HOUSTON – Luis Robles awakened to a leaky ceiling and floodwaters creeping into his front yard, one of many residents beset by heavy rains that closed highways and flooded parts of Houston and southwest Louisiana.
Robles, who has lived in the southeast Houston home for 13 years, said the flooding was the worst since Tropical Storm Allison came ashore five years ago.
"It's never gotten this high since," he said Monday.
Josh Lichter, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Houston, said the rains were expected to move out of the Houston area by Wednesday.
The National Weather Service blamed a slow-moving low pressure system for dumping up to 10.5 inches of rain in Harris County, especially in Robles' neighborhood, near the city's Hobby Airport.
Robles and his three children donned plastic ponchos and took a morning tour of the flooding. The brown water was waist-deep less than a mile from their home.
Robles took pictures of his children playing in the rain as cars and trucks passed in the background, with water covering their tires.
"It was like a river over there," Robles said.
Gov. Rick Perry planned to be in Houston on Tuesday to get a flooding update.
Flood warnings remained in effect for areas near bayous that run through the east and south portions of Harris County and a flood watch was in effect until Tuesday morning for about a dozen counties in Southeast Texas.
Mayor Bill White said drainage improvements undertaken since Allison's catastrophic damage five years ago are working, and pointed to other areas of the city that were spared in Monday's deluge.
"We live in Houston, Texas, and you can't be surprised at flooding in Houston," White said. "When you have this much rain in a short period of time at a place that's near sea level, then you still have some real risk."
White said the vast majority of an estimated 500 emergency calls to 911 operators were for motorists stranded on flooded roads.
Houston Airport System spokeswoman Marlene McClinton said Hobby Airport did not flood, but the roads around it did, preventing crews from getting to work on time. She said the airport was shut for about 2 1/2 hours, with about 50 arrivals and departures canceled.
In Sulphur, La., emergency crews evacuated 120 patients from Holly Hill Nursing Home, which got anywhere from a few inches to 1 1/2 feet of water after debris from a higher neighborhood clogged a city storm drain near the nursing home's back door.
Nursing home owner Elizabeth Fellows said residents wouldn't be able to return for at least a week and maybe two.
"There's pretty widespread flooding around the parish. A lot of roads are closed," said Dick Gremillion, the Calcasieu Parish emergency preparedness director.