Heavy rains over Texas have led to water rescues, school cancellations and evacuation orders

Heavy storms have continued to slam the Houston area
Conroe firefighter Cody Leroy carries a resident evacuated in a boat by the CFD Rapid Intervention Team from her flooded home in the aftermath of a severe storm, Thursday, May 2, 2024, in Conroe, Texas. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

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Conroe firefighter Cody Leroy carries a resident evacuated in a boat by the CFD Rapid Intervention Team from her flooded home in the aftermath of a severe storm, Thursday, May 2, 2024, in Conroe, Texas. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

HOUSTON (AP) — Heavy storms slammed the Houston area again Friday, widening already dangerous flooding in Texas and leading to numerous high-water rescues, including some from the rooftops of flooded homes. Officials redoubled urgent instructions for residents in low-lying areas to evacuate, warning the worst was still to come.

“This threat is ongoing and it’s going to get worse. It is not your typical river flood,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the top elected official in the nation’s third-largest county.

She described the surge of water as “catastrophic” and said several hundred structures were at risk of flooding. There had already been at least two dozen water rescues in the county, in addition to getting 30 pets to safety. Schools in the path of the flooding canceled classes and roads jammed as authorities closed highways taking on water.

For weeks, drenching rains in Texas and parts of Louisiana have filled reservoirs and saturated the ground. Floodwaters partially submerged cars and roads this week across parts of southeastern Texas, north of Houston, where high waters reached the roofs of some homes.

More than 11 inches (28 centimeters) of rain fell during a 24 hour period that ended Friday morning in the northern Houston suburb of Spring, according to the National Weather Service, which has issued a flood warning until Tuesday for the region.

In the rural community of Shepherd, Gilroy Fernandes said he and his spouse had about an hour to evacuate after a mandatory order. Their home is on stilts near the Trinity River, and they felt relief when the water began to recede on Thursday.

Then the danger grew while they slept.

“Next thing you know, overnight they started releasing more water from the dam at Livingston. And so that caused the level of the river to shoot up by almost five or six feet overnight,” Fernandes said. Neighbors who left an hour later got stuck in traffic because of flooding.

In Montgomery County, Judge Mark Keough said there had been more high-water rescues than he was able to count.

“We estimate we’ve had a couple hundred rescues from homes, from houses, from vehicles,” Keough said.

In Polk County, located about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northeast of Houston, officials have done over 100 water rescues in the past few days, said Polk County Emergency Management Coordinator Courtney Comstock.

She said homes below Lake Livingston Dam and along the Trinity River have flooded.

“It’ll be when things subside before we can do our damage assessment,” Comstock said.

Authorities in Houston had not reported any deaths or injuries. The city of more than 2 million people is one of the most flood-prone metro areas in the country and has long experience dealing with devastating weather.

Hurricane Harvey in 2017 dumped historic rainfall on the area, flooding thousands of homes and resulting in more than 60,000 rescues by government rescue personnel across Harris County.

In Crosby, school officials said the driver of a school bus carrying 27 students stopped his vehicle just before driving into high water Friday. The students exited through a rear door and were taken to campuses on another bus. “I am proud of the quick action of our bus driver,” Crosby school district Superintendent Paula Patterson said.

Of particular concern was an area along the San Jacinto River in the northeastern part of Harris County, which was expected to continue rising as more rain falls and officials release extra water from an already full reservoir. Judge Hidalgo on Thursday issued a mandatory evacuation order for those living along portions of the river.

In some areas along the river, “it’s too late to evacuate preemptively & folks are being assisted off their rooftops,” Hidalgo wrote Friday afternoon in a post on X. She said residents west or south of the area still had time to leave or “otherwise, prepare to stay in place for 2-3 days.”

Most of Houston's city limits were not heavily impacted by the weather, except for the northeastern neighborhood of Kingwood. Officials said the area had about four months of rain in about a week's time. Houston Mayor John Whitmire said rising flood waters from the San Jacinto River were expected to impact Kingwood late Friday and Saturday.

