Tropical Storm Imelda

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Tropical Storm Imelda
Tropical storm (SSHWS/NWS)
Imelda 2019-09-17 1945Z.jpg
Tropical Storm Imelda just off the coast of Texas on September 17
FormedSeptember 17, 2019
DissipatedSeptember 21, 2019
(Remnant low after September 19)
Highest winds1-minute sustained: 45 mph (75 km/h)
Lowest pressure1003 mbar (hPa); 29.62 inHg
Fatalities6 direct, 1 indirect
Damage$5 billion (2019 USD)
Areas affectedTexas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas
Part of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season

Tropical Storm Imelda was the fifth-wettest tropical cyclone on record in the continental United States, causing devastating and record-breaking floods in southeast Texas. The eleventh tropical cyclone and ninth named storm of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season, Imelda formed out of an upper-level low that developed in the Gulf of Mexico and moved westward. Little development occurred until the system was near the Texas coastline, where it rapidly developed into a tropical storm before moving ashore shortly afterward on September 17. Imelda weakened after landfall, but continued bringing large amounts of flooding rain to Texas and Louisiana, before dissipating on September 21.

Impacts began when Imelda made landfall as a weak tropical storm. The system brought heavy rain and dangerous flooding to parts of southeastern Texas (especially the cities of Galveston and Beaumont) as its motion gradually slowed over land. Dozens of water rescues were needed by September 19 as areas became overwhelmed by the rainfall, with some areas experiencing over 43 inches (1,100 mm) of rain. Total damage is estimated in excess of $5 billion.[1]

Meteorological history[edit]

Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale

On September 14, the National Hurricane Center began monitoring an upper-level low off the west coast of Florida for possible tropical development.[2] During the next several days, the system moved westward across the Gulf of Mexico, though the NHC gave the disturbance only a low chance of development. By September 17, the system had reached the east coast of Texas.[3] Soon afterward, organization in the system rapidly increased, and at 17:00 UTC that day, the system organized into Tropical Depression Eleven, just off the coast of Texas.[4] At 17:45 UTC, an observation deck at Freeport, Texas recorded sustained winds of 40 mph (65 km/h) with gusts of 47 mph (76 km/h), indicating that the depression had strengthened to Tropical Storm Imelda.[5] Shortly thereafter, at 18:30 UTC, Imelda made landfall near Freeport, Texas at peak intensity, with maximum 1-minute sustained winds of 45 mph (65 km/h) and a minimum central pressure of 1,003 millibars (29.6 inHg).[6] Imelda weakened after landfall, becoming a tropical depression at 03:00 UTC on the next day. At that time, the NHC passed on the responsibility for issuing advisories to the Weather Prediction Center (WPC).[7]

Imelda retained status as a tropical depression over land for the next 2 days, gradually weakening and slowing its motion, before degenerating to an remnant low on September 19, as it began passing over Louisiana; Imelda's remnants continued producing heavy rain and a few isolated tornadoes.[8] Imelda's remnants persisted for another couple of days, before dissipating early on September 21.[9]


Aerial view of flooding in Roman Forest, Texas
Wettest tropical cyclones and their remnants in Texas
Highest-known totals
Precipitation Storm Location Ref.
Rank mm in
1 1538.7 60.58 Harvey 2017 Nederland [10]
2 1219.2 48.00 Amelia 1978 Medina [10]
3 1143.0 45.00 Claudette 1979 Alvin coop site [11]
4 1096 43.15 Imelda 2019 Jefferson County [12]
5 1033.3 40.68 Allison 2001 Moore Road Detention Pond [10]
6 1008.6 39.71 September Hurricane 1921 Thrall [13]
7 762.0 30.00 September T.S. 1936 Broome [13]
8 755.9 29.76 Unnamed 1960 Port Lavaca #2 [10]
9 695.5 27.38 Beulah 1967 Pettus [10]
10 688.3 27.10 Alice 1954 Pandale [13]

Throughout the morning of September 19, Imelda caused widespread flooding to southeast Texas and the Houston Area, causing many of the local bayous to overtop their banks and flood residential areas. More than 1,000 people were rescued from floodwaters. All bus and rail services were temporarily shut down in Houston. A roof of a United States Postal Service building collapsed, leaving three people with minor injuries. George Bush Intercontinental Airport closed for about 90 minutes due to flooding on the runways, canceling 655 flights.[14] Over 38 inches (97 cm) of rain fell in Beaumont.[15] 41.81 inches (106.2 cm) inches of rain were reported on I-10 between Winnie and Beaumont, with nearly 30 inches (76 cm) falling in just 12 hours. Rain fell at over 5 inches (13 cm) per hour in several places.[16]

The heaviest rains from Imelda, exceeding 40 in (1,000 mm), were concentrated in a small area in southeastern Texas while lighter rainfall extended to nearby states.

