'As bad as I've ever seen it': Imelda swamps parts of Texas with more than 3 feet of rain

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The remnants of former Hurricane Imelda moved slowly inland on Thursday, promising more rain and possibly tornadoes after having killed one person and swamping southeastern Texas with rain that was measured in feet.

Imelda, which made landfall as a tropical storm near Freeport, Texas, on Tuesday, remained a major thunderstorm system Thursday evening as it moved northward about halfway between College Station and Waco.

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The National Hurricane Center said the storm could douse far southeast Texas and upper coastal areas with up to 5 inches more inches of rain through Friday — leading to final storm totals of 45 inches in some of the communities that Hurricane Harvey ravaged two years ago.

The National Weather Service said that would make Imelda the fourth-wettest tropical cyclone ever to hit Texas — and the seventh wettest in U.S. history.

Police Lt. Troy Teller, left, Cpl. Jacob Rutherford and Mike Jones pull a boat carrying Anita McFadden and Fred Stewart from their flooded neighborhood in Splendora, Texas, on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019.Brett Coomer / Houston Chronicle via AP

One death attributed to the storm had been confirmed Thursday night. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said Hunter Morrison, 19, was moving his horse from flooded waters to higher ground when an electrical storm hit.

An official cause of death wasn’t reported pending an autopsy, but Morrison’s family said in a statement released through the sheriff’s office that he was electrocuted and drowned.

Some of the rainfall totals were surreal: A National Weather Service gauge at Peach Creek in Montgomery County recorded 21 inches in the 24 hours through midafternoon Thursday. Luce Bayou, on Lake Houston in northeast Harris County, topped 15 inches during the same period, while numerous other communities got 13 or more inches.

George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston recorded more than 9 inches of rain in 24 hours. Officials said crews had rescued more than 1,200 people from rising waters in the Houston area, most of them in eastern Harris County.

“It’s really a miracle that no one died out here considering some of the damage that we’re seeing,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said.

Almost a third of the more than 57,000 customers who remained without power Thursday night were in Harris County, electric utilities reported.

Bush Intercontinental issued a full ground stop late in the morning, before resuming flights with significant delays. Hobby Airport announced shortly after noon that departing flights would be allowed to take off but that arrivals were being turned away.

All bus and rail service was shut down in Houston, the fourth-biggest city in the United States.

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Flood waters forced the hasty evacuation Thursday of Riceland Medical Center in Winnie, about 60 miles east of downtown Houston.

“It’s as bad as I’ve ever seen it. Right now, I’m in an absolute deluge of rain,” Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne said Thursday morning as he took cover under a carport at an auto dealership.

“Right now, as a Texas sheriff, the only thing that I really want is for people to pray that it will quit raining,” he said, adding the town “looks like a lake.”

James Revia, 40, of Hankamer in Chambers County, and his four children were rescued from their flooded trailer park home by a passing fire truck.

Revia, a mobile DJ who owns a lawn service, said he feared that all of his music equipment, which he keeps in his truck, had been lost to floods.

“This storm grew into a tropical depression within four hours. It caught everyone by surprise,” he told NBC News.

Erika Zamora, who was stranded with her five children and her husband inside their home, said the rain was unrelenting in Winnie.

“I opened the door, and the water was to our door,” Zamora said.

A neighbor with a rescue boat fetched them to safety, but the Zamoras said they believed they had lost almost all of their belongings.

“This is my family. These are my kids, and I’m pregnant. It was scary,” Zamora said through tears on Thursday at a school cafeteria-turned-evacuation center.

NBC affiliate KMBT of Beaumont aired video of more than 50 horses being rescued at Cypress Trails Equestrian Center in Humble, about 80 miles west of Beaumont.

WMBT reported that all of the horses were moved to a safe location and that no injuries were immediately reported.

Annie Rose Ramos reported from Houston. Alex Johnson reported from Los Angeles.