HOUSTON - A day of rain on Tuesday could turn into severe weather on Wednesday.
A Flash Flood Watch is in effect for southeast Texas through Wednesday evening in anticipation of widespread 2 to 3 inches of rainfall. Isolated spots could get seven inches or more before Wednesday is over.
The culprit is a potent low pressure system coming in from northern Mexico. It will intensify and rake east Texas Wednesday. As it does so, it will pull in a great deal of Gulf moisture -- including sea fog, which may cause driving hazards Tuesday night and Wednesday. The moisture, in combination an abundance of atmospheric energy, will result in widespread rain and storms.
"The ground is fairly well saturated now, so anything we see tomorrow, and we will see more tomorrow, could cause problems pretty quickly. Don't let your guard down," KPRC Local 2 chief meteorologist Frank Billingsley said. "The chances of rain are going to increase as time goes on."
Flash flooding, 40 to 60 mph wind gusts, lightning and isolated tornadoes are all possible beginning early Wednesday morning. The best likelihood for severe storms, though, will come Wednesday afternoon as a cold front associated with this system swings through Houston. That's when the strongest storms, heaviest rain and most abundant lightning are likely.
"As we started at 5 in the morning, the showers and the heavy rains are being pulled in. That continues right on through the morning hours and into the afternoon rush," Billingsley said. "The morning rush, the afternoon and the afternoon rush all look very wet until this system finally pushes out of here tomorrow evening, then we begin to dry out."
Because of the threat of severe weather, Houston, Harris County and Fort Bend County have at least partially activated their emergency operations centers.
"This is probably going to be the single most significant rainfall event we've had in several months," said Francisco Sanchez of the Harris County Office of Emergency Management. "Anything we get tonight into tomorrow is going to cause street ponding and cause the bayou levels to rise because the ground won't be able to absorb it."
Officials said they're ready for problems.
"Our road and bridge crews are ready, they're on standby to re-erect, clear the roadways of debris and put up barricades where needed," said Alan Spears, deputy emergency manager for Fort Bend County. "We're going with the worst case, which is 6 to 7 inches of rain."
Spears said that he hopes people will stay home if there is flooding.
"In the event that you are out and you do come to an intersection that is barricaded, please don't drive around the barricades," Spears said.
Officials recommended residents check storm drains in their area to be sure they aren't clogged. If they are clogged and you're in the city of Houston, call 311 to get a crew to clear it out. That could prevent or at least minimize flooding in some areas.
Temperatures will hold in the 60s until the cold front passes. Then, drier, cooler air will fill into the area and temperatures will drop to the low or mid 50s by Thursday morning. Rain will taper off rapidly after the cold front passes, too, so Wednesday evening should be mainly dry.
"Sunshine for Thursday and Friday," Billingsley said.
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