Severe thunderstorms rolled across the Houston area Monday morning, unleashing funnel clouds, hail and heavy rains that soaked much of the city, making roads impassable and stranding drivers.
As of late Monday afternoon, downtown commuters were seeking alternate routes to Interstate 45 North, as Travis and Milan streets were flooded near the freeway entry on the north side of downtown Houston.
KTRK-TV Eyewitness News reported heavy wind damage to homes at Royal Way and Turphin Way in southwest Houston. The station also reported that the Mall of the Mainland shopping center in Texas City was closed after potential tornado damage. Officials at the National Weather Service said the damage would need to be assessed before a tornado touchdown could be officially confirmed.
NWS forecaster Scott Overpeck told CultureMap no other tornadoes have been reported in the area, aside from a Fort Bend sheriff who spotted a funnel cloud in early this morning. Overpeck also reported small hail stones in Fort Bend and Harris counties, with ping pong-sized hail in Wharton County.
"Right now the bayous are doing exactly what their meant to do, which is to move water," said Harris Country Flood Control staff meteorologist Jeff Lindner.
Flooding was the biggest news as bayous struggled to handle the sudden heavy rains in the midst of one of the state's driest periods in recorded history. Flash flood warnings were in effect until the early afternoon for Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, and Harris counties.
Just around the corner from CultureMap Houston headquarters near downtown Houston, a Toyota Camry was stranded in nearly a foot of water under the I-10 overpass at San Jacinto. A tow truck was spotted attempting to approach the flooded vehicle, but the water proved too deep for a possible rescue.
CultureMap readers reported flooded streets in Bellaire, Missouri City and near the University of Houston, among other areas.
Harris County Flood Control, which monitors area water flow on a 24-hour basis, reported that natural and manmade flood measures throughout the area are handling the rains fairly well.
"Right now the bayous are doing exactly what they're meant to do, which is to move water," said Harris Country Flood Control staff meteorologist Jeff Lindner.
"The only problem is at the lower end of Braes Bayou around Lawndale, where we're seeing overbank conditions," he reported, noting that this particular area near the Ship Channel is prone to flooding.
Heavy winds and rain stirred up continued unconfirmed reports on the Internet about flooding at Minute Maid Park and a potential roof leak at Reliant Stadium, which maintained considerable roof damage during Hurricane Ike. But officials at both venues said neither stadium was affected by the rains.
Houston METRO users faced delayed bus service due to flooded streets. Light rail service was limited to the Downtown Transit Center and the Preston Station on Main Street for much of the morning. As of about 2 p.m., METRORail restored full service, although high water continues to disrupt bus routes in some areas.East bound traffic on the Katy Freeway will be diverted onto METRO’s HOV extension until severe roadway flooding is reduced.
Laura Cating of CenterPoint Energy reported power outages to more than 20,000 customers during strong storms in western Harris County just before 11 a.m. CenterPoint will work around the clock until electricity is restored, Cating said, recommending the company's online outage tracker for average wait times.