June 19, 2006

Heavy rains trigger flash floods in Houston

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Heavy rains sparked flash flooding
across Houston on Monday, forcing some residents onto rooftops
as emergency crews rescued others stranded in homes on the
city's south side.

Up to 11 inches of rain fell in parts of the city
overnight, sending the city's bayous over their banks and
closing several major highways, including a key artery running
through Houston's "refinery row."

"We've conducted quite a few rescues from residences,"
Rusty Cornelius, coordinator for Harris County Emergency
Management told Reuters.

A refinery owned by French Total in nearby Port Arthur was
forced to trim operations because of flooding, the company

The city of South Houston had declared a state of
emergency, Cornelius said, and four shelters had been opened to
accommodate residents driven from their homes.

No fatalities have been recorded due to the flooding.

Television news showed footage of several people on the
roof of a building that had flooded, although water levels that
had reached two to three feet on some streets in that area had
started to recede.

Several of the city's waterways were at the top of their
banks, Cornelius said, raising fears that new flooding could
occur in other sections of the city if the storms resume, as
some weather forecasts indicated.

"We could get up to another seven inches of rain before the
end of the day," Cornelius said.

Local utility CenterPoint Energy Inc. said 18,000 customers
lost power overnight as widespread lightning interfered with
power lines. About half those customers were restored by
mid-morning, spokeswoman Alicia Dixon said.

(Additional reporting by Eileen O'Grady)