In Hurricane Patricia’s wake, heavy rains move toward Louisiana
Torrential rains pounded southeastern Texas on Sunday as the remnants of Hurricane Patricia converged with a second storm system, but the area that is home to more than six million people and the center of the U.S. refinery industry sustained little damage.
More than 9 inches (23 cm) of rain swelled rivers and flooded roads in parts of the Houston area, but no injuries or deaths were reported as of Sunday morning as flash flood warnings ended and storms targeted southwest Louisiana.
“Expect rain all day, but (the) storm has largely passed with minor problems,” Houston Mayor Annise Parker said on Twitter on Sunday.
Petroleum refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast – more than 40 percent of U.S. capacity – appeared to have survived the storm unscathed.
In the Eagle Ford and Permian Basin oil fields of south and west Texas, firms did not report any major production cuts. While the rains were steady and heavy in Houston, they came after a month-long dry spell so flooding was relatively limited.
Two dozen people died in Texas in a one-week period in May after record rainfall sparked flooding that ripped homes from foundations and swept over vehicles.
The storms over the past two days drenched a large swath from south of Dallas to the southeast coast, triggering flash flooding in Navarro County, about 50 miles (80 km) south of Dallas, on Saturday.
A Union Pacific freight train carrying cement derailed in Navarro County after a creek overflowed, washing out the tracks. Locomotives and rail cars were pushed on their sides, and a two-person crew was forced to swim to safety.
Repair teams cleared the derailed cars by Sunday morning, but they were not expected to be righted for several hours and a locomotive was not seen being moved until later in the day, Union Pacific spokesman Jeff DeGraff said on Sunday afternoon.
Crews began to repair damaged tracks, but water was still rushing over sections. The rail line was not due to reopen until Monday at the earliest, he said.
Navarro County was one of the hardest-hit areas. The tiny town of Powell got 20 inches (50 cm) of rain over 30 hours, said meteorologist Brett Rathbun of Accuweather.
Navarro County Sheriff Elmer Tanner reported dozens of rescues from vehicles, homes and businesses since Friday.
Interstate 45, nearly 300 miles long running from Dallas to Houston to Galveston, was shut down in Navarro on Saturday, then reopened Sunday morning.
In San Antonio, a woman reported her boyfriend being swept into a drainage ditch as he walked his dog early Saturday. Officials said he was considered missing. There were no confirmed deaths reported.
The rain systems were intensified by the remnants of Patricia, which was downgraded to a tropical depression after crashing into Mexico’s west coast on Friday as a powerful hurricane.
The Houston Fire Department responded to 28 water rescue calls from Saturday morning to Sunday morning, Captain Ruy Lozano said. One man sleeping under a bridge was rescued by boat after climbing a tree, he said.
STORM SYSTEM MOVES OVER LOUISIANA
The heaviest band of rain moved over the Gulf of Mexico, triggering coastal flood warnings and flash flood watches in southwest Louisiana, though New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana were soaked by the slow-moving system, the National Weather Service said.
The storm is expected to bring 2.5 inches to 8 inches (8 cm to 20 cm) of more rain as it crosses Louisiana overnight Sunday, said Andy Tingler, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Tides along the southern coast of Louisiana were expected to be a few feet above normal at high tide due in part to sustained winds, likely flooding roads in lower-lying areas, he said.
(Additional reporting by Kathy Finn in New Orleans, Terry Wade in Houston, Lisa Maria Garza in Dallas, Jim Forsyth in San Antonio, Karen Brooks in Austin and Alex Dobuzinskis and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Larry King, Frances Kerry and Jeffrey Benkoe)