HOUSTON – Round after round of rain has pounded parts of the country this week as several quick storms make their way across America, and the parade is not over yet. Forty states in the Lower 48 are in for widespread rain and thunderstorms into the weekend.
On Tuesday, the first of three upper-level chunks of energy stirred up storms in the Houston area. One neighborhood got 4 inches of rain during the thunderstorms, according to the Harris County Flood Warning System. For a while, parts of the city were under a Flash Flood Warning.
Heavy rain from these thunderstorms caught several drivers in Houston off guard. Some roads that feed into major highways through the city were filled with water, making them look more like rivers with cars and trucks swimming upstream. Fire crews were busy with water rescues of drivers in cars that were close to floating.
Roads are designed to be part of Houston's flood control system, collecting the excess water and sending it into drainage systems which eventually empty into the Gulf of Mexico.
No water has entered homes.
Even though Tuesday's rain tapered off, a second round of storms and heavy rain is expected in the Houston area by Wednesday morning. A Flood Watch is in effect for much of Southeast Texas through Wednesday evening.
"This is classic Gulf Coast humidity," said FOX Weather meteorologist Stephen Morgan, reporting from Houston. "It's what so many people say, a truly, ‘Air that you can wear.’"
High temperatures are in the high 70s, while dew points are in the mid-70s.
"And that's going to be one of the culprits for us seeing the rain on Wednesday and into Thursday," he added. "We've had it today, and we're going to have it tomorrow in the Houston area. This is the ‘moderate’ or ‘very likely’ threat, level 3 out of 4, that we have as far as seeing the heavy rain. It's not going to take much to flood some of these areas."
The heavy rains have already led to one death. North of Houston, the saturated ground couldn't hold the supporting roots of a tree on Monday. It fell on a car crushing a woman during heavy rain even before the upper-level disturbance came through.
New Orleans deluge
Texas is not alone. The NWS issued Flood watches and warnings across several states.
New Orleans fire department crews were also busy, deep water trapped drivers on a low lying road. And, the Canal Boulevard underpass took its name too literally.
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Rain stretches into the weekend
The most widespread showers and thunderstorms will set up across the Plains, where the FOX Forecast Center expects widespread 1-3-plus inches of rain this week. Between 3 and 5 inches of rain could fall in portions of Texas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana.
Most of the eastern U.S. will get off easier and see only remnants of each storm system. Less than an inch of rain is expected in most of the region, with the interior Northeast and New England largely escaping the rainfall this week.
More showers and thunderstorms are expected from the Plains to the lower Mississippi Valley and parts of the Southeast. Storms will be more scattered than in other areas of the country but could drop 1 to 2 inches of rain.
The second upper-level chunk of energy moves out of the Rockies on Thursday. It will encounter the steady stream of Gulf moisture and "air you can wear."
"The result will be significant heavy rain across the Northern Plains and Rockies," said the FOX Forecast Center. "Flooding is likely as some areas pick up a months worth of rain in just 2 or 3 days."
Some areas could see 3 to 5 inches of rain in just 24 hours.
The National Weather Service has issued Flood Watches for eastern Montana and parts of northeastern Wyoming from Wednesday evening through late Friday night.
The FOX Forecast Center said deep moisture from the Gulf of Mexico will be pulled north into the southern Plains, and there is a strong signal for potentially significant rainfall of several inches – on top of what has already fallen by then.
Multiple rounds of moderate to locally heavy rain are increasingly likely, raising concerns for additional flash flooding given increasingly saturated ground conditions.
The disturbance is a slow-mover, keeping the chance for heavy rain and flooding into Saturday.
Austin and San Antonio are very likely to see flooding thunderstorms. A likely flood threat extends across much of the state and into central Oklahoma.
Flooding is also possible across the Midwest from Minneapolis to Chicago.