Houston area schools were closed Friday, utilities scrambled to remedy 37,000 power outages, and suburban police captured a 5-foot alligator swimming in a puddle after a torrential storm pummeled the area with rain and hail Thursday night.
The National Weather Service issued flood warnings for several areas Friday morning, and a flash-flood watch remains in place throughout Southeast Texas until 7 a.m. Saturday. Houston and Galveston will potentially experience thunderstorms and heavy rain Friday night and into Saturday, before drier conditions set in Sunday.
According to KTRK, there were no official reports of injuries due to the storm as of early Friday.
The University of Houston was closed on Friday and announced that its commencement ceremonies would be postponed until the following week.
In a week that has already seen Houston and surrounding areas in Southeast Texas face some of the most severe rainfall since Hurricane Harvey, heavy storms again pounded the city late Thursday, leaving at least three bayous flowing over the top of their banks and dozens reportedly trapped for a time in floodwater on Interstate 10.
The Thursday night storm continued a week of flooding in a city where the fallout from the historic 2017 hurricane is still being felt. Harris County meteorologist Jeff Lindner told the Houston Chronicle that more than three inches fell in most areas of Houston, but one area far east of Houston got four inches in 30 minutes. Some areas expected to see up to six inches of rain, the Chronicle reported.
Earlier in the week, the city faced as much as six to 10 inches of rain in just a few hours. As The Washington Post’s Ian Livingston reported, at least one location in Houston saw water rise higher than it did during Harvey.
On local media, videos of trapped, submerged and stranded cars were broadcast deep into the night. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters around midnight of reports of “about 30 or 40 people stranded at I-10 and Wayside,” located on the east side of the city. The Houston Police Department said it sent a high-water rescue vehicle to help.
“They’re doing evacuations, mostly street-level evacuations,” Acevedo told reporters. “The fire department has been out all night. They’re going to continue to be out all night.”
Later in the night, Acevedo announced that ramps to major highways had been closed and urged people to stay off the roads.
“Please el not drive unless it is absolutely necessary and SLOW DOWN!!” he tweeted.
CenterPoint Energy, the Houston utility provider, tweeted that crews were working to restore power, but as of early Friday, there were more than 85,000 outages.
Travelers at Houston’s two airports faced widespread cancellations. Southwest Airlines nixed about 70 arriving and departing flights into Houston’s Hobby Airport on Thursday night, as well as another 29 more on Friday, according to KHOU. A ground stop at Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport was in effect until past midnight, leaving many displaced travelers scrambling for lodging and transportation.
The Houston Chronicle reported that some overflowing waterways had begun to recede Friday morning, but some roads remained closed that morning because of high-water conditions, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
On social media, photos and videos shared by Houston residents and officials brought back painful memories of Harvey.
In Friendswood, a mansion that was once an event venue known as the White House Ranch was engulfed in flames amid the downpour. As KTRK reported, it’s unclear whether the fire was weather-related, but the scene at the $2.6 million home soon became one of the more jarring visuals to come from the Thursday storm. No injuries were reported, and everyone inside the home evacuated, Battalion Chief Mark Faber told KTRK.
“It’s such a tough fire because we could not put our ladder trucks up because of the lightning,” he said. “I would imagine, yeah, they are pretty distraught that they’re watching their house being destroyed by fire.”
Near the University of Houston, one woman who said she was graduating Friday pleaded for help on Twitter.
“My car is stuck and cars are drowning,” she wrote. She added: “Legit crying in my car because I don’t even know if I’m graduating tomorrow morning.”
She would eventually make it to higher ground to wait out the flood before heading back to the university. The University of Houston postponed its commencement ceremonies Friday.
Stephen King, a musician from Kingwood, a suburb northeast of downtown Houston that’s been among the hardest hit during this week’s deluge, detailed a chaotic scene of flooding, “topped off by the loudest thunderclap i’ve ever heard.”
“this is really genuinely scary,” King tweeted. He added: “keep kingwood texas (and houston in general) in your thoughts please.”
About 20 miles south, Rubi Soto, an advertising professional, found herself thankful that her spouse upgraded his truck.
“This is why I say sure babe get that lift and bigger tires on your truck,” she tweeted.
The storm even found its way inside Minute Maid Park, where the Houston Astros were hosting the Texas Rangers. Earlier on Thursday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D) advised those not in proximity to the ballpark to reconsider going to the game, the Chronicle reported.
“Today is maybe a day to have a happy hour at home,” he said.
But thousands of Astros fans did not adhere to the mayor’s warning, instead partaking in a 4-2 win. Even with a retractable roof, some of them wound up wet when rain made its way into at least one section in right field.
“There’s no escape!” Astros fan Corinne Villa wrote in her Instagram video. “It’s raining inside @minute_maid_park and of course its just in my section.”