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Torrential rain brings deluge to Houston

Torrential rainfall shut down highways and an airport in the Houston area Monday and caused widespread flooding in southwest Louisiana.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A deluge of more than 10 inches of rain Monday along parts of the Gulf Coast forced the evacuation of a Louisiana nursing home and stranded motorists on roads flooded up to waist-deep in southeast Texas, where National Guard troops were on standby for more storms.

Rain from a second storm had begun to fall in Houston late Monday afternoon, hours after Mayor Bill White toured his city by helicopter and described seeing “block after block after block flooded.”

As much as 10½ inches of rain was reported in the Houston area by the height of the morning rush hour, said Rusty Cornelius, administrative coordinator for Harris County Emergency Management. Almost 6 inches of rain fell in just 75 minutes near Hobby Airport, the National Weather Service reported.

No deaths were reported, but roads across the Houston area, including Interstate 10 and other major arteries, were flooded and vehicles were stalled. Hobby Airport was closed for more than 2 hours because employees couldn’t get through the flooded roads to work. Several schools were closed.

120 patients evacuated
In Sulphur, La., emergency crews evacuated 120 patients from Holly Hill Nursing Home, flooded with up to 1½ feet of water after debris clogged a city storm drain near the nursing home’s back door. Residents won’t be able to return for at least a week, owner Elizabeth Fellows said.

Spotters in Sulphur measured as much as 9½ inches of rain, and the area had received an average of 4 to 6 inches by late afternoon, senior forecaster Kent Kuypers said. Nearby DeQuincy measured about 14 inches, he said.

In Texas, flood warnings remained in effect for some bayous in Harris County, and a flood watch was issued through Tuesday morning for about a dozen counties in Southeast Texas.

Near Hobby Airport, Luis Robles awakened to a leaky ceiling and floodwaters creeping into the front yard; less than a mile away, the brown water was waist deep on an Interstate 610 exit.

Playing in plastic ponchos
With the rain still falling, Robles took pictures of his children wearing plastic ponchos and playing in the rain, as cars and trucks passed in the background, with water covering their tires.

“It was like a river over there,” Robles said.

But officials said drainage improvements made since Tropical Storm Allison’s catastrophic damage five years ago were working.

“We live in Houston, Texas, and you can’t be surprised at flooding in Houston,” White said. “When you have this much rain in a short period of time at a place that’s near sea level, then you still have some real risk.”

‘We’re just waiting to see what happens’

Gov. Rick Perry activated 50 Texas Army National Guard trucks, four helicopters, 30 rescue boats, one airboat from the General Land Office, seven swift water rescue teams and a civil support team from the 6th Army National Guard unit.

Harris County authorities said the forces weren’t needed yet and would remain on standby.

Israel Nava and his father, who live near the airport, were scrambling to fix a gutter that was nearly ripped off in Monday morning’s storm. They were bracing for the worst as the next round approached.

“Hopefully, it won’t be as bad,” said Nava. “We’re just waiting to see what happens.”