Drenching rain, which brought flash floods to much of eastern and southern Texas on Sunday and Monday, deluged Houston, killing at least five and leading to scores of water rescues.
Two bodies were found in a vehicle which was spotted on traffic cameras driving around barricades as the driver attempted to navigate a flooded underpass in the city.
Another person, believed to be a contractor with the city’s airport system, was found in a submerged vehicle close to the airport.
A truck driver was also found dead in the cab of his vehicle after being caught in high water on a freeway service road.
The final victim was a man who was found in a submerged vehicle in Waller County. Investigators believe the car was caught up in rushing water, according to the Houston Chronicle.
“This is the most I have ever seen in the state of Texas,” Governor Greg Abbott said of the rescues at a news conference, where he declared a state of disaster in nine Texas counties. He warned that flooding risks would remain for several days.
Abbott also said U.S. Internal Revenue Service officials allowed extensions for taxpayers in flooded areas who missed filing deadlines on Monday.
Dozens of horses were rescued from a flooded stable near Cypress Creek. Television stations filmed some of the animals struggling in neck-high currents before Harris County deputies reached them by boat.
Ed Emmett, the top political official for Harris County, signed a disaster declaration for the county. He told a news conference that 13 creeks and water channels designed for drainage had overflowed, causing floods that blocked roads.
Floods also hit highways running through Houston, including Interstate 10, a major U.S. east-west corridor.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner canceled his State of the City speech planned for Monday, instructing all non-essential city employees to stay home.
“This not the day to be on the roads in the city of Houston,” he said.
The city temporarily turned one shopping mall into an evacuation center.
More than 40,000 customers were without power in the Houston area because of the severe weather, CenterPoint Energy reported.
As of 5 p.m. CDT (2200 GMT), more than 1,200 flights at major airports in Texas were canceled, according to FlightAware.com.
No significant impact was reported for oil fields and the belt of refineries around Galveston Bay.
Energy industry intelligence service Genscape said a gasoline-producing unit was taken out of production at Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s joint-venture Deer Park refinery. It was unclear if weather was a factor in the unit’s shutdown.
The rains were expected to cause rivers to crest later in the week, bringing floods to downstream areas, the weather service said