Tropical Storm Imelda Devastates Southeast Texas

Date Posted: 9/20/2019

Tropical Storm Imelda caused major flooding across parts of Southeast Texas. Photos by Shannon Martin.

By Bruce Tomaso

As torrential rains pelted southeast Texas late this week, members of the Texas Conference scrambled to assist those in need.
United Methodist Church officials on the ground said flooding Thursday and Friday caused by rains from Tropical Depression Imelda was in many places worse than that from Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Large areas of southeast Texas were underwater in the wake of Imelda, a catastrophic weather event that inundated hundreds square miles, stranding cars, closing highways, flooding homes killing at least two people. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of emergency for much of southeastern Texas as a result of the storm’s devastating effects.

The National Weather Service in Houston called the storm “one for the record books.” Galveston got 17.77 inches of rain in the past four days. Elsewhere, the deluge was far worse. North Fork Taylors Bayou near Port Arthur recorded an astonishing 43 inches of rain through Friday morning.

“We’ve had reports of at least two churches and two parsonages flooded in Winnie and Vidor,” said the Rev. Alicia Besser, district superintendent for the Southeast District of the Texas Conference, which is headquartered in Beaumont.

Photo by Shannon Martin

“We’ve mobilized volunteer teams to help those stranded or flooded out just as soon as we can reach them,” she said. She added that the conference would assist in finding temporary shelter for those displaced by the catastrophic floods.

She said many of those hardest hit in Beaumont were low-income renters, who have no relief through homeowners’ insurance. “They desperately need help, and they have nowhere to turn for immediate assistance,” she said.

Photo by Shannon Martin

Those wishing to assist in the relief efforts, she said, should consider donating cash or gift cards – to supermarkets such as Kroger or H-E-B or department stores such as Walmart – for distribution to those in need.

Contributions can be made through the Southeast District of the Texas Annual Conference, 701 Calder, Beaumont TX 77701.

Photo by Shannon Martin

The Rev. Kip Gilts, district superintendent of the Central North District based in The Woodlands, said Imelda struck many families previously battered by Hurricane Harvey, as well as homes that escaped damage from the 2017 hurricane.
He reported that hundreds of people were stranded in vehicles and at convenience stores and gas stations along highways, as floods made many roads, including Interstate 10 at many junctures, impassable.


“The. Rain. Keeps. Falling. Praying for so many affected again by this relentless storm,” he wrote in an email to fellow Texas UMC leaders.
The Rev. Kimberly Carney, pastor of Wesley Memorial UMC in Huntsville, said volunteer teams were still “assessing damage from the onslaught and deluge” late Friday to determine where they could be of the greatest assistance.

“Once the storm subsides, we  will begin to reach out for volunteers and donations,” she said.

The pastor added: “For the most part, our churches are OK. But the flooding has been widespread. There are hundreds if not thousands of households that are going to need our help in the coming days.”

Photo by Shannon Martin

The flooding began Thursday and continued into Friday, as Imelda stalled over southeast Texas and unleashed rains of apocalyptic scope.

“What I’m sitting in right now makes Harvey look like a little thunderstorm. It’s dire out here,” Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne told ABC13 in Houston.

“It’s bad,” Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick told The Beaumont Enterprise. “Homes that did not flood in Harvey are flooding now.”