“The water is coming this way. ... We have time to prepare. But a few hours from now it will be impassable,” Whitmire said, speaking from a fire station in Kingwood.

Shelters have opened across the region, including nine by the American Red Cross.

The weather service reported the river was above 69 feet (21.03 meters) around noon Friday and expected to crest at 78 feet (23.77 meters) Friday night. The is expected to fall below flood stage of 58 feet (17.68 meters) Tuesday afternoon, according to the weather service.

In the city of Conroe, just north of Houston, rescuers drove boats into neighborhood subdivisions to rescue people and pets from their homes, then carrying them from the boats to higher ground. In nearby Livingston, neighborhoods were flooded, with water rising to the windshields of moving vans and above the bottom of windows of some buildings.

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.

The greater Houston area covers about 10,000 square miles — a footprint slightly bigger than New Jersey. It is crisscrossed by about 1,700 miles (2,736 kilometers) of channels, creeks and bayous that drain into the Gulf of Mexico, about 50 miles (about 80 kilometers) to the southeast from downtown.

The city's system of bayous and reservoirs was built to drain heavy rains. But engineering initially designed nearly 100 years ago has struggled to keep up with the city’s growth and bigger storms.

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Associated Press reporters Ken Miller in Edmond, Oklahoma, and Jim Vertuno in Austin, and Valerie Gonzalez in McAllen, Texas, contributed to this report.

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A man carries his dogs rescued by boat from his home by Caney Creek Fire and Rescue on River Plantation Drive, Friday, May 3, 2024, in Conroe, Texas. Torrential rain is inundating southeastern Texas, forcing schools to cancel classes and closing numerous highways around Houston. (Jason Fochtman/Houston Chronicle via AP)

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A helicopter flies above the San Jacinto River, which rose out of its banks in the aftermath of a severe storm, Thursday, May 2, 2024, in Conroe, Texas. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

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Family members survey the damage after a tree fell on the home of Monica Ramirez during a severe storm, Thursday, May 2, 2024, in Spring, Texas. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

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A pickup truck maneuvers a residential street filled with water in Woodloch, Texas, subdivision near The Woodlands as floodwaters rise Friday, May 3, 2024. Torrential rain is inundating southeastern Texas, forcing schools to cancel classes and closing numerous highways around Houston. (Kirk Sides/Houston Chronicle via AP)

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A woman is rescued by airboat from her home by Montgomery County Sheriff's Office deputies on River Plantation Drive, Friday, May 3, 2024, in Conroe, Texas. Torrential rain is inundating southeastern Texas, forcing schools to cancel classes and closing numerous highways around Houston. (Jason Fochtman/Houston Chronicle via AP)

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Emergency workers with Caney Creek Fire and Rescue carry a dog from a flooded area in the River Plantation area of Conroe, Texas Friday, May 3, 2024. (Jason Fochtman/Houston Chronicle via AP)/

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A child in a car seat is taken out of a boat as residents are evacuated by boat from their homes by Montgomery County Sheriff's Office deputies, Friday, May 3, 2024, in Conroe, Texas. Torrential rain is inundating southeastern Texas, forcing schools to cancel classes and closing numerous highways around Houston. (Jason Fochtman/Houston Chronicle via AP)

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A woman is handed her child after being evacuated by boat from her homes with the help of deputies with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, Friday, May 3, 2024, in Conroe, Texas. Torrential rain is inundating southeastern Texas, forcing schools to cancel classes and closing numerous highways around Houston. (Jason Fochtman/Houston Chronicle via AP)

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A woman reacts as she and others are evacuated by boat from their homes by Montgomery County Sheriff's Office deputies, Friday, May 3, 2024, in Conroe, Texas. Torrential rain is inundating southeastern Texas, forcing schools to cancel classes and closing numerous highways around Houston. (Jason Fochtman/Houston Chronicle via AP)

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