Torrential Rains Bring Widespread Flooding to Houston

HOUSTON (AP) — Heavy rains that caused flooding in some parts of the Houston area and prompted about two-dozen water rescues on Tuesday seemed to have stopped just before getting worse but with more rain expected authorities remain on guard and residents should stay prepared, officials said.

“Unfortunately, this is one of those Texas flood events that’s part of living in Southeast Texas,” said Michael Walter, a spokesman for Houston’s Office of Emergency Management.

While the thunderstorms that dropped up to 5 to 6 inches of rain in some parts of Houston overnight Tuesday have mostly moved out of the area, additional storms could pop up Tuesday afternoon, which could cause additional flooding in areas already saturated by rainfall.

“We don’t want anyone to let their guard down just because it stopped raining for now,” Walter said.

Authorities plan to pre-stage emergency vehicles and barricades in different areas of Houston just in case expected rainfall Tuesday afternoon and evening becomes problematic, Walter said.

The National Weather Service has issued a flash-flood watch for the region until Wednesday morning.

Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District, said he expects some homes and structures will be flooded but that tally is still being determined. Houston is located in Harris County.

An expected break in the rainfall on Tuesday should help waters recede from area bayous and streets, Lindner said.

Many of the streets, roadways and neighborhoods that got flooded on Tuesday were locations that have had flooding in the past, Lindner said.

“This is one of the more kind of marginal rain events, where the rain stopped just an inch or two before we really got into serious problems and potential to affect a lot of homes,” Lindner said.

For the most part, the area’s system of bayous and other man-made channels that dispatch storm runoff to the Gulf of Mexico “did a good job even though the ground was wet and the rainfall was very intense overnight,” Lindner said.

According to the flood control district, only a few local bayous had overflowed their banks and were causing some flooding of homes and businesses. But levels on most other waterways were falling and many streets that had been flooded earlier were once again open by Tuesday afternoon.

Both Lindner and Walter said recent heavy rain events in Houston in May 2015 — when seven people were killed — and April 2016 — when eight people were killed — were more serious and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

While flooding is nothing new in Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city has had more frequent and destructive floods in its recent history.

Since 1986, extreme downpours — the type measured in double-digit inches — have occurred twice as often as in the previous 30 years, an AP weather analysis last year showed.

Unrestrained development in Houston — the only major U.S. city without zoning rules — has also meant more pavement and less water-absorbing wetlands that could help mitigate flooding.

The same storm system that hit Houston also brought widespread flooding to San Antonio and other areas on Monday. The San Antonio area was mostly clear on Tuesday with some scattered showers and thunderstorms.

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