Tropical Storm Imelda made landfall in Texas on Tuesday, Sept. 17, and it could give the Houston area its heaviest rainfall from one storm since Hurricane Harvey, raising prospects of heavy flooding in a city that sees plenty of it.
Imelda, which formed over the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday afternoon, made landfall near Freeport, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. The storm was dumping rain over southeastern Texas and is expected to keep doing so for a couple of days as it moves inland, even after it loses tropical storm status.
“Many of the forecast models are suggesting 6 to 10 inches of rain with isolated higher amounts across the region,” CNN meteorologist Judson Jones said. “If the forecast holds, the amount of rain to fall would be the highest storm total rainfall since Hurricane Harvey in 2017.”
Imelda had maximum sustained winds near 40 mph Tuesday afternoon. A tropical storm warning has been issued along the Texas coast from Sargent to Port Bolivar, the NHC said.
Also, a flash flood watch covering more than 6 million people and including Houston and Galveston is in effect and likely to be extended into Thursday.
Even before Imelda became a tropical storm, it was a system that was raining on coastal Texas. By late Tuesday morning, more than 3 inches of rain had already fallen in some areas southeast of Houston, near Galveston Bay, in a 24-hour period, according to the Harris County Flood Warning System.
This system is expected to drench coastal Texas and southwestern Louisiana into Wednesday, and eastern Texas and western Louisiana on Thursday, the hurricane center said.
Flooding problems in Houston
Harvey deluged the Houston area for days in late Aug. 2017, causing disastrous flooding, claiming dozens of lives, and causing billions of dollars in damage.
During that storm, more than 34 inches of rain were recorded at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, and more than 40 inches of rain were recorded in areas east of the city.
Houston is no stranger to flooding. In May, heavy rain led to significant flooding in streets, homes, and businesses.
The city’s layout and city planning are part of what makes its flooding problem worse, experts have said.
Urban sprawl over past decades has turned water-absorbing greenery into concrete. Weak regulations have failed to properly estimate the potential hazards of flooding. Finally, poor reservoir and land management have revealed a lack of long-term planning on these issues, experts have said.