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Top stories of 2019 (#7): Tropical Storm Imelda slips in, causes major flooding and kills at least 5 people

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HOUSTONEditor’s note: Through the end of the year, click2houston.com is looking back at the biggest stories of the year, based on what was most popular on our website this year.

Tropical Storm Imelda may have arrived quietly, but the storm will have a lasting impact in southeast Texas.

Imelda made landfall on Sept. 19. In about 24 hours, the storm dropped more than 40 inches of rain, with the most falling in Beaumont.

The tropical storm caused catastrophic flooding, left hundreds stranded and led to the death of at least five people. More than 2,000 people were rescued in Harris County and about 1,651 vehicles were towed from the roadways.

Several refineries and chemical plants reported the unauthorized release of about 75,000 pounds of pollutants over four days after Imelda. Contaminants released included Benzene, Carbon Monoxide and Butadiene, 1-3. Within a week, officials with the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality said that aerial and hand-held monitoring revealed there was no danger to the public.

Imelda is one of the wettest tropical storms in United States history. It is ranked fifth behind Hurricane Harvey at 60 inches of rain in 2017 and Hurricane Allison at 39 inches in 2001. Texas holds five of the six slots for the wettest all-time storms.

Who were the victims of Tropical Storm Imelda?

At least five people were killed after Imelda hit the Greater Houston area.

Hunter Morrison, 19, drowned on Sept. 19 after being electrocuted while trying to move his horse to safety during a lightning storm, according to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

Another man drowned on the same day when he tried to drive his van through 8-foot-deep floodwaters near George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said.

Friday morning, the body of 52-year-old Rene Salas was found in a drainage ditch north of Houston, Gonzalez said. He most likely drowned while walking home, investigators said.

Two other Imelda-related deaths happened in Beaumont.

Texas Task Force 1 found Malcolm Foster, 47, dead inside a Toyota Prius in a canal, Beaumont officials said in a statement.

Crews also discovered the body of 52-year-old Mark Dukaj in his pickup truck, the Texas Department of Public Safety said. The vehicle was stalled on Interstate 10 about three miles outside of Beaumont.

What was the major damage from Imelda?

The Interstate 10 bridge at San Jacinto River was severely damaged during Imelda.

Nine barges detached from their moorings on Sept. 20. Two of those barges crashed into the bridge, which was closed indefinitely. Crews began to repair the bridge in early November, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

Houston-based NBG Constructors, Inc. was assigned to make repairs to the columns of the northern part of the bridge. The contract is worth an estimated $3 million. Construction is expected to wrap up in late February.

Even though the rain has died down, people across the area still feeling the effects of Imelda.
Even though the rain has died down, people across the area still feeling the effects of Imelda.

The roof also collapsed at the U. S. Postal Service North Houston Processing and Distribution facility on Sep. 19.

There were employees in the facility when a portion of the roof collapses, but only minor injuries were reported, USPS officials said at the time. Several vehicles near the facility were also damaged.

Many Houstonians didn’t receive their mail several days after Imelda. However, the USPS didn’t reveal if the roof collapse at the nation’s largest processing and distribution center in north Houston had anything to do with the delays in deliveries.

By The Numbers

At least 5 Imelda-related deaths

Made landfall on September 19

More than 1,125 weather-related calls

More than 2,000 high-water rescues

75,000 pounds of pollutants released


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