Sept. 19 (UPI) — Flood watches remained in effect Wednesday across southeastern Texas as Tropical Depression Imelda’s heavy rain threatened to cause hazardous flooding and travel disruptions.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Imelda, which became a short-lived tropical storm on Tuesday before making landfall in Freeport, Texas, had produced over 22 inches of rain near the San Bernard Wildlife Reserve, while over 17 inches were reported in Freeport and Sargent, Texas.
AccuWeather meteorologists say an AccuWeather Local StormMax of 24 inches is possible into Friday.
While Imelda isn’t expected to produce the historic flooding over the Houston area that Hurricane Harvey did in 2017, officials urged residents to take heed of Imelda’s torrential rain.
As Imelda moved inland on Tuesday evening and Wednesday night, flooding fears prompted school districts throughout the region to cancel classes on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The University of Houston and Texas Southern University delayed class start times until 10 a.m. while dozens of school districts cancelled plans on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Galveston School District also announced classes would be canceled Wednesday.
However, the Houston Independent School District said all schools and district offices would operate under normal schedules Wednesday, although after-school and athletic events would be postponed.
At Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, inbound flights have been delayed for 30 minutes at their origins due to low hanging clouds, according to flightaware.com.
In addition, officials in Houston are preparing for water rescue boats by getting high-water vehicles ready.
In a joint statement, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and officials with the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management urged residents to monitor weather forecasts and avoid driving on flooded roadways.
Hidalgo said Tuesday night that over 50 officials with the state, National Weather Service and Red Cross were working together at the emergency operations center to keep the community prepared and respond to incidents as necessary.
“Remember that the streets, the roads are designed and supposed to carry the water from the rainfall to the channels and bayous,” Hidalgo said on Twitter. “That’s normal and expected this time. But we need you to stay off the roads if you can.”
The Houston Zoo has also closed down for Wednesday for the safety of staff, guests and animals.
The initial rainfall reports show the heaviest of totals falling south and east of Houston, but there is still potential for more accumulation later Wednesday.
“However, given how the rainfall has been behaving thus far with Imelda, it appears the worst of the rain with this storm has avoided and will continue to avoid the heart of the Houston area and the western suburbs,” according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.
The City of Galveston posted a number of street closures on Twitter and also said all island transit services are suspended until further notice.
Some residents in the Galveston area have been trying to make the best of the stormy weather.
On Tuesday, one couple interviewed by ABC 13 in Houston had a picnic date near the town’s sea wall despite the howling winds and relentless rain.
Meanwhile, several surfers looked to take advantage of the rough surf despite warnings from officials not to enter the stormy waters as there was a high risk of rip currents.
Palmer Buck, a member of Texas A&M Task Force 1, said he, along with a crew of others, was on hand to respond to any water rescues.
“Our forte is water rescue, both flood rescue and swift water rescues,” Palmer told ABC News, adding crews had come from Fort Worth to help assess the situation.
Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, cautioned residents to be mindful of the threat of flooding on Tuesday.
“Rain will be in the area over the next several days and could cause some flooding,” he said on Twitter. “Be careful driving and please pay attention to the weather reports. Be alert!”
While Imelda downgraded to a tropical depression on Tuesday night, the threat of flooding rainfall will continue through Wednesday and into Thursday, according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Derek Witt.
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.