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Imelda Weakens to a Depression After Dumping Rain on Houston

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 9/18/2019 Brian K. Sullivan
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Video by the Associated Press

(Bloomberg) -- Tropical Storm Imelda has weakened after dumping heavy rain on Houston, America’s oil, refining and chemical hub, and is expected to bring “life-threatening” flash floods across the region over the coming days.

The system, located 10 miles north-west of the city, has weakened to a tropical depression and is carrying winds of 35 miles (56 kilometers) per hour, the National Hurricane Center reported at 11 p.m. New York time. It’s expected to bring as much as 18 inches of rain to the Houston area.

While the winds are expected to weaken as it moves inland, the moisture carried from the Gulf of Mexico is forecast to drop 6 to 12 inches of rain. Houston has a history of widespread flooding, with a dozen instances since 2015, including from Hurricane Harvey in 2017, according to the Houston-based Weather Research Center.

“Imelda made landfall before significant strengthening could occur,” Daniel Brown, a senior specialist at the hurricane center wrote in an analysis. “It cannot be stressed enough, however, that the primary threat from Imelda remains very heavy rainfall and life-threatening flash flooding.”

The heavy rain will spread northward into eastern Texas and portions of western Louisiana during the next day or so, Brown said.

The six-month hurricane season, which ends Nov. 30, is in its most active phase, likely lasting through early October. With Imelda, nine storms have been named, with a 10th storm on the cusp that’s now circulating in the central Atlantic. That system has the potential to reach the Bahamas next week, according to the hurricane center.

Since Jan. 1, the amount of rain hitting Houston, the fourth-largest U.S. city, has been a little less than normal, and Texas generally has been gripped by drought. So the expected deluge is somewhat of a turnaround for the region.

In 2017, Hurricane Harvey paralyzed Houston with about 40,000 people forced out of their homes by flooding and 30,000 water rescues occurring during the storm. A record 60.6 inches (153.9 centimeters) fell near Nederland, Texas, about 90 miles east of Houston.

“Imelda won’t be like Harvey,” said Jim Rouiller, chief meteorologist at Energy Weather Group LLC near Philadelphia. Imelda won’t stall out, so this could lessen problems for refineries in the area and it could mean there will be few problems for the Katy and Henry hubs.

Houston bills itself as the energy capital of the world and is home to about 4,600 energy-related firms that employ more than 237,000, according to the Greater Houston Partnership.

Also See: Is wet as bad as windy? A Quicktake

Imelda isn’t the only threat in the Atlantic. A tropical depression in the central Atlantic could become the latest storm menacing the Bahamas next week as Hurricane Jerry with 90 mph winds, the U.S. National Hurricane Center reports.

Two weeks ago, parts of the Bahamas were devastated by 185 mph winds from Hurricane Dorian, killing at least 50 and leveling businesses and homes. Hurricane Humberto brushed past the island nation last week.

Humberto -- which threatened the U.S. East Coast but never moved inland -- is about 405 miles west-southwest of Bermuda and has become a major hurricane, according to the the National Hurricane Center.

In the Pacific, Tropical Storm Lorena, with winds of 45 mph, is bearing down on Mexico’s west coast, including the port city of Manzanillo home to a liquefied natural gas terminal. Tropical storm warnings have been posted.

--With assistance from Ben Sharples.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at bsullivan10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tina Davis at tinadavis@bloomberg.net, Reg Gale, Serene Cheong

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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