At least five people are dead in southeast Texas after Tropical Depression Imelda dropped up to 43 inches (1.1 metres) of rain on the region, becoming the seventh-wettest tropical cyclone in U.S. history.
“This happened very quickly,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told The Houston Chronicle. “But it’s just demonstrating that in this day and time, climate change is real. And we no longer have to be concerned just with a hurricane. We have to be concerned with almost any sort of weather system that can quickly evolve into a major storm and produce a great deal of rain.”
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“We shouldn’t be used to this,” said local resident Alejandro De Almaida. “[Hurricane] Harvey was the 500-year flood, so we weren’t expecting this after two years.”
Meteorologist and veteran climate hawk Eric Holthaus tweeted that climate change made Harvey’s four-day accumulation of up to 60 inches of rain six times more likely.
When Imelda hit, “swaths of southeast Texas were underwater,” National Public Radio reports. “Scores of residents had to be carried through the floodwaters and motorists needed to be rescued from submerged vehicles. Children were forced to shelter in place at schools in Houston.” The storm also cut production at a major oil refinery and shut down a key pipeline, oil terminals, and the Beaumont, Texas Ship Channel, Reuters states.
Texas’ climate-denying governor, Greg Abbott, declared a state of disaster in 13 counties, NPR adds. Abbott said severe weather had “caused widespread and severe property damage and threatens loss of life,” while the U.S. National Weather Service—with no need whatsoever for black Sharpie markers—warned of “major, catastrophic flooding” across much of the region and predicted up to 30 to 40 inches of rain.
“Houston’s school district has come under fire for its decision to hold classes as normal on Thursday, particularly after video emerged showing at least one school, Durham Elementary, was experiencing flooding. In that video, children are seen walking on benches, trying to navigate their way past inches of water covering the ground in a covered walkway,” NPR recounts. “In the early afternoon, the district announced that its students and staff were sheltering in place, following emergency protocols.”
NPR detailed some of the rescues by local police and the volunteer Cajun Navy, a Louisiana-based non-profit whose members used “surface drive” boats to get at people who were stranded.
The water “is on a mission to find a path to the ocean, and it’s going to cut through whatever path it can find—cut through a sewer here, come out of the gutter over there,” the rescue group’s president, Shawn Boudreaux, told NPR. “I mean, whatever is coming out in these situations is not something you really want to play around in.”
“This is Harvey all over again and we barely made it out the last time,” said local resident Charlotte Kinsey, who as of Saturday was still searching for her son who was missing in the storm—and doesn’t know how to swim. “We’re talking about going to my mother’s in Colorado. I can’t do this. I’m not putting my kids through this anymore.”
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