Storm caused the worst flooding Houston has seen in 15 years

Residents of the Arbor Court apartments evacuate their flooded apartment complex in the Greenspoint area on Monday, April 18, 2016, in Houston. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

HOUSTON (TNS) — A storm that hit Houston this week caused the city’s worst flooding in 15 years and left five people dead, officials said.

More than a thousand residents of apartment complexes in the northern Greenspoint area had to flee rising floodwaters that engulfed nearby streets, floating to safety with their children in rafts fashioned from storage containers and a refrigerator.

Traffic cameras showed that two of those killed in the storm drove around barricades blocking a floodedunderpass, according to Michael Walter, a spokesman for the city’s emergency operation center.

Three others were found in cars on flooded roads since the storm began late Sunday, including one in nearby Waller County, according to the local sheriff’s chief deputy, Brian Cantrell.

Houston’s Harris County Judge Ed Emmett signed an emergency declaration that more than 1,000 homes hadflooded. That number was expected to grow as area bayous swelled with runoff Tuesday.

“This is the second most devastating rainfall event in this area’s history after Tropical Storm Allison” in 2001, Walter said, “based on the amount of rain that fell and where it fell.”

Allison left 41 people dead, $5 billion in damages and about 40 inches of rain. This week’s storm dropped more than 17 inches in 24 hours in some areas.

“We need to be vigilant and concerned about ongoing rising water,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said at a Monday afternoon briefing, declaring a state of disaster in the nine affected counties and warning residents to avoidflooded roads in coming days.

Houston emergency crews made at least 700 high-water rescues, about double what they normally do, Walter said.

“We’ve had damage across the city,” he said, from Greenspoint to the north, down to Acres Homes and Meyerland.

Meyerland, built along a bayou, was also among the hardest-hit areas flooded during a Memorial Day storm last year, and some residents had just finished rebuilding, Mayor Sylvester Turner noted after canceling his state of the city address, closing city courts and other offices.

Turner surveyed damage, visited a shelter and distributed water in Greenspoint, where those evacuated from three flooded apartment complexes stayed first at a nearby mall, then a shelter.

“We’re going to do everything we can on the cleanup and help them put their lives back together again,” Turner said.

Many of the area’s major highways skirt bayous that overflowed during the storm, and residents were still coping with high water Tuesday. Some schools remained closed.

“Because the watershed in the northwest and north are so slow to drain, the creeks will stay up and the water in the roadways will stay high,” said Kim Jackson, a spokeswoman for Harris County Flood Control District. “We didn’t expect the magnitude of storm that we received.”

The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch for the area through Wednesday morning.