Floodwaters from the swollen Lou's Bayou inundated Huffman on September 20, a day after the rains subsided. At least 50 people required rescue across the community.[17] Throughout Houston, hundreds of homes were affected by flooding and more than 1,600 vehicles were towed. In Harris County alone, 422 people required high-water rescue; the Texas National Guard rescued 130 people.[18] During the flood, nine barges escaped a shipyard, and at least two struck the Interstate 10 bridge over the San Jacinto River, causing visible damage to some of the columns supporting the highway.[19][20] The bridge was subsequently closed to traffic in both directions.[21] As of September 23, damage in Texas were reported to be $3 million.[22] The National Centers for Environmental Information estimated total damage to be in excess of $1 billion.[23] Aon Benfield Analytics estimates total losses to top $2 billion.[24]

A man in a submerged van was pronounced dead, presumably due to drowning, at a local hospital in Houston. Another man was electrocuted by a downed power line and drowned.[25][26][27]


Imelda has broken several rainfall records in the United States, producing over 42 inches (1,100 mm) of rain near Winnie, Texas. Imelda is currently the 7th wettest tropical cyclone to impact the United States, 5th wettest in the contiguous United States and the 4th wettest overall in the U.S state of Texas.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "2010-2019: A landmark decade of U.S. billion-dollar weather and climate disasters". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  2. ^ Jack Beven (September 14, 2019). "Two-Day Graphical Tropical Weather Outlook". Miami, Florida: National Hurricane Center. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  3. ^ Stacy R. Stewart (September 17, 2019). "Two=Day Graphical Tropical Weather Outlook". Miami, Florida: National Hurricane Center. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
  4. ^ Daniel Brown (September 17, 2019). "Tropical Depression Eleven Special Discussion Number 1". Miami, Florida: National Hurricane Center. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
  5. ^ Michael Brennan; Daniel Brown (September 17, 2019). "Tropical Storm Imelda Tropical Cyclone Update". Miami, Florida: National Hurricane Center. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  6. ^ David Zelinsky; Daniel Brown (September 17, 2019). "Tropical Storm Imelda Tropical Cyclone Update". Miami, Florida: National Hurricane Center. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  7. ^ Richard Pasch (September 18, 2019). "Tropical Depression Imelda Discussion Number 3". Miami, Florida: National Hurricane Center. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  8. ^ Gregg Gallina; Frank Pereira (September 19, 2019). "Remnants Of Imelda Advisory Number 10". Weather Prediction Center. Retrieved September 22, 2019.
  9. ^ Peter Mullinax (September 20, 2019). "Storm Summary Number 11 for Heavy Rainfall Associated With Imelda". Weather Prediction Center. Retrieved September 22, 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d e Roth, David M. (October 18, 2017). "Tropical Cyclone Point Maxima". Tropical Cyclone Rainfall Data. United States Weather Prediction Center. Retrieved November 26, 2017.
  11. ^ Roth, David M; Hydrometeorological Prediction Center. "Tropical Storm Claudette". Tropical Cyclone Point Maxima. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
  12. ^ Meg Wagner, Paul P. Murphy, Mike Hayes and Fernando Alfonso III (September 19, 2019). "Serious flooding in Texas". CNN. Retrieved September 19, 2019.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ a b c Schoner, Robert W; Molansky, Sydney; National Hurricane Research Project (1956). Rainfall associated with Hurricanes and other Tropical Disturbances (PDF) (Report). United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
  14. ^ Deerwester, Jayme (September 19, 2019). "Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport reopens: Rains prompt 650+ canceled flights". USA Today. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  15. ^ David K. Li; Annie Rose Ramos (September 19, 2019). "Imelda slams southeast Texas, bringing flash floods and mandatory evacuations". NBC News. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  16. ^ Brian Kahn (September 19, 2019). "Tropical Depression Imelda Has Dumped More Than 40 Inches of Rain on the Texas Gulf Coast". Gizmodo. G/O Media Inc. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  17. ^ "Huffman hit with flooding day after Imelda remnants swept through Houston-area". Fox 26. September 20, 2019. Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  18. ^ James Leggate (September 21, 2019). "Imelda's death toll in Houston rises to 5 as damage assessments begin". Fox Business. Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  19. ^ Brackett, Ron; Childs, Jan Wesner (September 20, 2019). "Barges Hit Bridge on Interstate 10 in Texas; Portions of Roadway Remain Flooded". The Weather Channel. Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  20. ^ FOX 26 Houston staff (September 20, 2019). "Barges strike bridge over San Jacinto River; I-10 shutdown in both directions". KRIV. Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  21. ^ "Interstate 10 bridge near Houston closed after being hit by barges during Imelda". The Associated Press. September 20, 2019. Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  22. ^ "Why can't I sign up for FEMA assistance after Imelda?". 12 News. September 21, 2019. Retrieved September 23, 2019.
  23. ^ "Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters". National Centers for Environmental Information. 2019. Retrieved October 9, 2019.
  24. ^ "Global Catastrophe Recap September 2019" (PDF). Aon Benfield. Retrieved October 10, 2019.
  25. ^ Ron Brackett; Jan Wesner Childs. "Barges Hit Bridge on Interstate 10 in Texas; Portions of Roadway Remain Flooded". The Weather Channel. Web. Retrieved September 20, 2019. Hunter Morrison was electrocuted by a downed power line in nearby floodwaters while he and his father were trying to save one of their horses on their property in Beaumont, Jefferson County Emergency Management confirmed to The Weather Channel.
  26. ^ Ed Gonzalez [@SheriffEd_HCSO] (September 19, 2019). "We're sad to report that an adult occupant, extracted from the submerged van, has been pronounced deceased at the hospital. It remains unknown if the male was the only occupant in the van. #HouNews" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  27. ^ Iracheta, Michelle (September 19, 2019). "2 deaths linked to Imelda as hundreds flooded throughout Southeast Texas". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved September 21, 2019.

External links[edit]