Death Toll Rises to 5 in Texas After Tropical Storm Imelda and Historic Rainfall

Experts warn that parts of northeast Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana may see flash floods as the last leg of the storm moves north

houston flooding
Photo: Thomas B. Shea/Getty

Five people have died as a result of Tropical Storm Imelda, one of the strongest tropical cyclones in U.S. history that submerged the Houston area in torrential rain.

According to multiple reports, all five victims were male and found on either Thursday or Friday.

Officials say that one of the deaths included an unidentified man in his 40s or 50s who drowned on Thursday while driving a van through 8-foot-deep floodwaters near the Bush Intercontinental Airport, NBC reported.

Mark Dukaj, 52, of Florida was also found dead on Thursday in his stranded 2017 Dodge pickup truck on Interstate 10 near Beaumont, according to the Associated Press.

Although floodwaters did seep into Dukaj’s truck, Jefferson County spokeswoman Allison Getz said investigators don’t believe he drowned, the Los Angeles Times reported. Authorities do believe his death was storm-related and are waiting for an autopsy to confirm the cause.

A 19-year-old male, who was trying to move his horse to safety during the storm was electrocuted, died on Thursday as well, according to a message from his family shared by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, according to NBC.

On Friday, two more bodies were found — one of a man found in a ditch north of Houston, Harris County sheriff’s spokesman Jason Spencer said. Authorities said that preliminary investigations show he drowned.

In Beaumont, officials found 47-year-old Malcolm Foster in his 2008 Toyota Prius after waters began to recede from a flooded canal on Friday, according to Beaumont Enterprise.

In addition to the deaths, hundreds of Texans have been displaced from their homes due to the tropical storm, which many compared to that of Hurricane Harvey from two years ago.

“Harvey affected us. We lost the whole first floor,” one resident who was rescued on Friday told the AP. “So, it’s like two years later, we do not want to go through this again.”

The worst of the rainfall — which reached 43.15 inches of rainfall in Jefferson County alone — ended on Thursday, but experts warn that parts of northeast Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana may see flash floods as the last leg of the storm moves north.

Over 900 flights were canceled or delayed in Houston on Thursday, though airports resumed normal operations on Friday. More than 1,650 vehicles were abandoned on Houston area roads and later towed on Friday. Two barges also broke free of their moorings and hit bridges that run over the San Jacinto River.

As the water recedes, officials say they are starting to assess the damage.

“The water is getting lower and it’s time for assessment and to move into recovery,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the county’s top administrator, told the AP.

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