HOUSTON (ICIS)--Heavy rainfall from Imelda drenched southeastern Texas early on Thursday, shutting down some ExxonMobil chemical plants and possibly its refinery in Beaumont and closing the Sabine Ship Channel on the Texas-Louisiana border.
Despite being downgraded to a tropical depression, Imelda continued to dump prolific amounts of rain across east Texas and caused life-threatening flooding, inundating homes and streets and prompting numerous requests for rescue.
Most of the storm’s impact on the Gulf Coast petrochemical industry appeared to be in or near Beaumont, about 85 miles (137 km) east of Houston.
ExxonMobil’s complex in Beaumont has two steam crackers, polyethylene (PE) and aromatics units.
Sources said Interstate Highway 10 was impassable there, with flooding keeping workers away from the ExxonMobil complex.
Lucite has shut down its methyl methacrylate (MMA) plant in Beaumont for safety reasons.
Schools closed in Beaumont.
Beaumont received nearly 2 inches (5cm) of rain in one hour on Wednesday night and has picked up about 18 inches of rain since Wednesday morning, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).
Topping that, a small town near Beaumont, Hamshire, had received over 40 inches of rain as of early Thursday morning, with over 25 inches falling in a 12-hour period.
In Port Arthur, 20 miles east of Beaumont, Total cut coker production at its refinery there because of heavy lightning, a source said.
A flash flood emergency was declared for Beaumont, Port Arthur and some other nearby towns early on Thursday, with the emergency stating that heavy rain was falling on areas that had already received 5-10 inches of rain.
Water rescues and evacuations were reportedly ongoing.
The US Coast Guard (USCG) said response teams were standing by in the Houston area as well as Baton Rouge, Louisiana if needed in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area.
Imelda continued to move north by northwest at 5 mph (7 km/h).
Through Friday, the NWS forecast called for it head closer to the border with southwest Louisiana and dump an additional 5 to 10 inches of rain.
Picture source: NWS
Additional reporting by Amanda Hay, Zachary Moore, Anna Matherne, and Alex Snodgrass