Heavy rains near Houston close schools and flood roadways as officials urge residents to evacuate

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued near Houston on Thursday for some residents following heavy rains in Texas that stranded motorists, flooded streets and closed schools as officials warned that conditions in some hard-hit areas could worsen.

"This is a life-threatening situation,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the top elected official in the nation's third-largest county.

Storms over the past month in southeast Texas and parts of Louisiana have dumped more than 2 feet (61 centimeters) of rain in some areas, according to the National Weather Service. Of particular concern was an area along the San Jacinto River, which was expected to keep rising as more rain falls and officials release extra water from an already full reservoir.

Videos posted to social media showed tractor-trailers partially submerged and water flooding over roadways. More than a dozen school districts north of Houston canceled classes Friday because of the weather and shelters opened in some communities.

No injuries or death were immediately reported from the flooding. At least nine people were rescued from rising water, the Houston mayor’s office said.

Officials ordered an evacuation of people in an area along the river in northern Harris County, where Houston is located. It was unclear how many residents were under evacuation orders.

“We want you out of this area,” Hidalgo said at a news conference Thursday.

Farther north in Montgomery County, officials issued a voluntary evacuation order and said roads were closed because of flooding along the river. The area got about 5 to 8 inches (13 to 20 centimeters) of rain within 24 hours, with some spots getting as much as 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 centimeters) of rain, said National Weather Service meteorologist Hayley Adams.

The storm brought down trees and left vehicles stranded. It prompted the San Jacinto River Authority to close Lake Conroe and increase water releases from the dam that created the reservoir.

Officials asked that residents farther south along the river leave or prepare to be stranded by rising water for two to three days, Harris said.

The San Jacinto River is normally 45 to 50 feet (13.72 to 15.24 meters) above sea level, but is expected to reach 78 feet (23.77 meters), Hidalgo said.

The county opened three shelters for displaced residents, with a fourth planned.

Dawn O’Leary, a resident of Cleveland, about 45 miles (72.42 kilometers) northeast of Houston, was caught off guard by the rising floodwaters. “I was trying to get to work,” she said, but the roads were so bad that she could not make it.

Emergency management officials said the area could see flooding similar to that caused by the remnants of Tropical Storm Imelda, which dumped more than 40 inches (102 centimeters) in some locations in 2019.