That’s the best way to describe the nightmare Houston residents woke up to Tuesday, after over 11 inches of rain fell in some spots overnight and into the next day — inundating byways and highways, slowing first responders, knocking out power and generally bringing the southeast Texas metropolis to a standstill.
Two people in Houston died because of the bad weather in the city, Fire Department Sr. Capt. Ruy Lozano told CNN. That raises the overall death toll from the storm system that’s been ravaging the area as well as parts of northern Mexico to at least 22, according to officials, with a dozen more people still missing.
“We got hammered,” Houston’s emergency management coordinator Rick Flanagan told CNN’s “New Day,” echoing sentiments by many others in the region in recent days. “We had cars that were stranded, mobility was stopped, … signals didn’t work. It was just a madhouse.”
It still is. While the sun made appeared Tuesday, more rain was possible as well, which certainly would only worsen the predictions of minor to moderate flooding in waterways such as the San Jacinto River, Cypress Creek and Greens Bayou.
Even without more rain, some roads in the United States’ seventh-biggest metropolitan area transformed into rivers and lakes. Still, some people drove into high water anyway, because the visibility was so bad, they didn’t know what they were getting into, according to Flanagan.
“We’ve seen flooding before, but not nearly to this extreme,” said Gage Mueller, a Houston resident for the past 40 years and Houston Rockets employee who stayed overnight at the Toyota Center because it wasn’t safe to go home. “It rains and it rains and it rains, and there’s really nowhere for the water to go. … It’s ridiculous.”
Popular student-athlete among victims
Thirteen of those killed were in Mexico, some from a tornado that ripped through the border city of Ciudad Acuña with a ferocity that officials said hasn’t been seen in more than 100 years.
Four more died in Oklahoma, and five in Texas, where a dozen were still missing Tuesday. The Texas five include 59-year-old Richard Ash of Pettibone, who Milam County Sheriff David Greene said was killed by a tornado.
Another victim is Alyssa Renee Ramirez, a star athlete and student council president at Devine High School who died early Sunday while driving home from her senior prom.
“She did the right things,” her aunt Roberta Ramirez told CNN affiliate WOAI. “She called 911. She called her father, but it was just too much and too quick.”
Devine High School seniors will now have to celebrate their graduation on June 5 without her.
But classmates say they’ll remember the 18-year-old Ramirez, an aspiring optometrist, for her positive attitude and magnetic personality.
“Every time you walk by her, she was smiling,” classmate Shay Agbert told WOAI. “Lightened up everybody’s mood.”
Dozen missing in Texas
Ramirez’s funeral will be on Wednesday. Other families, though, can’t even take that step, fearing the worst while hoping for a miracle.
Laura McComb and her two young children are among the missing. They were near Wimberly, about 100 miles northeast of Devine on the other side of San Antonio, when raging floodwater uprooted their vacation cabin, according to CNN affiliate KXAN.
As the home got swept away, McComb was on the phone with her sister.
“We are floating in a house that is now floating down the river,” McComb said, according to her sister. “Call Mom and Dad. I love you, and pray.”
Complicating search efforts: Hays County still has Internet problems, and cell phone networks are overwhelmed.
“People outside our community know more about what’s going on than people inside our community,” San Marcos emergency coordinator Ken Bell said.
Up to 400 homes have washed away in Hays County, not far from the Texas capital of Austin.
“We do have whole streets that have maybe one or two houses left on them,” emergency management coordinator Kharley Smith said. “The rest are just slabs.”
Storm to sock Louisiana, Mississippi
Thing should be getting better in Hays County. The once raging Blanco River that tore through Wimberly has crested. There’s a chance of thunderstorms all week, but nothing along the lines of what happened in the past few days.
Still, while this area’s misery may be winding down, it’s just getting started for others.
The ordeal began Monday night around Houston, holding up thousands who’d just seen their hometown Rockets win in the NBA’s Western Conference semifinals. It extended well into Tuesday, with city schools closed and the Houston Fire Department getting 150 requests for help in one 2-hour period, said Flanagan, the city’s top emergency official.
The National Weather Service’s Houston bureau published a map Tuesday morning showing the torrential rainfall, which went from 2-plus inches in some places over a 24-hour span to more than 10 inches in others just a few miles away.
This same system is moving east, spurring flash flood warnings into Louisiana and watches into Mississippi.
It’s not just the tremendous rate of rainfall that’s a problem, but the fact that it has lingered.
As CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri noted, “This is a long-duration event.”