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Oil Hub Houston Begins Cleanup After Imelda Drops Almost 4 Feet of Rain

By Jeffrey Bair and Brian K. Sullivan

(Bloomberg) Imelda’s rains have largely left Houston, but the city and the surrounding region are reeling from the fallout.

Much of the area remains flooded, with homes and businesses damaged, hundreds of abandoned cars left on highways, water systems compromised and at least two people dead. In Jefferson County, just east of Houston, 43.15 inches (109.6 centimeters) fell, said Lara Pagano, a forecaster at the U.S. Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

The rainstorm is now moving into northeast Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, Pagano said, and will soon begin dissipating. The downpour in the Houston region has been non-stop for three days, reviving memories of Hurricane Harvey’s historic week-long deluge in 2017.

The moisture carried by Imelda from its trip over the Gulf of Mexico makes it “the seventh wettest tropical cyclone in U.S. history and the fourth wettest to impact the state of Texas,” Pagano said.

On Thursday, the rain shut schools, manufacturing plants and tourist sites, along with key oil pipelines and terminals in an area that serves as America’s energy hub.

Exxon Mobil Corp. shut its Beaumont chemical plant, while Valero Energy Corp. and Total SA cut rates at nearby refineries. George Bush International Airport will reopen for Flights Friday afternoon after being closed for much of Thursday.

The Gulf Coast has been prone to widespread, damaging flooding, with a dozen instances since 2015, according to the Weather Research Center. On Thursday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared a “state of disaster” for the region on Thursday, and communities in the regions opened emergency centers for people threatened by flooding in their homes.

“The amount of rainfall will rival records set during Hurricane Harvey, which makes this the second 500-year rainfall within two years,” said Chief Executive Officer Joel N. Myers, of AccuWeather Inc.

In 2017, Hurricane Harvey paralyzed Houston with about 40,000 people forced out of their homes by flooding and 30,000 water rescues occurring during the storm. A record 60.6 inches fell near Nederland, Texas, about 90 miles east of Houston.

Imelda was the ninth named storm this season. The six-month hurricane season, which ends Nov. 30, is in its most active phase, likely lasting through early October.

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