Texas Braces for More Rain After Days of Flooding


Swollen rivers continued rising in Southeast Texas on Saturday after a night of evacuations and rescues from floodwaters that swamped roads, stranded cars and inundated homes in the region.

Emergency responders in airboats searched the flooded streets and subdivisions around Houston, rescuing 178 people and 122 pets from stranded cars and rooftops by Saturday afternoon, according to Judge Lina Hidalgo, Harris County’s top executive.

Officials underscored the urgency of evacuation orders for residents in low-lying areas, warning that the worst was still to come.

“This threat is ongoing and it’s going to get worse,” Ms. Hidalgo said. “It is not your typical river flood.”

A sparsely populated section of northeastern Harris County along the east fork of the San Jacinto River had crested on Saturday at 77.8 feet above sea level, or more than 27 feet above normal, Ms. Hidalgo said. On Thursday, she had issued evacuation orders for about 5,000 people living in that part of the county.

Along the west fork, where a voluntary evacuation was underway, the river had not yet crested, Ms. Hidalgo said at a news conference on Saturday.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” she said, adding that “a certain level of uncertainty remains.”

American Red Cross shelters across six Texas counties were housing 122 people, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said on Saturday.

North and east of Houston, small towns, including Cut and Shoot and Shepherd, were experiencing catastrophic flooding, FEMA said, and several rivers were yet to crest.

In Cleveland, one of those towns, the U.S. Coast Guard evacuated a 12-hour-old baby and her mother by helicopter from a hospital that was inaccessible to ambulances because of floodwaters.

The baby was experiencing low oxygen levels at Texas Emergency Hospital, which does not have a neonatal intensive-care unit.

The mother and baby were brought to the intensive-care unit at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and were in stable condition, said Petty Officer Alejandro Rivera, a Coast Guard spokesman.

About a quarter of the 178 river gauges tracked by the National Weather Service in Houston were experiencing flooded conditions, and many were expected to crest over the weekend or early next week.

Areas north of Houston had received 12 to 20 inches of rainfall since Monday, Jeremy Justice, hydrological operations manager at Harris County Flood Control, said on Saturday.

“A lot of that area is in a flood plain,” he said, adding that some parts of Harris County could experience flooding near the record levels that were set during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, an event that claimed at least 68 lives and caused $125 billion in damage.

The Weather Service had much of Southeast Texas under a flood watch on Saturday and through Sunday afternoon.

Forecasters predicted another inch to 3 inches of rainfall from Saturday night into Sunday morning, exacerbating flood conditions as the soil was already saturated in the watch area.

The Weather Service said in a forecast on Saturday morning that it was watching the region for a cluster of storms “that bows out and spreads yet more rain into the area that does not need any more” through the weekend.

Mayor John Whitmire of Houston was surveying the flooding in the northeastern neighborhood of Kingwood, a community on Lake Houston, on Saturday, according to Mary Benton, a city spokeswoman.

“We have to guard against any false impression that we have been cleared,” Mr. Whitmire said at a news conference at Kingwood on Friday. “The water is coming this way.”

As of Saturday, there were no reported injuries or deaths.

Brent Taylor, a spokesman for the Office of Emergency Management in Houston, said that damage assessments would not begin until after the threat of flooding had passed.

Extreme weather also affected other parts of the state on Saturday afternoon. More than 1 million people in West Texas were under a severe thunderstorm or tornado watch, according to the Weather Service. Dallas and large sections of North Texas were under a flood watch.

Orlando Mayorquín contributed reporting.

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