Major rain and flooding in Houston - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Major rain and flooding in Houston

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - Tropical Storm Erin made landfall Thursday morning and brought rain to the Texas Gulf Coast even as it was downgraded to a tropical depression.

Erin came ashore at Copano Bay, about 25 miles northeast of Corpus Christi.

"We're very fortunate. We're always prepared for the worst and we pray that we're wrong," said Corpus Christi Fire Department Deputy Chief Michael Hernandez. "For the most part it looks like we dodged a bullet."

Though the wind speed dropped to 35 mph, the already sodden corridor between San Antonio and Austin was facing up to 4 inches of rain, with up to 10 inches in some areas, according to the National Weather Service.

The weather service said 33 counties were under a flash flood watch through Friday morning, including the Texas Hill Country, which has been pounded by deadly storms and record rainfall this summer. Rain was supposed to start falling there Thursday afternoon, said Cammye Sims, a weather service meteorologist.

Isolated tornadoes were possible along the middle Texas Gulf Coast on Thursday, the hurricane center said.

Customers not kept away
The storm did not keep customers away from the Bayside Express convenience store in Seadrift, a fishing town 60 miles northeast of Corpus Christi, said clerk Jamie Hartman.

"It's just raining real hard and blowing real hard," she said Thursday morning. "There's not really any flooding, but I've had some people tell me that they saw some trees lifted up."

Erin formed late Tuesday as the fifth depression of the Atlantic hurricane season and was upgraded to a tropical storm Wednesday when its maximum sustained speed hit 40 mph. The threshold for tropical storm status is 39 mph.

"It's not a hurricane. I ain't worried. If they say don't evacuate, I'm not going to worry about it," said Matt Sandlin of Amarillo, who was on a beach near Corpus Christi with his family on Wednesday as the wind whipped up and the horizon darkened with clouds. "Unless I see a shark or whale go flying by, I'm good."

Gov. Rick Perry ordered emergency vehicles and personnel, including National Guard troops, to the Harlingen and Corpus Christi areas.

Flash flooding fears
"Because storms have saturated much of our state this summer, many communities in this storm's projected path are at high risk of dangerous flash flooding," Perry said in a statement.

Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos, the top elected official for the state's southernmost county, urged residents to evacuate trailers and mobile homes on South Padre Island.

Corpus Christi hadn't asked for any evacuations, said Ted Nelson, a city spokesman, and was keeping only a handful of people at the emergency operations center overnight.

Nelson said that with 3½ months left in the Atlantic hurricane season, the incoming storm was "a nice little wake-up call" for people to make sure they are prepared for more severe weather.

Some weren't taking any chances.

"We came out to get as much beach time in as possible," said John Cullison of the Dallas area, who was vacationing with his family and planned to leave southern Texas on Thursday instead of Friday. "After the hurricanes from a few years ago, you have to take it kind of serious."

Record rainfall this year
A series of storms this summer poured record rainfall across Texas and parts of Oklahoma and Kansas, with one July storm dropping 17 inches of rain in 24 hours. Flooding was widespread across all three states. It brought Texas out of drought status for the first time in more than a decade.

At least 16 deaths have been blamed on flooding since mid-June.

Hurricane specialists expect this year's Atlantic hurricane season - June 1 to Nov. 30 -to be busier than average, with as many as 16 tropical storms, nine of them strengthening into hurricanes. Ten tropical storms developed in the Atlantic last year, but only two made landfall in the United States.

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