Tropical Storm Imelda Update: Red Cross Helping Houston Flood Victims, Opens Shelters

After dangerous flash flooding triggered by Tropical Storm Imelda drove Houston, Texas, to a standstill on Thursday—leaving two people dead—floodwaters are receding across most of the city, officials say. Multiple shelters have been erected across the Greater Houston area by the American Red Cross, the disaster relief organization announced September 19.

The shelters will be available to residents affected by the storm 24 hours a day and at no charge—offering shelter, food, drink, health services, emotional support and help reconnecting with loved ones for anyone affected by the storm and unable to return home after the flooding. (For information on where to find a shelter, click here.)

This follows devastating flash floods in Houston and southeast Texas, when Imelda hit for a second time and forced residents to take refuge in their homes, schools and workplaces. All flights from Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport were cancelled. METRO bus and rail services were stopped, traffic was driven to a standstill and a hospital had to be evacuated after receiving several inches of rain.

The devastation wreaked by Tropical Storm Imelda has drawn comparisons to Harvey, with Mo Danishmund, chief financial officer for Riceland Healthcare telling the Houston Chronicle it was "worse than Harvey."

Imelda Houston Texas
A rescue worker drives though the flooded street of Little York on September 19, 2019 in Houston, Texas. Getty Images

According to the National Weather Service (NWS) preliminary data suggests Imelda is the seventh wettest tropical cyclone in US history—as well as the fourth wettest tropical cyclone to hit Texas. The NWS estimates the highest storm rainfall amount reached 43.15 inches in Jefferson County.

On Thursday, the NWS reported the record daily maximum rainfall set in Houston for the month of September at 9.18 inches, breaking the previous record of 7.73 inches (set on September 13, 2008 during Hurricane Ike).

This puts rainfall at the higher end of CNN meteorologist Judson Jones's estimate, who told the publication: "Many of the forecast models are suggesting 6 to 10 inches of rain with isolated higher amounts across the region. If the forecast holds, the amount of rain to fall would be the highest storm total rainfall since Hurricane Harvey in 2017."

(The heaviest rain to fall on the city during Hurricane Harvey—the wettest tropical cyclone on record—was 16.07 inches on Aug. 27, 2017.)

The chart below, provided by Statista, shows the global cost of weather damage in this decade compared to the previous one.

Economic cost weather damage statista
Global economic losses caused by weather events. Statista

Dangerous levels of flooding have caused several injuries and required more than 1,000 rescues and evacuations, the Associated Press reports. Two men have died, including a 19-year-old man from southeast Texas, who drowned while attempting to move his horses away from the floodwater and to a place of safety.

A van driver in his mid-40s or 50s was found near a flooded intersection at U.S. 59 (close to Bush Intercontinental Airport) on Thursday. It has been reported that he had accelerated into floodwaters 8-feet deep during rush hour. Rescue workers arrived at the scene but the man was pronounced dead at the hospital.

While the worst of the storm appears to be over, officials have said efforts will continue through the early hours of Friday morning to clean up the city and remove the hundreds of vehicles abandoned in the Houston's roads and freeways.