No matter exactly what path it takes, Tropical Storm Bill is going to cause trouble in Texas this week and maybe longer.
Bill will send flooding rains across the eastern part of the state, including Houston, and probably spread that misery far beyond.
“Given the amount of moisture that is coming this way, the flood threat is going to happen regardless of the development” of the storm, Lance Wood, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Lake City, Texas, said Monday when Bill was still a low-pressure system in the Gulf of Mexico.
While the storm is set to come ashore near Corpus Christi, “we are stressing, do not focus on the path,” said Greg Waller, a service coordination hydrologist with the West Gulf River Forecast Center in Fort Worth, Texas. “The impacts are going to be spread out across Texas.”
The water heading toward Texas and Louisiana comes on the heels of flooding last month that killed at least 31 people in Texas and Oklahoma, according to the Weather Channel.
In Houston, 5 to 8 inches (13 to 20 centimeters) of rain may fall, with some areas possibly getting a foot, Wood said. Across a large part of Texas, 6 to 10 inches may fall.
That water won’t have any place to go. Flood control reservoirs, rivers and bayous are saturated, Waller said.
“There is nothing in the way of storage,” he said.
While the sun has dried out the surface soil, that only goes down a few inches, Waller said.
In May, both Texas and Oklahoma posted their wettest months in 121 years of record-keeping, according to the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina. A record was set in the contiguous 48 states as well, even including droughts in the U.S. West and Northeast.
In Houston, roads were closed and 2,516 homes, as well as 73 commercial buildings, were damaged by floods, according to the Harris County Regional Joint Information Center.
Roads may go underwater again.
Waller said heavy rains falling at night always concern him because people can’t see the water rising and may misjudge its depth.
Small cars will float in 12 inches of water and 2 feet is all that’s needed to sweep away most other kinds of vehicles, the weather service said. Almost half the people killed in floods are in a vehicle.
Waller said the risk, especially along the coast, will linger for a week to 10 days. Rain that collects in waterways will eventually make its way to the Gulf. Liberty, Texas, is still dealing with high water on the Trinity River that flowed down from Dallas and Fort Worth from May’s storms.
“Right now we need to focus; just because it’s not a hurricane doesn’t mean to take your guard down,” Waller said.