Home Americas US For Some in Texas, Imelda’s Heavy Rain Feels Like Harvey 2.0

For Some in Texas, Imelda’s Heavy Rain Feels Like Harvey 2.0

ANAHUAC, Tex. — Sitting in a chair next to a green cot inside a disaster shelter, his small dog on his lap, Edmund Hann was in a daze. Two years ago, Hurricane Harvey flooded his home in Winnie, Tex. On Thursday, Tropical Depression Imelda did the same.

“I never thought I’d go through it a second time,” said Mr. Hann, 81, who moved back into his rebuilt home 15 months ago. “It was 31 inches of water in Harvey. And this one right here has got to be at least 40 inches.”

Across southeast Texas, residents called the deluge Harvey 2.0.

From Houston to Galveston, Tropical Depression Imelda soaked this patch of the state for much of the week. It intensified on Thursday near Beaumont, Tex., and surrounding rural towns, with severe flooding that shut down highways, left hundreds of residents stranded and reflected some of the highest rainfall totals in the region since Hurricane Harvey in August 2017.

The city of Beaumont was pummeled with nearly 25 inches of rain. In southwestern parts of the city and into Jefferson County, almost 42 inches were recorded this week, with much of it coming in the last 24 hours, the National Weather Service said on Thursday. Chambers County — which includes Mr. Hann’s town, Winnie — received 36 inches of rain this week, local officials said.

Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster in 13 counties, including Chambers County, Beaumont’s Jefferson County and Houston’s Harris County.

More than 1,000 people were rescued in Harris County, the county judge, Lina Hidalgo, said at a news conference on Thursday afternoon.

In nearby Orange County, officials said at least 400 high-water rescues were made, most in the hard-hit Vidor area across the Neches River from Beaumont.

Nearly 140 people from Winnie and other Chambers County towns were staying at the American Red Cross shelter in Anahuac, Tex., after the authorities and volunteers rescued them by boat, high-water rescue vehicles and, at times, a dump truck.

Vehicles were abandoned in the ditches of country roads nearby. A hospital evacuated some patients but remained open, with employees trudging barefoot across the sopping floor to treat the patients who remained. Residents said they had seen cattle in flooded fields, their noses poking out from under the water.

At least 800 houses and businesses were flooded in Chambers County, and officials rescued at least 300 people on Thursday, as well as a few dozen dogs, cats and horses. The officials said rescues were complicated by the swift-moving floodwaters that shut down parts of Interstate 10 and turned rural ranches and country roads into lakes.

“A lot of people are getting flooded in their cars,” said Ryan Holzaepfel, the fire marshal in Chambers County. “They think they can drive through the water, but it’s deeper than they think.”

In Beaumont, drivers were inundated as the water around them reached as high as their door handles. Exxon Mobil shut down its chemical plant in the city and was closely monitoring its refinery on the same site. The Beaumont Police Department said it had been overwhelmed with calls, fielding nearly 600 requests for assistance by Thursday morning.

In some ways, there was no comparison between Harvey and Imelda. Imelda came nowhere close to the widespread scale and devastation wrought by Harvey, ranked as one of the costliest hurricanes in America, second only to Hurricane Katrina, and the cause of dozens of deaths. It also battered a wider region, lingering for days as a tropical storm and dropping more than 50 inches of rain in some areas, while Imelda’s heaviest rains have come in more isolated pockets.

But for those in Beaumont, Winnie and other nearby towns, Imelda felt like a sequel.

In certain areas of southeast Texas, it was “higher water than Harvey,” said Mr. Holzaepfel, the fire marshal. “It’s flooding homes that did not flood through Harvey.”

On Thursday, there were limited reports of deaths and injuries. A young man drowned after being electrocuted while trying to move his horse, his family said. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter that another man had been extracted from a submerged van and was pronounced dead.

During Harvey, deadly flooding in Beaumont shut off running water and nearly turned the city of 120,000 into an island. Carla Cruz, 23, remembers it all too well. She remembers how water flowed through her home on Calder Avenue, how it took more than a year to replace the furniture, and how she couldn’t drink the tap water or shower in the house for two weeks after the storm.

On Thursday, her dog began howling around 4 a.m. Ms. Cruz woke up and swung her feet out of bed to see what was wrong. When her feet hit the ground, she felt the cold water and heard a splash. Her heart sank.

“It was too late for us to try to save furniture and clothes,” she said. As Ms. Cruz and her family grabbed a few belongings, the water rose to their knees. When they stepped outside, it was to her waist.

“Outside my house, it was basically like a lake,” said the Beaumont native. Her car was filled with water.

Ms. Cruz, a server at an Italian restaurant, said city residents live with “a little PTSD.” They exchange nervous glances whenever it rains for more than an hour.

On Thursday, that sense of panic resurfaced for many.

“I know it’s weather and we can’t control it,” she said, “but we went through this already.”

As in Harvey, people in the area were stranded, unable to check on the condition of their homes because the roads were impassable. Many, like Jody Chesson, stayed with friends, in shelters or at hotels.

Mr. Chesson, 53, an operator at the Goodyear chemical plant in Beaumont, said he was driving slowly early Thursday morning, headed into work, when he drove his Jeep Wrangler into deep water.

“I put my brakes on, but it was at the hood,” Mr. Chesson said. “By the time I stopped, it was over the hood.”

He tried backing up, but the Jeep was dead.

“Water was just gushing in,” he said.

He could not open the driver’s side door. He opened the passenger door, climbed on top of the Jeep and called 911. He was told no one could help him at the time, and so he swam and walked to a nearby hotel. Then the hotel started to flood, and Mr. Chesson and others went to the upper floors. Hours after he abandoned his Jeep at Interstate 10 and Highway 69, he was still stranded at the hotel.

At the Red Cross shelter in Anahuac on Thursday afternoon, children watched cartoons on a screen and raced toy cars in a corner. A woman lay curled up on a cot, a Red Cross blanket wrapped tightly around her. The parking lot was packed with fire trucks, air boats attached to trailers and camouflage emergency vehicles.

The shelter was about 20 miles away from Winnie, in one of the few places that remained accessible to vehicles.

Ellen Barber, 67, lay on her back on a cot in the middle of the room, her cane by her side. She was trying to sleep, but was still too shaken up to rest. The waters started coming into her ground-floor apartment in Winnie at about midnight, she said. She grabbed her medicines and her grandfather’s Bible, called 911 and was evacuated. On the drive from Winnie to Anahuac, she said, she could not tell where the fields and the land began and the rivers and bayous ended.

“This was unexpected — Harvey was expected,” Ms. Barber said. “To me, this is worse.”

Manny Fernandez reported from Anahuac, Tex., and Sarah Mervosh from New York. Reporting was contributed by Rick Rojas from Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Margaret Toal from Orange, Tex.; and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Adeel Hassan from New York.


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