More than 1,000 rescued after Imelda hits Texas with flooding


Six million people are in the path of a Tropical Depression Imelda, a deadly and catastrophic storm. Thirteen counties in southeast Texas are officially disaster zones. The storm exploded ashore and dumped more than 40 inches of rain in some areas and up to a foot more could fall Thursday night.

Imelda also unleashed tornadoes and half a million lightning strikes, including one that killed a man. As buckets of rain poured down Thursday, more than 1,000 people were rescued from flooded homes and roads. Hundreds more are still stranded.

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In Beaumont, Texas, the rain fell quickly, more than three feet in just 24 hours. The heaviest hitting overnight, leaving some with nowhere to go. CBS News correspondent Janet Shamlian was trapped too, as floodwaters rose closer to the hotel where she was staying.

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The storm forced the major highway, I-10, to shut down and drivers were stranded for more than nine hours. First responders were overwhelmed and in the Beaumont area, they lost count after 700 calls for help.

It was the same scene throughout the Houston area. People wading through waist-deep water, cars submerged, the airport shut down, homes surrounded. Two years after Hurricane Harvey drowned southeast Texas, some say Imelda is worse.

“We never flooded before and we had a lot worse rain than this and it has never been this bad,” one person said.

“This is worse than Harvey”

Winnie, Texas, was one of the hardest-hit areas during Hurricane Harvey. CBS News correspondent Mireya Villarreal reports 80% of Winnie is under 43 inches of water and counting. More than 300 people stranded in cars and homes had to be rescued by boats and military trucks. 

CBS News rode along on a rescue mission with Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne. 

“This is worse than Harvey,” he said. “We have homes and businesses and the hospital that never even got water in Harvey, that got flooded in this storm.”

Part of Winnie is known as “Teacherville” because a lot of teachers that work in the area live there. A lot of the homes were flooded out during Hurricane Harvey, and some people just got back in their homes. That includes Gene LeBlanc and his 12-year-old son Adam, who lost almost everything two years ago.

“You would think it would never happen again, you know they say it’ll never happen again, but here we are,” LeBlanc said.