While Tropical Storm Imelda was quickly downgraded to being a tropical depression after making landfall Tuesday, the slow-moving weather system caused more rain and disruption in the immediate Baytown area Thursday than it did in its first two days, leading Mayor Brandon Capetillo to declare a state of disaster.
City spokesman Mark Miller said some city facilities closed Thursday.
Utility billing closed due to a power failure that left workers unable to process bills or payments, he said. The Brunson Theater was closed due to road conditions on Texas Avenue and Sterling Municipal Library closed early so staff and patrons could stay off the streets. All of those facilities are expected to re-open Friday.
The Baytown Nature Center was also closed Thursday, and Miller said he did not know if it would re-open Friday.
“It’s a cumulative effect,” he said. “When not everything is drained off yet and it starts raining again, there’s no where for all that water to go, and I think that’s when people got caught out there on the streets today.”
He urged people to avoid travel if possible. If you must drive, monitor local weather and watch for high water and closed roads.
In the 24 hours before 4 p.m. Thursday, Harris County Flood Control rain gauges in the area recorded up to nearly 9 inches of rain.
The highest recorded rainfall for the period was 8.88 inches where FM 1942 crosses Cedar Bayou, with the lowest being 5.72 inches where Highway 146 crosses Cedar Bayou.
By contrast, in the 48 hours before 4 p.m. Wednesday, area gauges recorded only about 4-5 inches of rain, with the highest measurement being 5.12 inches where Highway 146 crosses Cedar Bayou down to 4.24 inches where Highway 146 crosses Goose Creek.
Baytown police and firefighters were kept busy all day rescuing stranded motorists.
Miller said that public works employees were also busy addressing drainage issues and using their high-water vehicles to assist with rescues.
Baytown police spokesman Lt. Steve Dorris said the department deployed a few of its high-water vehicles to help officers navigate flooded streets to respond for calls.
In some cases, flooded vehicles had to be along roadways to wait for the water to recede enough for tow trucks to remove them.
Dorris also said police responded to six minor accidents Wednesday night and during the day Thursday, at least two of which appeared weather-related.
The local declaration of an emergency by the mayor immediately activates the city’s emergency management plan, which defines procedures and priorities for different departments of the city government.
It also a step toward releasing disaster assistance funds, and gives the mayor the authority to order evacuations and to control movement into and out of affected areas.
Under Texas law, a local disaster area can stay in effect up to seven days, or longer if extended by the City Council.
On Thursday evening the National Weather Service had a flash flood watch in effect for southeast Texas--including Chambers and Harris Counties--through this morning.
Rain could redevelop this morning, bringing rapidly rising water to already saturated ground.
Today has about a 50% chance of thunderstorms, with that chance dropping to 20% to 30% over the weekend, according to the official forecast.
The forecast high temperatures are in the high 80s.