Tropical Storm Bill charges across Texas

2015-06-17 19:49
Water shoots up between boards on a pier in San Leon, Texas. (Stuart Villanueva, AP)

Water shoots up between boards on a pier in San Leon, Texas. (Stuart Villanueva, AP)

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Houston - Tropical Storm Bill headed further into central Texas with heavy rains and high winds on Wednesday but no serious injuries were reported, relieving officials and residents just three weeks after floods killed about 30 people in the state.

The second named tropical storm of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season made landfall on Tuesday afternoon near the sportfishing town of Matagorda, then lost much of its punch, the US National Weather Service said.

There were no reports of substantial damage, and oilfields in the Gulf of Mexico and near the coast were not impacted by the storm. Refineries and a nuclear power plant, the South Texas Nuclear Generating Station in Bay City, also operated normally.

But about 300 flights were canceled at the two airports serving Houston, the fourth-largest US city, according to tracking service Vessel traffic was also halted in the Houston Ship Channel, the waterway to the biggest US petrochemical port, and the ports of Galveston and Texas City.

"This is a rain event," Houston Mayor Annise Parker said at a news conference. "This is a normal rain event."

High rivers

Despite the weakening storm system, forecasters said tornadoes were possible across much of Texas.

Flash flood watches were issued for six states. The watch area included Houston and central Texas, where floods over Memorial Day weekend last month swept away thousands of vehicles and damaged homes.

The storm was forecast to sweep over the Texas capital of Austin and then drive on to Dallas on Wednesday. It has maximum sustained winds of 70km/h.

Heavy rain had already drenched parts of Texas over the weekend, pushing high rivers closer to overflowing their banks.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm was expected to weaken into a tropical depression overnight, but it could bring up to 20cm of rain to eastern Texas and Oklahoma and up to 10cm to Arkansas and southern Missouri.

Voluntary evacuations were called for some low-lying areas south of Houston.

Flooding could snarl work in onshore oilfields, but producers including EOG Resources and ConocoPhillips said they were unaffected.

More than 45% of US refining capacity and half of natural gas processing capacity sits along the US Gulf Coast.

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