Heavy rains in Houston lead to closing of schools, power outages and rescues

"It's perfect conditions for flash floods," Houston's fire chief said as rain pounds the Houston area.

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By Phil Helsel and Associated Press

Schools shut down Friday in the Houston area after an overnight storm dumped heavy rainfall on the flood-prone city, though forecasters said the high waters were expected to recede as the storms let up.

The storms pelted the Houston area with golf-ball sized hail and flooded its streets, leading to several high-water rescues. Although the dome was up at Minute Maid Park, some fans at the Houston Astros' Thursday night game were drenched after the roof began leaking.

A flood warning was in effect for Houston through mid-morning Friday. In parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, forecasters warned that scattered flash flooding was possible as the storm heads to the east.

Houston has repeatedly faced flooding in recent years because the city has insufficient drainage and experienced rapid development that reduced wetlands.

On Thursday, one person was rescued from a submerged car and other motorists were stranded from flooding.

The Houston Fire Department tweeted about 1 a.m. Friday that first-responders rescued a commuter from a vehicle that was upside-down and submerged in a flooded ditch. The occupant was found trapped but alive, officials said.

The National Weather Service said some areas received as much as 3 inches of rain an hour late Thursday, the Associated Press reported. The Barker Dam area near Houston received nearly 6 inches of rain Thursday evening, the weather service said.

No deaths had been reported early Friday in Houston, but Fire Chief Samuel Peña said in a video posted to social media that water was over roads and "there’s going to be evacuations” due to stranded vehicles, but they were not being considered rescues.

He said late Thursday that more than 75 water-related calls had been recorded.

"Vehicles are disabled, and people are unable to self-evacuate” and the fire department would be sending high-water units to assist, Peña said. “The rains are going to continue. The ground is saturated — it's perfect conditions for flash floods,” he said.

Utility company CenterPoint Energy reported on its website early Friday that around 74,000 customers were without power.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said some roads in the area were closed due to high water.

Fans inside Houston's Minute Maid Park recorded video of water coming through the roof of the covered stadium Thursday.

According to the Harris County Flood Warning System website, some parts of the Houston area recorded more than 5 inches of rain in the last 24 hours. The Red Cross opened several shelters, NBC affiliate KPRC reported.

The city of Houston said late Thursday that although the overall intensity of the storm had diminished, flooding and flash flooding could continue.

Flash flood watches stretched from southern Texas on the Gulf Coast into central Mississippi early Friday, according to the weather service.

The rain comes as the weather service warned of "dangerous" heavy rains in areas already saturated. The greatest concern in what the service called a multi-day event was from east and southeast Texas into parts of Louisiana and Mississippi.

Houston has repeatedly faced flooding in recent years because the city has insufficient drainage and experienced rapid development that reduced wetlands, the AP reported.