

11:19 a.m. CDT Thursday:

In Houston, all public transportation bus services have been suspended.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner took to Twitter to urge residents to stay in their homes, "If you at work or school or in a safe place, please stay put for the next 3-4 hours and allow the weather system to clear our area."

10:29 a.m. CDT Thursday:

The scene in Winnie, Texas, about 60 miles due east of Houston, on Thursday morning looked positively Biblical as Imelda's rain teemed down. Steve Campion, a local reporter for Houston's ABC 13, posted a video clip of the driving rain on Twitter. "It's relentless. It's unforgiving," he said.

10:24 a.m CDT Thursday:

Imelda has been downgraded to a tropical rainstorm by the National Hurricane Center. The NHC has issued its final advisory for the system, but that does not mean the storm's dangerous impacts are over.

Due to Imelda's dangerous amount of rain, Imelda remains a 2 on the AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes, with a high risk to lives and property in eastern Texas and far southwestern Louisiana, due to major flooding

In addition to flooding, forecasters are warning of the additional risk of isolated tornadoes and waterspouts in eastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana into Thursday night.

10:07 a.m. CDT Thursday

Galveston nearly tripled its single-day rainfall record due to Imelda's torrents. The coastal Texas town that has a long history of tangling with tropical storms and hurricanes shattered its previous daily record of 2.47 inches with 6.17 inches on Wednesday -- exactly 40 years to the day.

9:56 a.m. CDT Thursday

Rainfall rates reached more than 6 inches per hour across parts of southeastern Texas. AccuWeather Meteorologist and Social Media manager Jesse Ferrell said this satellite loop shows one-hour rainfall over a four-hour stretch on Thursday morning, which has triggered widespread flooding.

9:35 a.m. CDT Thursday:

Officials at George Bush Intercontinental Airport issued a full ground stop on Thursday morning as conditions deteriorated in and around Houston.

9:20 a.m. CDT Thursday:

As it's slowly pushed inland, Imelda has unleashed torrential rains in parts of southeastern Texas. Some of the top rainfall totals by late Thursday morning included the North Fork Taylor's Bayou, which has picked up 41.50 inches of rain since Imelda's first bands pushed in three days ago, and Mayhaw Bayou which has seen 40.79 inches. AccuWeather forecasters are calling for a StormMax of 55 inches of rain before it's all over.

9:10 a.m. CDT Thursday:

With conditions worsening, officials in Sour Lake, about 75 miles northeast of Houston, issued a mandatory evacuation and signed a disaster declaration that went into effect immediately Thursday morning. A message post on the official Sour Lake Twitter account implored people to "Pray for Southeast Texas."

8:56 a.m. CDT Thursday:

Overnight, as precipitation from Imelda escalated, extreme flash flooding caused numerous vehicles to become stranded triggering high water rescues all over southeastern Texas.

8:44 a.m. CDT Thursday:

"Hey, there's a tornado right there!" Imelda has spawned a number of twisters and apparent tornadoes as the tropical rainstorm pushed inland. One twister that was caught on video moving over Lake Anahuac, about 50 miles east of Houston, turned into a waterspout. Also, local authorities in Harris County posted photos on social media showing damage caused by an unconfirmed tornado, and there were reports of a tornado touching down in nearby Chambers County.

11:07 a.m. Thursday Galveston nearly tripled its single-day rainfall record on Wednesday thanks to Imelda's torrents. The coastal Texas town that has a long history of tangling with tropical storms and hurricanes shattered its previous daily record of 2.47 inches with 6.17 inches on Wednesday -- exactly 40 years to the day.
Damage from a suspected tornado in Harris County, Texas.