On the third day, Imelda became a disaster.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday declared a state of disaster in Galveston County and 12 other counties in southeast Texas as the storm continued to pour rain down on tens of thousands of people.
Galveston County Judge Mark Henry also declared a disaster, as thousands of people on Bolivar Peninsula were without power and water on Thursday evening. The services might not be restored for days, officials said.
In Galveston County, Thursday’s weather was largely similar to Wednesday’s. Rain combined to flood streets and highway feeder roads around the county, with the biggest interruptions happening on Galveston Island.
A powerful, possibly final, line of storms moved south across the county between noon and 4 p.m. On the island, water topped curbs in some areas, including on The Strand and around Ball High School, 4115 Ave. O. Some downtown businesses reported water in their buildings.
Still, islanders accustomed to street flooding took the storm in stride.
Residents of the Eibands Luxury Condos, 2207 Postoffice St., gathered in front of their building under an awning Thursday afternoon to watch the rain fill up the street.
“We’re standing out here because we’re bored,” resident James Temple said.
Johnny Lidstone stood in the Frost Bank parking garage at the corner of 22nd and Market streets, watching water fill the garage’s bottom floor.
A Frost Bank employee, Lidstone was waiting Thursday afternoon for a coworker’s boyfriend to pick him and other employees up in a truck and take them to higher ground.
He pointed to the knee-deep water on 22nd Street.
“It wasn’t this bad in Harvey,” Lidstone said. “I’ve never seen it this high.”
It took about two hours for water on The Strand to reach the sidewalks, said resident Kathy Bass, who lives on the second floor of an apartment on The Strand.
At 3:30 p.m., a picture she had taken two hours before showed a relatively clear street.
“If it gets up here to our loft, bring up the ark,” Bass said.
Trash cans floated along The Strand and lapped up against the sandbags piled in front of business doors.
When most of the county awoke Thursday morning, it appeared Imelda’s threat had passed. While some had worried about night-time rainstorms on Wednesday evening, none had come — and forecasts showed most of the rain would fall north of the county.
Some school districts including Galveston, Texas City and Santa Fe, had decided to cancel Thursday classes, citing ominous Thursday forecasts.
Others chose to open schools, only to find themselves releasing students early because of a sudden shift in forecasts.
“The weather service from Harris County anticipated the storm would stay to the north of us during the 3 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. call,” said Clear Creek Independent School District spokeswoman Elaina Polsen, referring to regular weather updates school districts received from forecasters. “As the weather conditions deteriorated, the school district felt it was most prudent to release early.”
Clear Creek began sending its students home just before noon. Some parents reported an orderly, if wet and nervous process to get their students out of schools and back home.
“The staff was really impressive,” said Jamie Martinez, a west League City resident her elementary-school aged son on Thursday. “They were very smooth about it, they did a very good job.”
Martinez, who called herself a “weather fanatic,” said parents were tense while picking up their students, though there didn’t seem to be any anger about the short-notice cancellations.
“I believed when I went to bed last night that the worst of it was over, I was pretty sure that school was going to be in session,” she said.
She started planning to pick up her children when she saw the city of Houston cancel its bus service, she said.
BOLIVAR WITHOUT POWER
Galveston County was spared the worst of Imelda’s rains, but its neighbors were not as lucky.
The worst flooding from the storm occurred in Jefferson and Chambers counties. In Winnie, an unincorporated community in Chambers county, there were reports of as much as 40 inches of rain over 24 hours.
The rain totals there surpassed the amounts that fell there during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
In comparison, Galveston saw about 15 inches of rain over the course of 48 hours.
The flooding in points north of Galveston County caused some disruptions locally.
More than 5,000 homes and businesses on Bolivar Peninsula lost power around 2 a.m. Thursday morning. The power was not restored by Thursday afternoon, and Entergy Texas, which supplies power to the area, and to most of the hardest hit areas of southeast Texas, could not provide an estimate on when power would be restored.
The flooding also knocked the Winnie water treatment plant that supplies water to the peninsula offline.
Without the treatment plant, the peninsula has a two-day supply of water, Galveston County spokesman Zach Davidson said.
Late Thursday, the county was preparing its own disaster declaration and making plans to supply help to the peninsula, he said. The peninsula’s utility district declared water restrictions and was setting up cooling stations at peninsula fire stations, Davidson said.
Late Thursday, Entergy Texas estimated that power would be restored by 8 p.m. on Saturday evening.