News Midwest downpours prompt more evacuations, flash flood fears
Emergency responders in Texas rescued numerous people from rising floodwaters Tuesday as a strong storm battered the Houston area with heavy rain, inundating homes and leaving motorists stranded just two years Hurricane Harvey devastated the area.
HOUSTON (AP) — Emergency responders in Texas rescued numerous people from rising floodwaters Tuesday as a strong storm battered the Houston area with heavy rain, inundating homes and leaving motorists stranded just two years Hurricane Harvey devastated the area.
As much as 10 inches (254 millimeters) of rain had fallen on some areas around the nation’s fourth largest city by Tuesday night, with waters rising above the axles of cars as firefighters and police worked to evacuate some homes and rescue people from vehicles on impassable roads.
Flash flood warnings were issued across multiple counties and the National Weather Service warned that storms could continue to deluge areas along the state’s Gulf Coast with rain later into the week.
In Sugar Land, a suburb about 22 miles (35 kilometers) southwest of Houston, more than 7 inches of rain fell in four hours making all major roadways impassable, city officials said in a tweet advising residents to „seek high ground.”
The Red Cross opened a shelter at a church in Kingwood, a planned community 28 miles (45 kilometers) northeast of downtown Houston that was especially hard hit by the storm, according to the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
The agency issued a level three alert Tuesday and warned that high water levels in the area’s rivers and bayous will become a threat until the accumulated rain drains to the Gulf of Mexico. But a spokesman also told the Houston Chronicle that „this is not in any way a Harvey-level event.”The storms soaked part of Texas that have been repeatedly hit by flooding in recent years. Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm on Aug. 25, 2017, killed 68 people and caused an estimated $125 billion in damage in Texas. In the Houston area, Harvey caused 36 deaths and flooded more than 150,000 homes.The rain this week coincides with the trial in a major case to determine whether resident are entitled to compensation from the federal government after their homes and businesses were flooded by two federally-owned reservoirs during Harvey.
•Strong storm causes floodwaters to rise in Houston HOUSTON (AP) — It was a scene that has repeated itself countless times in the Houston area: heavy rainfall made area roadways impassable and flooded homes, schools and businesses.On Wednesday, the Houston area was drying out after severe thunderstorms a day earlier caused flash flooding , inundating streets and stranding students at some schools. A break in the weather was expected to be short-lived as more rainfall was predicted over the next few days.Meanwhile, heavy rain elsewhere in the state caused flash flooding in numerous parts of northern, central and western Texas, causing one death in Austin.The rainfall was nowhere near what the area experienced during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, which flooded more than 150,000 homes in the Houston area and caused an estimated $125 billion in damage in Texas. But it represents what is becoming the new normal for Houston and surrounding communities, according to a local expert on flooding.”We’re going to have to learn to live with flooding in Houston and we haven’t quite accepted that reality yet,” said Jim Blackburn, co-director of the Severe Storm Prediction, Education, and Evacuation from Disasters Center at Rice University in Houston.There are various reasons why Houston repeatedly floods: The city barely rises above sea level; it has insufficient infrastructure, including drainage; and it’s experienced rapid development over the years that has drastically reduced wetlands that could soak up stormwater runoff.Students in the school districts in Cleveland and New Caney, northeast of Houston, were forced to spend at least part of Tuesday night at their campuses after flooded roads prevented buses from leaving and parents from reaching their children. About 60 students at an elementary school in Cleveland spent the night there.In Kingwood, a suburb north of Houston, almost 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain fell, causing almost every street there to be under water for several hours, said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.”We’re going to be in an unsettled weather pattern between now into Saturday and Sunday. We are watching the situation very, very carefully,” Turner said.Neighboring Fort Bend County issued a disaster declaration after receiving up to 11 inches (28 centimeters) of rain, said County Judge KP George, the county’s top administrator.In Sugar Land, a Houston suburb in Fort Bend County, up to 9 inches (23 centimeters) of rain fell, flooding all major roadways and resulting in more than 100 abandoned vehicles, said city spokesman Doug Adolph. Most of the street flooding had cleared on Wednesday.”It was pretty bad. It was raining nonstop, thunder and lightning and people were stuck on the side of the road. So, it wasn’t fun. I swam home last night,” said Matthew Graver, who lives in Richmond in Fort Bend County.Blackburn said the rain overwhelmed local drainage systems, many of which need major