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Record floods in Texas fading, but not gone (forecast video)

Major flooding in Houston, Texas on Sept. 19, 2019. (Image: Marc Longoria)

More Flash Flooding potential in Texas

The remnants of Tropical Depression Imelda have lost some steam, but not before dumping record rainfall across southeastern Texas for three days, causing major flooding and killing two people. Even though the widespread rain has stopped across the region, many roads, homes and businesses in Houston, Galveston, Port Aurthur, Beaumont and places in between remain flooded.

SONAR Critical Events: Friday, Sept. 20, 11 a.m. EDT

Some communities have been soaked by 20 to 40 inches of rainfall from Tuesday through Thursday, with widespread totals of 10 to 20 inches elsewhere. Daily rainfall records were set two of the three days at William P. Hobby Airport in Houston ICAO: HOU), Scholes International Airport in Galveston ICAO: GLS), and Jack Brooks Regional Airport in Beaumont (ICAO: BPT), where more than 11.5 inches fell yesterday. George Bush International Airport in Houston had record daily rainfall yesterday.

Not only were daily records shattered, but the three-day totals at these airports, ranging from nearly 12 inches to almost 22, also broke monthly rainfall records. On average, southeastern Texas receives four to six inches of rain in September.

Runaway barges damage I-10 bridge near Houston, Texas.

Many secondary roads and sections of I-10 are still closed in the Houston and Beaumont areas, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. The I-10 bridge over the San Jacinto River is one of the sections that has been shut down. Several barges got loose during the flooding. Two of them, which may have been carrying chemicals or combustible materials, hit and damaged the bridge which will be closed indefinitely.

According to tweets from both major airports in Houston – Hobby and George Bush International – they are back to normal operations, and most roads leading to and from the airports are in good shape.

However, Union Pacific is reporting rail outages in Galveston, as well as between Houston and Beaumont, leading to delays of 48 to 72 hours. This could also affect other carriers. Jim Blaze, a rail expert at FreightWaves, said “BNSF operates on Union Pacific main line tracks on a 1996 awarded trackage rights agreement which allows BNSF to reach New Orleans.”

“Both railroads operate over the river at Beaumont on the KCS [Kansas City Southern]-owned bridge – thus seeing all three railroads using the same stretch of tracks through the City just north of the port and south of I-10. Therefore, delays reported by Union Pacific are highly likely also for KCS in that Houston-Beaumont corridor.”

Blaze added that BNSF trains operate on trackage rights over the Union Pacific main line coastal route between the southern suburbs of Houston all the way to Corpus Christi.

Given the very saturated grounds and watersheds, it wouldn’t take much rain to make the situation worse. Some scattered showers and thunderstorms will linger across the region today, Sept. 20. These storms could drop a quick one to two inches of rainfall in some spots, leading to additional flash flooding. A Flash Flood Watch remains in place for the region through this evening.

The system is moving slowly toward the Arklatex region where Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana meet, as well as southeastern Oklahoma. Areas just north of Dallas, in addition to Texarkana, Shreveport and places in between, are prone to heavy rainfall and possible flash flooding today. The good news is that the risk of major widespread flooding in these areas is fairly low. The storm isn’t as strong as it was the past few days.

Overall, water should gradually recede across southeastern Texas in the coming days as Imelda exits the region, and rain chances this weekend are low.

Other U.S. weather today

Elsewhere in the U.S., severe thunderstorms containing large hail, destructive winds, torrential rains and isolated tornadoes could pop up from the Texas Panhandle to the Dakotas. This includes areas such as Amarillo, Cheyenne, Rapid City, Bismarck, Fargo and northwestern Minnesota.

SONAR Critical Events: Friday, Sept. 20, 11 a.m. EDT

Meanwhile, heavy snow – seven to 12 inches in some spots – will fall this afternoon and tonight in the mountains of southwestern Montana and western Wyoming. This includes the high elevations, mainly above 8,000 feet, around Bozeman and Yellowstone National Park, as well as the Beartooth and Absaroka ranges. The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for the region.

Have a great day, a wonderful weekend, and be careful out there!

Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.