JEFFERSON COUNTY, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – A 19-year-old man drowned and was electrocuted while trying to move his horse to safety during the remnants of Tropical Storm Imelda, according to a message from his family shared by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
Crystal Holmes, a spokeswoman for the department, said the death occurred during a lightning storm.
The Sheriff’s Office identified the victim as Hunter Morrison and shared the statement from his family:
From the family of Hunter Morrison,
Hello everybody. Right now my family and I are going through one of the most horrific times in our lives with losing Hunter. Thank you for all the kind words and phone calls I have received over the past 8 hrs but I do want to clarify something…he wasn’t “saving” people. He was trying to move his horse, got electrocuted, and drowned. I wanted to make that known because I have had news people call me and want the story. I am not upset by any means but I just want the facts to be straight and not give him a sense of false heroism. Thank you for your kind words and if you hear the story being told wrong…please correct them. Thank you
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has received calls from all over the country in reference to the tragic death of young Hunter Morrison. We will let his family’s statement stand. His family asks for privacy while they grieve.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez announced a death near Houston on Thursday as well.
Sheriff Gonzalez says the driver of a van — a man in his 40s or 50s — approached a flooded intersection at U.S. 59 near Bush Intercontinental Airport during the Thursday afternoon rush hour. Despite floodwaters that were 8 feet deep, the driver paused briefly and then accelerated into the water, submerging the van.
Rescue crews came to the scene, removed the man and began resuscitation efforts en route to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Gonzalez says it’s not yet certain that he was the only occupant of the van.
The National Weather Service said radar estimates suggested that Jefferson County was deluged with more than 40 inches of rain in a span of just 72 hours.
Imelda flooded parts of Texas and Louisiana on Thursday, scrambling rescue crews and volunteers with boats to reach scores of stranded drivers and families trapped in their homes during a relentless downpour that drew comparisons to Hurricane Harvey two years ago.
Officials in Harris County, which includes Houston, said there had been a combination of at least 1,000 high-water rescues and evacuations to get people to shelter.
More than 900 flights were canceled or delayed in Houston, and further along the Texas Gulf Coast, authorities warned that a levee could break near Beaumont in Jefferson County.
“The water kept rising. It kept rising. I couldn’t believe it,” said Ruby Trahan Robinson, 63. She uses a wheelchair and had a portable oxygen tank while getting settled into a shelter at city hall in the small town of China, just outside Beaumont.
“It rolled in like a river,” she said.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner evoked the memory of Harvey — which dumped more than 50 inches of rain on the nation’s fourth-largest city in 2017 — while pleading with residents to stay put. City officials said they had received more than 1,500 high-water rescue calls to 911, most from drivers stuck on flooded roads, but authorities described a number of them as people who were inconvenienced and not in immediate danger.
Ahead of the evening rush hour, Houston officials urged commuters to stay in their offices rather than embark on flooded and already jammed highways. Turner made a similar appeal to parents of schoolchildren as the Houston Independent School District — Texas’ largest with more than 200,000 students — did not cancel classes or shorten the day unlike neighboring districts in the path of the storm.
Imelda is the first named storm to impact the Houston area since Harvey hovered for days and inundated the flood-prone Gulf Coast. That storm dumped more than 5 feet (1.5 meters) of water near the Louisiana border, and two years later, it looked in some places like Harvey was playing out all over again.
A massive Houston furniture store became a shelter for evacuees. Live television footage showed firefighters rescuing stranded truckers on major highways. On social media, people posted that water was quickly seeping into their home and asked for help.
Large swaths of Interstate 10 were turned into waterways and closed. And even as the intensity of the storm weakened, Harris County officials warned that some of their 4.7 million residents might not see high waters recede in their neighborhoods until the weekend.
“We’re still putting water on top of water,” said Jeff Linder, meteorologist of the Harris County Flood Control District.
In Winnie, a town of about 3,200 people 60 miles (95 kilometers) east of Houston, a hospital was evacuated. Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne said emergency workers completed more than 300 rescues overnight and some residents were up on their roofs because of rising floodwaters.
During Harvey, Beaumont’s only pump station was swamped by floodwaters, leaving residents without water service for more than a week. The Jefferson County sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post that residents of an area where a levy was deteriorating should use their boats to pick up neighbors and carry them to safety.
Thunderstorms had spawned several weak tornadoes in the Baytown area, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of Houston, damaging trees, barns and sheds and causing minor damage to some homes and vehicles.
The National Hurricane Center said Imelda weakened to a tropical depression after making landfall as a tropical storm Tuesday near Freeport, Texas, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (64 kph).
The flooding from Imelda came as Hurricane Humberto blew off rooftops and toppled trees in the British Atlantic island of Bermuda, and Hurricane Jerry was expected to move to the northern Leeward Islands on Friday and north of Puerto Rico on Saturday.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)