Southeast Texas is bracing for a long recovery, after tropical depression Imelda brought heavy rains and severe flooding not seen since Hurricane Harvey. Cities are now submerged under water and some areas are seeing upwards of five feet of rain. At least two deaths have been blamed on the storm, and crews performed more than 1,000 fire rescues – but police and fire rescue teams also had to rely on good-hearted citizens to help others escape danger.
Just north of Houston in Aldine, high school football player Jayden Payne jumped into a car to help save a woman and her toddler after she drove her SUV into a ditch with about 15 feet of water. "I put her on the side of the grass and she put her baby on the grass," Payne recalled. "She just told me, she was like, 'You're my guardian angel.'"
And when one tractor trailer driver steered onto a flooded street and the cab of his truck inundated with water up to the windshield, onlookers jumped onto the top of the trucks and used a rope and hammer to save his life.
Overnight, the Houston Fire Department performed over 100 high water rescues and put out five fires. The devastation was reminiscent of some of the worst storms in U.S. history.
The storm is nearing the top 4 for the most rain in a U.S. mainland tropical storm to impact Texas. A disaster declaration is up in 13 counties.
"I think it was a lot worse than kinda the general public had anticipated," one volunteer said. In Beaumont, Coast Guard helicopters carried patients one by one to safety after they were caught in the rising floodwaters. In Houston, stranded drivers with their children wearing life jackets were pulled to higher ground. "The fact that there are cars stranded and people are getting high-water rescued, that's never happened in our time we've lived here," one resident said. "Even after Harvey." Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo joined rescue teams searching for people. He waded through chest-high water urging homeowners to evacuate. "We may not be able to come back," he warned.