03 Oct Imelda- Dumped Over 40″ of Rain on Texas
In mid-September, Tropical Depression Imelda did the unthinkable dumping over forty inches of rain in Southeast Texas just to the east of Houston. The water damaged hundreds of homes and over 1,000 people had to be rescued from flooded homes, reminding many of the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey back in 2017.
No one would ever have thought a mere tropical storm could be so terrible. That no one but a number of meteorologists, including Marshall Shepherd. Shortly before Imelda came to visit Southeast Texas, Shepherd wrote an article titled ” A Potentially Nameless Storm Could Cause Major Flooding In Southeast Texas (Sep 16, 2019).” In his article he warned about the potential for significant flooding in the area later in the week.
Shepherd is an atmospheric sciences professor at the University of Georgia. He says he would like to see the phrase, “it’s just a tropical depression” go away. The problem being that we have become so focused on the damage hurricanes can do that we tend to downplay the amount of damage a tropical depression-like Imelda, is capable of doing.
He tweeted, ” Stunning how many people NOT aware of what is going on in SE #Texas/Houston/Beaumont right now w/remnants of #Imelda. Approaching Harvey scale event, but probably doesn’t have national attention because not a major hurricane. “Just a tropical depression”. It was posted on September 19th at 7:42 a.m.
One local meteorologist stated that the good people of Houston “let their guard down” once the initial rains had passed. This led to a mistaken impression that the storm and flooding literally “came out of nowhere.”
In order to determine whether a storm is a tropical depression, a tropical storm, or a hurricane, meteorologists measure its wind speed. To better understand this, consider that all these storms are listed under the umbrella term “tropical storm.” Here’s how the National Weather Service defines the difference:
• Tropical depression – winds under 39 mph
• Tropical storm – winds over 39 mph, but under 74 mph
• Hurricane – winds over 74 mph
This is all well and good, but in recent years this method of determining the threat is being thought of as outmoded. The biggest damage isn’t caused by the winds, no matter how strong they are, it comes from flooding. In fact, according to the National Hurricane Center, surging coastal waters and flooding account for approximately 88% of hurricane-related deaths.
So, what is responsible for the amount of water tropical cyclones bring with them? Climate change is at the heart of it and at the same time, it’s also responsible for causing these storms to stall, inundating any cities, towns, or villages with incredible amounts of water.