Houston Floods Overnight, Stranding Motorists and Closing Roads

City's worst natural disaster since 2001's Tropical Storm Allison

By Katharine Shilcutt May 26, 2015

The Bayou City earned its nickname yet again overnight as a line of heavy thunderstorms caused Houston's bayous to flood their banks, turning nearby roads into bayous of their own. While the Houston Chronicle's weather guru Eric Berger noted that rainfall levels weren't high enough to push last night's storm into Tropical Storm Allison territory, it felt like deja vu to many of the city's residents, some of whom posted photos on social media that were eerily reminiscent of Allison's destruction. As of this morning, the flooding had reportedly caused two deaths and widespread damage.

The Heights Hike & Bike trail over White Oak Bayou looking towards downtown, with I-45 at a dead stop.

West and southwest Houston were hit the hardest, with Sugar Land receiving over 10 inches of rain, but large sections of the city were inundated, leaving hundreds of motorists stranded on freeways, feeder roads and in flooded neighborhoods. The celebrations had barely subsided in the Toyota Center—the Rockets having defeated the Golden State Warriors in game 4 of the Western Conference finals—when fans were told to stay put in the arena, as nearby roads had become impassable. Hundreds heeded the warning—including Rockets center Dwight Howard, who signed autographs for fans—and remained as late as 5:45 a.m, as CBS Houston reported. Many of those who ventured out found they couldn't go far; photos this morning showed the cluttered aftermath of motorists' failed attempts to flee town on I-45 south. Pictures posted of the devastation caused by Highway 288's flood waters left at least one Instagrammer, Eric Michvel, nearly speechless: "I can't. Oh my goodness."

Houston Avenue at White Oak at 8:30 a.m.; moments later, HPD cruisers blocked off the area to pedestrian traffic.

Elsewhere around town, nearly 60,000 Houstonians were left without power (including KPRC, during portions of its broadcast last night), while most area school districts were either closed for the day or delayed. Underground parking garages in the Galleria left cars totally submerged and lightning strikes caused fires across the city, including a two-alarm blaze that broke out at Country Place Apartments near Memorial Dr. and Dairy Ashford. Homes and businesses across the city suffered major flooding from the massive thunderstorm system, though Houston escaped the catastrophic flooding and tornados that the storm system caused in both Central Texas and Ciudad Acuña, Mexico.

I-45 and I-10 over White Oak Bayou.

Those heading out today should check road closures before leaving; as of this morniong, 43 major roadways remained impassable due to high water. Though more thunderstorms are predicted for this afternoon, they're not expected to stall out over the city, and should hopefully roll in after the bayous have had a chance to empty into the Gulf. In the meantime, it might be a good time to check on your flood insurance policy—if you have one.

The White Oak underpass near I-10.

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