Tropical Storm Imelda tears through the Houston area

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Beaumont ISD employee

Before and after photos of the horrific damage caused by Imelda.

Andrew Stell, Features Editor

After more than two years since Hurricane Harvey, Houston and surrounding areas are still recovering from the torrential rainfall brought by Harvey. Tropical Storm Imelda poured up to 40 inches of rain in some areas. While Imelda did not cover nearly the area covered by Harvey, Imelda affected areas not previously flooded during Harvey. What is most alarming is the frequency of these two major storms, as storms of this size and level begin to occur more frequently. At this point, Imelda has accounted for a total of five deaths, and up to three feet of flooding in Southeast Texas.

Almost all school districts were forced to close, and Interstate 10, one of the largest interstates in the United States was shut down for a period of at least 10 hours. This serves not only as a wakeup call to the changing climate of our earth, but a shock to the previous classification system of hurricanes. Many are faulting news sources and weather reporters for making this size tropical depression seem to be a light rainfall, as not many were prepared for the 40 inches of rain brought by Imelda.

“Stunning how many people NOT aware of what is going on in SE Texas/Houston/Beaumont right now w/remnants of #Imelda. Approaching Harvey scale event, but probably doesn’t have the national attention because not a major hurricane. ‘Just a tropical depression,’” Marshall Shepherd, meteorologist via twitter.

These storms are a constant reminder of the more than good Samaritans that live in Texas, as stories such as that of Satchel Smith, a hotel employee in Beaumont. Smith was the only remaining employee of the Homewood Suites in Beaumont, tending to the care of all maintenance, and rescuing around 90 people trapped in the road into the hotel. Imelda rapidly switched between the classification of tropical storm and tropical depression, but while on land, Imelda was declared a tropical storm. Tropical Storm Imelda has left an impact that levels thousands without vehicles, and hundreds of homeless Houstonians forced to move to unsafe high ground. Large event centers, hospitals, schools, and other places that would were able to provide sheltered citizens. For some this was not enough as they had no vehicle or their vehicle was damaged in the rainfall. The heavy rain of Imelda caused a total of five to perish, including an unidentified male van driver in his approximate 50’s, Mark Dukaj, Jason Spencer and an unidentified 19-year-old male in Jefferson County and two other unidentified bodies.

Malcom Foster was driving his 2008 Toyota Prius, trying to escape the rising waters of the canal near his home when the water levels began to rise past the height of his car. Rescue teams only found Foster after days when the water began to recede. The high anxiety of the situation in which over 900 flights were cancelled at both Hobby Airport and Houston Intercontinental Airport; families were separated for days and many braved the high waters to rescue their family trapped at the airport. Broadcasters were advising the public to stay off the roads, as cars would be quickly submerged in most areas of Houston. In one story, a delivery 18-wheeler was threatened for his job by employers if he did not go to retrieve his assigned package. He later had to be rescued and had to move to the top of the vehicle to stay above water. The message is quite clear: Stay off the roads, yet people proceed to drive and not only endanger their lives, but the first responders who then have to rescue them.

Imelda has left a legacy not only in the bodies and wreckage behind it, but also in the thousands of cattle and farm animals unable to be rescued. Land owners had to secure their home and family, then the animals on their land. Tropical Storm Imelda reminds us of the protocol and procedure required for the increasing danger of storms like these.