Tropical Storm Imelda is a study in how quickly a system in the Gulf of Mexico can intensify.
At 11 a.m., the disturbance that would be Imelda didn’t have a name. By 2 p.m., a named tropical storm had made landfall on the Texas coast just south of Galveston County.
Storms are named based on their wind intensity. Just after noon Tuesday, Imelda had sustained winds of more than 40 mph.
The sudden arrival of a named storm didn’t change the forecasts that were made ahead of Imelda’s formation: consecutive days of rain with up to 12 inches of rain across Galveston County. Some areas could see 18 inches of rain.
It’s not the first time a storm approaching the coast near Galveston has intensified, said Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon. What Imelda did was similar to the ways Hurricane Humberto, in 2007, and Tropical Storm Allison, in 2001, got stronger right before making landfall, he said.
“This has happened before,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “On the coastline, there’s not much topography so the winds don’t slow down much over land.”
Those winds aid in the creation of thunderstorms, which may help strengthen tropical systems, he said.
Imelda’s naming didn’t change much about the storm’s overall forecast, he said. But it might have caused more people to pay more attention to it.
“There’s something about giving it a name that makes it more real,” he said.
A flurry of cancellations followed Imelda’s landfall. The Galveston and High Island school districts, the two local school districts, directly on the coast, canceled classes for Wednesday, as did other private schools and colleges on the island.
On the mainland, schools and other institutions mostly took a wait-and-see approach before announcing closures, as the worst weather wasn’t expected to pass the county until late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
That doesn’t mean that cities weren’t preparing for the worst.
In League City, public works crews spent the day preparing in case the situation worsens, said Sarah Greer Osborne, spokeswoman for the city.
Crews spent early Tuesday inspecting the city’s drainage system, including ditches, gullies, canals and everything else, Greer Osborne said. The crews also were on call to respond to drain blockage reports called in by residents, she said.
City administrators also prepared a generator to send to the Bayridge subdivision if needed and contacted an emergency pump supplier to request an additional pump and generator be placed on hold if needed, Greer Osborne said. Bayridge was one of the League City neighborhoods that received the worst flooding during Hurricane Harvey in 2007.
In Friendswood, at least one resident was taking preparation for the storm into his own hands.
Jeffrey Klima, who owns Eagle Transmission & Automotive, 4542 FM 2351, was telling residents Tuesday afternoon they could feel free to park at his business if they needed a safe place to leave their car.
It’s a practice he began during Hurricane Harvey and has continued for about four separate heavy rainstorms since, he said.
“I’ve got extra parking and it doesn’t really cost me anything extra,” he said.
Klima awoke the Friday morning before Harvey and first thought of the idea, he said. About 11 or 12 people parked their cars through the storm and the cars stayed safe.
“I saw one woman said she lost four cars during Harvey,” he said of people’s emotions Tuesday. “They’re starting to get nervous again. Those feelings don’t go away instantly.”
In Dickinson, DeeDee Martinez of Bayou Lakes said homes in her neighborhood don’t typically take on water, so she’s no more concerned than usual, except for concerns about driving through high water.
“The city has assured they’ll send out notices of flooded roads and where or where not to drive,” Martinez said. Along with using Facebook and the city’s website to pass along emergency information, Dickinson uses the Nextdoor app to inform its residents, Martinez said.
Residents of other neighborhoods that have flooded in the past also were keeping a wary eye on Imelda.
Pamela Bieri’s home on Country Club Drive has flooded several times and she never takes the possibility of excess rain lightly, she said.
“I worry every time it rains,” Bieri said. “We’re stocked up on water and batteries, canned food, all those things for storm season in general and for the expected rain this week.”
Bieri monitors the news and weather forecasts constantly in the event she needs to either get out or hunker down and ride a storm through, she said.
“Lots of people here at work today are trying to get extra work done so they won’t have to drive in through high waters tomorrow,” Bieri said. She planned to take her computer home, just in case, she said.
In Galveston, city officials were preparing to be among the first to feel Imelda’s hardest blow. Officials said they were hoping the rains would fall evenly, instead of in short and intense bursts, so the city’s sea-level drainage systems could keep up with the precipitation.
“If it does like it’s done all day, I think we are in extremely good condition,” Galveston City Manager Brian Maxwell said. “As long as the rain is somewhat measured, we’re able to take it and drain it.”
Still, the city was hosting high-water vehicles from Texas Task Force 1, the state’s urban search and rescue team, just in case the waters rose to dangerous levels.
Reporters Matt DeGrood and Kathryn Eastburn contributed reporting to this article.