As floodwaters began slowing receding in Houston on Friday, police worked to clear freeways of hundreds of stranded vehicles after four days of relentless rain and deadly flooding along the Texas Gulf coast from the remnants of Tropical Depression Imelda.
The flooding along the coast left three people dead from drowning and brought parts of Texas and the Gulf area to a near standstill.
The National Weather Service said preliminary estimates suggested that Jefferson County, which is 80 miles east of Houston along the coast, was deluged with more than 40 inches of rain over 72 hours, which would make it the seventh wettest tropical cyclone in U.S. history.
The weather service said the 9.18 inches of rain that hit Houston on Thursday set a record for the wettest September day.
'They're forming like roaches.' The 6 tropical storms whirling at once have tied a record
Officials in Harris County, where Houston is located, warned that some of their 4.7 million residents might not see high waters recede in their neighborhoods until the weekend.
County officials reported at least 1,700 high-water rescues and evacuations as rising water overwhelmed the city. At least 120 people took refuge in six storm shelters.
All lanes of heavily traveled I-10, or East Freeway, were shut down Friday in both directions just east of Houston because of apparent damage to the San Jacinto River bridge, KHOU reports. The Coast Guard reportedly said nine barges broke loose on the swift-flowing river overnight, with at least two of them hitting the structure.
The weather service, forecasting scattered showers and thunderstorms for Friday, said the weather activity would not be as strong or organized as Thursday's drenching, but warned that "rivers remain high and soil is saturated, so any additional rain could yield flooding."
As the torrential rains saturated the area, a 19-year-old man drowned and was electrocuted while trying to move his horse to safety, according to Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. In Houston, a man in his 40s or 50s drowned when he tried to drive a van through 8-foot-deep floodwaters during rush hour Thursday near the George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
Harris County Sheriff's Office spokesman Jason Spencer said Friday that preliminary reported indicated that a man whose body was found in a ditch north of Houston drowned from storm-related flooding. He was last seen walking during severe rainfall.
Officials in Liberty County, which adjoins Harris County to the east, issued a shelter-in-place order Thursday after some areas of the county saw as many as 26 inches of rain over the last two days, the Chronicle reported.
“We’re still putting water on top of water,” said Jeff Linder, meteorologist of the Harris County Flood Control District.
'Worse than Hurricane Harvey': At least 2 dead as Imelda overwhelms Texas with' incredibly dangerous' flooding
In Jefferson County, where Beaumont and Port Arthur are located, the Office of Emergency Management quoted Doug Canant, an engineer for a drainage district, as saying basins were filling and “getting water three times the amount they were designed for.”
“Rain is falling faster than we can drain,” he said, according to the Beaumont Enterprise.
Residents of Beaumont, which was submerged by more than 20 inches of rain in some parts, also echoed the overwhelming amount of water that caught much of the city by surprise.
“The water kept rising. It kept rising. I couldn’t believe it,” said Ruby Trahan Robinson, 63, as she settled in a shelter in a town just outside Beaumont.
Many officials compared the flooding from Imelda with the devastation from Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm that slammed the state in August 2017.
Contributing: Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Houston weather: More rain but most flooding over after deadly Imelda