October 28, 2016

Houston schools to reopen Wednesday but flood warnings not yet lifted

Flood waters cover the area of FM 1463 at IH-10 in Fort Bend County

Houston schools will reopen on Wednesday after heavy rains and flooding killed at least six people and forced the cancellation of classes for two days in the country’s fourth most populous city.

Flood waters that had blocked roads to downtown Houston and other main areas of the city have mostly receded, and officials said most people should be able to make it back to work.

The Houston Independent School District, the United States’ seventh largest, said it would reopen, though National Weather Service flash flood watches and flood warnings remain in effect, as more heavy rain was forecast for southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana.

The weather service warned of potentially dangerous flooding near swollen waterways after several inches of rain fell on Tuesday, adding to Monday’s deluge of as much as 18 inches (45 cm) in some areas of Harris County, which includes Houston.

Heavy storms that park atop the city in low winds can overwhelm Houston’s system of drainage channels that move water back to the Gulf via the Houston Ship Channel, particularly if the ground is already saturated.

The city faced similar widespread flooding during a Memorial Day storm last year and Tropical Storm Allison’s torrent in 2001.

All six of those killed since the storms began were found in vehicles caught on flooded roadways, the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences said.

About 183 houses had been damaged, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told a news conference on Tuesday, adding that the city was moving quickly to remove debris and set up shelters, with about 20 inspection teams from City Hall having fanned out.

Fewer than 3,000 customers were without power in the Houston area on Tuesday evening, a sharp decrease from more than 100,000 a day earlier, CenterPoint Energy said.

Texas oil fields and refineries around Galveston Bay were not affected, though a gasoline-making unit at Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s joint-venture Deer Park refinery was shut for up to six weeks, two sources said on Tuesday.

It was not clear if the outage was related to rains, said the sources, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly about refinery operations.

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