At least eight people die in flooding in the Houston area, officials say
Forecasters expect more rain in the next few days
Rescuers used military-type vehicles and boats to remove more than 50 senior citizens from two assisted-living facilities in Houston.
“Never in my life,” resident Nina Pena told CNN affiliate KPRC-TV.
“I was watching all the water on the streets and never had seen that before.”
In north Harris County, rescuer Chris Westfield told CNN affiliate KTRK-TV on Wednesday that he was conducting house-to-house searches on a pontoon boat for residents who had refused to evacuate a day earlier.
“You have a lot of critters that come out, that want to get into the dry spots, into the higher elevations,” he told the station. “Gators, snakes. We’ve seen it all … over the last couple days.”
While some parts of Houston are starting to recover from paralyzing flooding, some residents believe the worst is yet to come.
“We’re certainly past the worst of this,” Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said at a news conference on Wednesday. “Now we just need to make sure we do the recovery right and then get people the help they need as soon as possible,” he said.
The catastrophic flooding has already killed eight people, flooded more than 1,000 homes and caused more than $5 billion in damage, officials said.
Kennetha Thomas woke up to four feet of water at her house. A creek near her house had turned into a roaring river.
“There’s a lot of memories that are lost in that house,” Thomas said. “We lost both of our parents in that house, so we haven’t been able to go through a lot of things that I know will be lost. There’s stuff that you can’t replace. “
Maite Kouns said when the waters gushed into her house, she hastily left.
“It’s our home … and I don’t know when we’ll be back,” she said , tearfully clutching her dog. “You don’t know what to pack up, you don’t know what to do. You just grab the kids, the dogs and you just leave.”
The problem: Cypress Creek in northwest Houston keeps rising and still hasn’t crested, officials say, and forecasters expect more rain Wednesday.
More rain and thunderstorms are in the forecast, with flash-flood watches covering more than 9 million people. The Houston metro area will be pelted by thunderstorms Wednesday and Thursday.
Water in the reservoirs will continue to rise slowly, officials warned Wednesday.
One to three inches of rain are likely in the heavier storms, according to forecasters. The extra rain in the coming days could create 500-year level floods.
In the community of Meyerland in southwest Houston, heavy rain meant flashbacks of last year’s devastating Memorial Day floods.
“I get shakes,” June Pool, who moved back into her home two months ago after repairs from the previous flood, told KPRC.
“It’s still so traumatizing. You just can’t go through this. This is not even a year later.”
The Houston-area community of Hockley got pummeled with 17 inches of rain in less than 24 hours. That’s more rain than Salt Lake City gets in a year.
State of disaster
Of the seven fatalities, four people died in Houston, two died elsewhere in Harris County, and one person died in Waller County, the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences and Houston police said.
The dead included Houston Community College student Claudia Melgar, who accidentally drove into 30 feet of floodwater as a toll road worker tried to chase her vehicle to get her to stop, KPRC reported.
Teri Rodriguez, 43, a mother of three, drowned after driving into a drainage ditch; schoolteacher Charles Odum died inside his car after it was submerged in Waller County; Sunita Singh, a mother of two died after she drove her car into floodwaters; and German Antonio Franco, 66, was found in his submerged car, according to the station.
Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster for nine counties in and around the Houston area.
Emergency crews made more than 1,200 high-water rescues as some residents swam out of their homes.
Houston flooding: By the numbers
- 240 billion: Gallons of rain that fell in the Houston area
- 363,400: The number of Olympic-size swimming pools that would fill
- $5 billion: Amount of property damage in Harris County alone
- 123,000: Homes that lost power (most now have electricity again)
- 1,200: High-water rescues made
- 1,000: Homes flooded
- 9: Counties in a state of disaster
At the height of the flooding, about 123,000 homes had no power, said CenterPoint Energy, the utility company that serves most of the Houston area.
’Turn around, don’t drown’
The flooding this week made for some dramatic rescues, including a man who was seconds away from being submerged.
Just before members of a news crew from KTRK were about to go on air at the edge of a flooded road, they saw the man’s black Toyota Prius drive into the water and quickly float away.
The man opened the door, and reporter Steve Campion yelled for him to get out of the car.
“You gotta get out!” he yelled. The man hesitated as Campion yelled, “Swim! Swim! Leave the car. Swim!”
The man finally swam toward Campion, and as the reporter helped him onto dry land, the car disappeared beneath the water.
Campion said later, “It certainly is a reminder to turn around, don’t drown. We say that in Houston so often, but you really never know how deep the water is.”
Billions of gallons of rain
An estimated 240 billion gallons of rain fell on the Houston area in the past few days, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said.
He called it the most significant flood event since Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, which left 41 people dead. It caused more than $5 billion in property damage in Harris County alone, the county’s Flood Control District said.
CNN’s Ed Lavandera reported from Houston, and Ray Sanchez and Holly Yan reported and wrote from New York and Atlanta, respectively. CNN’s Azadeh Ansari, Dave Alsup, Shawn Nottingham and Sheena Jones contributed to this report.