June 20, 2006
Rain, rain, go away

I know y'all don't come here for weather reports, but I've got to say "Enough already!"

Houston escaped the heaviest rains overnight, but forecasters warned this morning that the ingredients for violent thunderstorms remained in the area.

Shortly before 5 a.m. some major rain-producing storms formed along a line just east of Houston, from Clear Lake to downtown, over the same area where Monday morning's storms were the worst.

"For Eastern Houston that's not a good thing at all," said Patrick Blood, a forecaster at the Houston Galveston office of the National Weather Service.

The good news, Blood said, is that the storms appear to be moving and not stalling over a single area to provide significant localized flooding.

Prior to these storms, eastern Houston received only a tenth of an inch overnight. The heaviest rains in Harris County fell to the north, where Kingwood received about 2 inches. The Woodlands received about 1 inch of rain.

Forecasters still believe the storms could produce significant rainfall in the Houston area this morning, but downgraded their expectations from isolated totals of up to 10 inches to 3 to 4 inches. About 1 inch should fall over the area between now and noon, Blood said. A flash flood warning remains in effect for Harris County until 7 a.m.

Cripes. And to think we were worried about drought conditions earlier this year. (Some parts of Texas still are.)

At least one good thing has come out of all this.

It was hardly a dry run, but Monday's heavy rain gave local emergency officials practice in a real and dangerous weather event — though one less widespread and destructive than a hurricane.

At the Houston Emergency Center, for example, officials recorded 38 percent more emergency calls than typical for a Monday morning, many of them from motorists stranded by high water.

The center, which dispatches the city's police, fire and emergency medical service, took about 7,500 calls from midnight to 2 p.m., up by almost 2,100 over an average Monday volume for that time period.

HEC spokesman Joe Laud said the center handled the increased volume, which spiked around 7 a.m., even though some employees couldn't get to the North Shepherd facility for the morning shift change.

The situation, and the improvisation it required, should help the center's workers keep a cool head later, he said.

"There are lessons learned," he said. "We see situations like this as helping us in the future."

He added, "It was stressful, but the personnel did a great job."

Kudos to them all. May today be more restful. And may no one utter the words Tropical Storm Allison again any time soon.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 20, 2006 to Elsewhere in Houston | TrackBack

It appears that at least HISD remains unprepared for a serious flood emergency. I understand that this storm came on quickly, but surely someone should have thought about moving all those school buses and police cars to high ground. We have to do better.

Posted by: Dennis on June 20, 2006 8:00 AM

Harris County Government's job is to ensure the safety of its citizens. Looks like the County is doing a better job with the War on Terror than they are with rain.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on June 20, 2006 1:09 PM