improvements.Houston’s storm drain and pipe system is minimal compared with that of other cities and at most can take 1 1/2 inches (3.8 centimeters) of rain. Houston’s streets serve as secondary drainage systems, and most will fill with water during intense rainfall, Blackburn said.He also said some storms hitting the area are becoming „more and more severe and they tend to linger over multiple days and that’s becoming a scary pattern and perhaps is related to our changing climate.”Scientists say climate change is responsible for more intense and more frequent extreme weather such as storms, droughts, floods and fires, but without extensive study they cannot directly link a single weather event to the changing climate.After Harvey, Houston-area voters approved a $2.5 billion bond program for a variety of flood control projects, more than 130 of which are already under construction.”We need to spend the bond money and get those improvements made,” Blackburn said.Elsewhere in the state, the body of a man was recovered Wednesday afternoon from Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin about a half-hour after a man was reported to have been swept away from a flooded street.In the West Texas town of Merkel, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) west of Abilene, Police Chief Phillip Conklin told KTXS-TV of Abilene that seven people were rescued Wednesday from floodwaters. Three were rescued from an apartment complex, two from flood-stranded vehicles and a couple from their home.Flash floodwaters washed out a Texas Pacifico Transportation railroad track near Mertzon, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southwest of San Angelo in West Texas.Thunderstorms in the Panhandle prompted scattered reports to the National Weather Services of funnel clouds, but no tornadoes were reported._Associated Press journalists John L. Mone in Richmond, Texas, and David Warren and Terry Wallace in Dallas contributed to this report.
_Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70
May continues to bring a wild potpourri of violent weather across a large portion of the nation: Tens of millions of people are in the path of the storms.
A day after at least a dozen tornadoes ripped through Texas and Oklahoma, more rounds of severe storms slammed portions of the South on Wednesday. Still more storms were forecast for Thursday
„The severe weather threat on both Wednesday and Thursday will shift away from the wide-open spaces of the High Plains to the more heavily populated areas on the lower Plains & the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys,” AccuWeather warned. Over 13 million people live where severe storms are possible Wednesday, the Storm Prediction Center said.
The storm threat area on Thursday will be in the Deep South, mainly in Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana.
Meanwhile, ongoing bouts of drenching rain continue to pelt waterlogged portions of the region, exacerbating relentless flooding. The Houston area was particularly hard hit on Tuesday, as nearly 10 inches of rain soaked the metro area, inundating homes and roads.
The heavy rain prompted flash flood emergencies in some communities because of rapidly rising floodwaters.
The storms soaked parts of Texas that have been repeatedly hit by flooding in recent years, including the deadly and devastating floods from Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
The sodden weather wasn’t confined to Texas. „There is ongoing flooding from Texas to Wisconsin … and more rain over the next three days will make flooding worse in some locations,” the National Weather Service said.
Evacuations were under way in portions of Kansas, where flooding is forcing people from their homes, closing roads and prompting schools to call off classes.
More than 20 million people live where flooding is possible this week, the weather service said.
Flooding is likely to continue along a portion of the Mississippi River and perhaps others over the central United States into June as rounds of excessive rain continue, AccuWeather said.
In Missouri, almost a dozen levees already have been breached or threatened in recent days.
Chris Gamm, presiding commissioner for Pike County, Mo., told USA TODAY that some communities along the Mississippi River have been flooded for two weeks. The county’s levees all blew out over the weekend, he said.
“The governor is going to see if there is some emergency relief we can get from federal and state people,” he said. “Apparently they can’t employ emergency resource assets until the water goes down and they can see the damage. But some areas have been underwater for two weeks.”
“There are several thousand acres of farmland that are already covered. It’s pretty drastic,” Gamm said.
Wintry North, West
Snow was also expected overnight Wednesday and into Thursday in northeastern Minnesota, far northern Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where a few inches of snow could accumulate, the weather service said.
„Snow is also likely in the West, and accumulating snow could be heavy for higher elevations,” weather service meteorologist Jennifer Tate said.
Heavy snow is expected to fall over the central Rockies where 1 to 2 feet of new snow is likely through Friday evening. Up to 30 inches of snow is possible for the San Juan mountains of southwestern Colorado and northwestern New Mexico.
