East Texas was facing days of heavy rains and flash flooding Wednesday as Tropical Depression Imelda, downgraded from a tropical storm, still packed a dangerous punch for millions of residents.
Some areas could see up to 25 inches of rain before the storm rolls away at week's end, the National Weather Service warned. More than 20 inches of rain already had been reported Wednesday in St. Bernard National Wildlife Refuge. The town of Sargent, 70 miles south of Houston, reported 17 inches.
Parts of Houston and Galveston had seen almost 7 inches, and the storm could drench that area with up to 10 more inches, the weather service warned. Flash flood watches were in effect for southeast Texas and extreme southwest Louisiana.
Some good news: Glenn LaMont, deputy emergency management coordinator in Brazoria County, located south of Houston along the Gulf Coast, said that despite the heavy rainfall he has seen no reports of flooded homes or people stranded. However, he cautioned, “we’ve got two more days to go on this.”
The weather service said that "heavy rains ... will spread inland over Eastern Texas during the next couple of days. These rainfall totals may produce significant to life-threatening flash floods."
The storm made landfall Tuesday afternoon near Freeport, 60 miles south of Houston. Imelda, crawling north at about 5 mph, was the first named storm to slam onto Texas shores since the staggering devastation of Hurricane Harvey two years ago.
In Friendswood, 30 miles northwest of Galveston, Jeffrey Klima offered his parking lot at Eagle Transmission & Automotive to area residents. He said his lot is on high ground, and a dozen or so people safely parked there during Hurricane Harvey. He's getting grateful takers for Imelda, too.
“I had one lady say she lost four cars during Harvey and that she was nervous," he told USA TODAY. "Those feelings don't just go away."
Some schools shut down Wednesday, including the 13 public schools that educate almost 7,000 students in Galveston.
"The combination of pre-dawn rain and high tide indicate a probable safety issue for students and staff," the district said in a statement.
Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist and director of flood operations for the Harris County Flood Control District in Houston, warned that Imelda remained a threat despite losing tropical storm status.
“We have a few things in our favor. The ground is dry. It’s been dry for a while here as we’ve come through summer,” Lindner said. “The initial parts of this rainfall will go toward saturating the ground.”
Elsewhere, Bermuda was bracing for a hit from Hurricane Humberto, a Category 3 storm that was not forecast to reach the U.S. coast.
Tropical Storm Jerry was forecast to gain hurricane status in the Atlantic as soon as Thursday, while Pacific storms Lorena and Mario could claim similar designations later in the week.
On Wednesday, Lorena posed an increasing threat to tourist resorts on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, where a hurricane warning was in effect.