Port Neches escapes brunt of Tropical Storm Imelda

Published 12:27 am Saturday, September 21, 2019

PORT NECHES — Port Neches was one of the lucky few in Jefferson County and beyond that wasn’t heavily impacted by the arrival of Tropical Storm Imelda late Wednesday night.

The storm, which battered Southeast Texas with 40+ inches of rain across a three-day period, had mercy on a small community that was not so lucky two years ago during Hurricane Harvey.

Taylor Shelton, Port Neches director of public works, said he was happy that the city avoided most of the damages and severe flooding.

“Once our systems caught up, we did quite well,” Shelton said. “We want to go back and look at those areas where we had flooding to make sure it was just due to the intensity of the rain and make sure there were no blockages causing it.”

Shelton said the rain was even throughout the area and only a small handful of homes held water.

Port Neches received around 22 inches of rain spread out from Wednesday to Friday, but first responders did not have to perform any rescues or evacuations.

“We expected some street flooding,” Port Neches Police Chief Paul Lemoine said. “We got what we expected but we didn’t realize it was going to be that bad elsewhere. We expected 8 to 10 inches across the period, but when we got hit early on all at once we did have some houses that had some water.”

Lemoine said while the city did experience scattered power outages, the department’s biggest issue during the downpour was keeping the streets safe.

“With the power being out we had to put some temporary stop signs out and with the flooded streets at the same time, it all caused a lot of issues with people that were out on the road,” he said. “For a few hours we were busy with that issue, but by noon we were done with that activity, the water receded and the roads were opened again.”

Once the city was stabilized, Lemoine said they received a call from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office to assist in high water rescues in Fannett. Port Neches acquired a rescue boat after Hurricane Harvey and set out to assist the areas in need.

“We were there all afternoon,” Lemoine said. “We were stabilized here and they needed our help out there.

“We all band together no matter what. When Harvey hit we had all kinds of volunteers and agencies that helped us out. That’s how it works. That’s what we do. They do it for us and we do it for them — all without asking.”

Julie Gauthier, assistant superintendent for Port Neches ISD, said some schools experienced slight flooding and electricity issues that prompted closures Thursday and Friday.

“We did have several electricity issues in Port Neches campuses,” she said. “It was the overall power in the area. It kept going on and off. We didn’t have the time of day to make sure it was safe for kids, so we thought it was best to keep the schools closed until Monday.”

Gauthier said a few Groves’ campuses sustained water but PNGISD maintenance and staff were able to prevent any severe damage.

“Our maintenance department continues to work around the clock,” she said. “They were all there on staff 24/7 and they did a great job making sure our schools were safe and ready for students.”

Gauthier said she is glad that Port Neches wasn’t severely affected and they can continue with their normal operations next week.

“We did a roll call of staff and students, but we didn’t have near the numbers of employees that we had affected in Harvey,” she said. “We’re glad our schools are OK and we will be back in class on Monday.”