Contributing: The Associated Press; John Bacon, USA TODAY
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: May mayhem: Tornadoes, storms, floods, snow wreak weather havoc across US
Almost seven months after Hurricane Michael made landfall at Mexico Beach, President Donald Trump is returning to the area. He’ll speak at a rally in Panama City Beach Wednesday evening, the same city he visited less than a week after the storm in 2018.
In the months since Michael, we’ve learned that estimated losses, including spending, loss of gross product and personal income, from the Category 5 storm could be as high as $53 billion. Property damages alone top $5 billion.
Gov. DeSantis has said he hopes Trump’s visit to Panama City for an evening rally means Trump can share „good news” about federal disaster relief funding, which has been stuck in gridlock over the final dollar amount to go to places likewildfire-affected California, flood-affected Iowa, and of course, our hurricane-affected neighbors.
As Washington, D.C., hammers out a plan, locals have done what they can to rebuild with what they have. Here’s how much has changed since Michael hit:
The day Hurricane Michael hit Florida
The hurricane rapidly intensified offshore, making landfall at Mexico Beach on Oct. 10, 2018, as a Category 5 storm. Winds reached up to 160 mph. That’s more force than Hurricane Katrina had when it hit Louisiana in 2005.
The powerful storm was felt in other coastal cities and towns, too, like Apalachicola, Panama City and countless others. Homes and businesses were shredded, boats flipped and people were reported missing on the day.
“It all happened so fast,” Dee Cook of seafood distributing business Two Mile Seafood told us that day. “It got worse than everybody expected. Nobody, none of us saw this coming. None of us thought we would see something like this.”
Other lost more than just property. Residents on the coast and even people further inland in places like Gadsden County died as a result of the storm that day.
“Absolutely devastating,” Apalachicola resident Danny Getter said. „It’s going to take months … before they get some kind of normalcy. Jesus.”
He wasn’t wrong.
1 week after Hurricane Michael hit Florida
As the scope of the storm came into view, several residents were still without power as they assessed and cleaned up the damage they could. Many were still in shock at what they were witnessing.
“You see the aerial photos, but that doesn’t do it justice when you get here and see everything that’s torn apart. It’s pretty incredible,” part-time Mexico Beach resident Kimberly Higdon told us. “When it’s yours and you’re looking at it, you’re just shocked. Just shocked.”
There was uncertainty, but the resolve to rebuild what they could was already planted and beginning to grow.
“If we take small steps forward on each foot every day, in just a few days, in just a year or a few years, we’ll be back to where we were and even beyond,” First United Methodist Church of Port St. Joe Pastor Geoffrey Lentz told us. “(We’re) going to need a lot of help for the long haul. I want the story to be told that we’re here and we’re going to recover.”
Six months in, Lentz had that hopeful surge of adrenaline wear down (see below).
1 month after Hurricane Michael hit Florida
The hurricane destroyed 80 to 90% of the trees in Florida Caverns State Park, not to mention all its buildings. A month later, despite efforts to restore the state park, the storm still had a visible mark. The park is still closed today.
South of the park, thousands of trees were still uprooted in Liberty County and Apalachicola National Forest.
“Usually, we like to be forgotten. It is one of the reasons we live here. But we feel real forgotten now,” said Liberty County Judge Kenneth Hosford.
6 months after Hurricane Michael hit Florida
Remember Pastor Lentz? Half a year later, he told us things were not yet better, saying the demolition of damaged buildings was only half done and rebuilding had not yet fully begun in Port St. Joe. And he felt „exhausted.”
„If I am honest, this moment, six months in, may be the hardest yet,” Lentz wrote in a first-person piece. „Researchers tell us at about the six-month mark the adrenaline from trauma wears off and desperation sets in. I am certainly seeing people wearing down.”The fatigue was a familiar feeling, with others saying the structural damaged done to homes had reached a tipping point, translating into homeless and unemployment.For some, that feeling turned into calls for government support in recovery efforts.“We’re not asking for handouts. We’re asking for help,” Bay County resident Terri Carter said on a visit to the state Capitol. „We’ve entrusted our lawmakers and governor with our livelihood and we want the support that we need.”The state house took action the following month.Hurricane Michael: We can still see its damage today Florida’s Legislature approved an additional $220 million in the 2019-20 budget for those efforts, bringing total state funding to $1.8 billion. On the federal level, a federal package that would benefit those who have experienced everything from flooding to wildfires to hurricanes is still pending.Meanwhile, the aftermath of Michael remains visible in our backyard.Like what you’re reading?Get the USA TODAY app for more