July 19, 2024

Mandatory evacuations were underway in parts of Southeast Texas on Thursday evening after heavy rains continued to unleash major flooding, adding to a deluge in an area that had received up to a foot of rain on Sunday.

Officials issued a disaster declaration in Harris County where the San Jacinto River on the outskirts of Houston was swelling to levels that could keep people stranded for days, according to the county government. Judge Lina Hidalgo, the county’s chief leader, urged people in several neighborhoods near the east fork of the river to evacuate before nightfall.

“What we’re going to see tonight and into the weekend will not be Hurricane Harvey,” Judge Hidalgo said, referring to the storm that caused devastation in 2017, in a statement. “But we’re going to see significant impacts.”

Earlier in the day, crews had rescued eight people and 30 animals in high-water areas, according to Judge Hidalgo.

Images from news outlets showed widespread flooding in streets and stranded cars.

Forecasters expected more rain, 2 to 3 inches per hour, to drench the area on Thursday afternoon and evening, and into Friday morning. The additional heavy rainfall could lead to more widespread flooding.

A flood watch was in effect for the region through Friday, according to the National Weather Service office in Houston.

In Livingston, which is in Polk County and northeast of Houston, about 8 to 10 inches of rain fell in the past 24 hours, Hayley Adams, a meteorologist with the Weather Service in Houston, said earlier on Thursday.

“We have had several reports of numerous flooded roads in that area and multiple high-water rescues,” she said. “Roads are impassable.”

Ms. Adams said more rain, about 2 to 4 inches, was expected in the area Thursday evening into Friday morning.

The storm came days after an earlier round of rainfall and flooding prompted officials in Polk County, home to about 50,000 people, to issue a mandatory evacuation order on Monday.

“Roads are flooding faster than we can post,” the Polk County Office of Emergency Management said in a Facebook post on Thursday. “Stay home if you can.”

The agency issued a boil water notice for some subdivisions on Thursday.

Officials in Montgomery County, north of Houston, issued a voluntary evacuation order for some neighborhoods near the western fork of the San Jacinto River.

In posts on the Polk County Office of Emergency Management’s Facebook page, officials provided updates on the Trinity River Authority’s planned increased discharge from the Lake Livingston Dam into the area, which could worsen flooding and cause a risk to infrastructure.

On Thursday afternoon, the authority assured residents that the dam’s integrity was not at risk.

The Houston Office of Emergency Management said on Thursday that the city’s fire, police and public works departments had high-water vehicles on standby for the communities of Kingwood and North Houston, which were also under a flood watch.

The Houston Police Department said that it was closing Lake Houston because of the expected heavy rainfall.

Aerial drone footage, shared on social media by the Polk County Office of Emergency Management, showed homes and businesses swallowed by muddy floodwaters, and trucks and cars swept away.

“All roadways in Polk County are compromised,” the agency said on Thursday morning. The Texas Department of Transportation also closed a bridge over the Trinity River.

One video posted on X showed a tractor-trailer in Polk County slowly submerging under a flooded patch of highway as the driver climbed to the vehicle’s roof waiting for rescue.

Offices and schools in the county were closed on Thursday and were to remain so on Friday. At least one shelter was open at a gym in Livingston.


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