Storm halts flights into Houston, city braces for torrential Imelda rains

All flights into Houston's international airport, one of the busiest in the United States, were halted on Tuesday as Tropical Depression Imelda inundated southeastern Texas with heavy rains and triggered flash flood warnings.

The George Bush Intercontinental Airport tweeted that it was under a "full ground stop" while the National Weather Service said flash flood warnings were in effect for the Houston area through the evening.

The National Hurricane Center forecast that up to 35 inches (89 cm) could fall in some coastal areas, while Energy Texas said over 37,000 people were without power so far. Work at oil refineries southeast of Houston was also slowed or halted.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner asked city residents to avoid roads as Imelda's slow-moving rain bands were expected to hit their peak in the afternoon.

Turner said the city was better prepared to rescue any stranded residents and deal with flooding than when Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017, leading to dozens of deaths in Houston and billions of dollars in damage.

The mayor said that as of mid-morning, a small number of residents had been evacuated because of flooding in northeast Houston.

Related: Tropical Storm Hermine hits Florida

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Tropical Storm Hermine hits Florida, US
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Tropical Storm Hermine hits Florida, US
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 1: In this NOAA handout image, taken by the GOES satellite at 1315 UTC shows Tropical Storm Hermine gathering strength in the Gulf of Mexico just west of Florida on September 1, 2016. According to NOAA's National Hurricane Center, Tropical Storm Hermine is located about 195 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola, Florida and is heading north-northeast at a speed of approximately 12 miles per hour. Hurricane warnings have been issued for parts of Florida's Gulf Coast as Hermine is expected to make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane. (Photo by NOAA via Getty Images)
HOLMES BEACH, FL - SEPTEMBER 1: Residents of the Sandpiper Resort survey the rising water coming from the Gulf of Mexico into their neighborhood as winds and storm surge associated with Tropical Storm Hermine impact the area on September 1, 2016 at in Holmes Beach, Florida. Hurricane warnings have been issued for parts of Florida's Gulf Coast as Hermine is expected to make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
HOLMES BEACH, FL - SEPTEMBER 1: Charlie and Brenda Miller watch an update on the weather as they monitor the seawall outside their home at the Sandpiper Resort as rising water comes from the Gulf of Mexico into their front yard as winds and storm surge associated with Tropical Storm Hermine impact the area on September 1, 2016 at in Holmes Beach, Florida. Hurricane warnings have been issued for parts of Florida's Gulf Coast as Hermine is expected to make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
HOLMES BEACH, FL - SEPTEMBER 1: Doug LeFever inspects the seawall near his home at the Sandpiper Resort as he surveys the rising water coming from the Gulf of Mexico into his neighborhood as winds and storm surge associated with Tropical Storm Hermine impact the area on September 1, 2016 at in Holmes Beach, Florida. Hurricane warnings have been issued for parts of Florida's Gulf Coast as Hermine is expected to make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane(Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 4: High winds from tropical storm Hermine make their way north and effects can be seen as waves crash into shore on September 4, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Hermine made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane but has weakened back to a tropical storm. (Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 4: High winds from tropical storm Hermine make their way north and effects can be seen as waves crash into shore on September 4, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Hermine made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane but has weakened back to a tropical storm. (Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images)
CEDAR KEY, FL - SEPTEMBER 2: Peter Stafani, owner of the Cedar Cove resort, surveys damage to what had been the bar area of his property left behind by the winds and storm surge associated with Hurricane Hermine which made landfall overnight in the area on September 2, 2016 in Cedar Key, Florida. Hermine made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane but has weakened back to a tropical storm. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
CEDAR KEY, FL - SEPTEMBER 2: Photographs and books sit on what is left of the saltwater-soaked drywall inside the bar office area of the Cedar Cove resort after being damaged by the winds and storm surge associated with Hurricane Hermine which made landfall overnight in the area on September 2, 2016 in Cedar Key, Florida. Hermine made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane but has weakened back to a tropical storm. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
CEDAR KEY, FL - SEPTEMBER 2: Saltwater-soaked books are left to dry in the sun in the parking lot of the Cedar Cove resort after being damaged by the winds and storm surge associated with Hurricane Hermine which made landfall overnight in the area on September 2, 2016 in Cedar Key, Florida. Hermine made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane but has weakened back to a tropical storm. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
ALLIGATOR POINT, FL - SEPTEMBER 02: Residents look at Alligator Point road that collapsed during the storm surge from Hurricane Hermine at Alligator Point, Florida on September 2, 2016. Hermine made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane but has weakened back to a tropical storm. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)
PANACEA, FL - SEPTEMBER 02: Maddie Mitchell, 8 years old, walks around her grandfather's pool as a houseboat sits on top of a dock carried there by the storm surge from Hurricane Hermine on September 2, 2016 in Panacea, Florida. Hermine made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane but has weakened back to a tropical storm. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)
ST MARKS, FL - SEPTEMBER 2: Law enforcement officers use an airboat to survey damage around homes from high winds and storm surge associated with Hurricane Hermine which made landfall overnight in the area on September 2, 2016 in St. Marks, Florida. Hermine made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane but has weakened back to a tropical storm. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
ST MARKS, FL - SEPTEMBER 2: A resident surveys damage around his home from high winds and storm surge associated with Hurricane Hermine which made landfall overnight in the area on September 2, 2016 in St. Marks, Florida. Hermine made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane but has weakened back to a tropical storm. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
ST MARKS, FL - SEPTEMBER 2: A resident points back to his home as he speaks with law enforcement officers using an airboat to survey damage around homes from high winds and storm surge associated with Hurricane Hermine which made landfall overnight in the area on September 2, 2016 in St. Marks, Florida. Hermine made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane but has weakened back to a tropical storm. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
ST MARKS, FL - SEPTEMBER 2: Homes sit in several feet of water left behind by the storm surge associated with Hurricane Hermine which made landfall overnight in the area on September 2, 2016 in St. Marks, Florida. Hermine made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane but has weakened back to a tropical storm. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
ST MARKS, FL - SEPTEMBER 2: A resident surveys damage around his home from high winds and storm surge associated with Hurricane Hermine which made landfall overnight in the area on September 2, 2016 in St. Marks, Florida. Hermine made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane but has weakened back to a tropical storm. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
SHELL POINT BEACH, FL - SEPTEMBER 02: A recreational boat is off its mooring after Hurricane Hermaine came ashore on September 2, 2016 in Shell Point Beach, Florida. Hermine made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane but has weakened back to a tropical storm. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)
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Millions of people in and around Houston and nearby western Louisiana were under flash flood watches on Thursday as the National Weather Service predicted a final 4 to 10 inches (10 to 25 cm) of rainfall throughout the day.

The small town of Winnie, about 60 miles (100 km) east of Houston, was badly hit. Officials there evacuated Riceland Hospital and tried to rescue people marooned in their vehicles after roads turned into lakes.

"The community of Winnie is being devastated by rising water," the Chambers County Sheriff's Office said in a statement, advising residents that the Red Cross had opened a shelter and that emergency officials were rescuing people by boat.

Parts of Interstate 10, a major east-west highway, were closed near Winnie.

Imelda made landfall as a tropical storm near Freeport, Texas on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Gary McWilliams in Houston, Jonathan Allen in New York and Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas; Editing by Will Dunham and Steve Orlofsky)

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