'Worse than Harvey' life-threatening flash floods hit Winnie, forcing hospital evacuation

WINNIE, Texas (KTRK) -- A flash flood emergency is unfolding in the Winnie-Stowell area in Chambers County, forcing the local hospital to be evacuated, officials said.

"What I'm sitting in right now makes Harvey look like a little thunderstorm," Sheriff Brian Hawthorne said, adding that Riceland Medical Center took on four to six inches of water.

First responders used a bus to evacuate patients.

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Multiple roads in Winnie are flooded. Officials are warning people not to drive around barricades.

"It's dire out here. I'm fearful for this community right now," Hawthorne said.

Chambers County Emergency Management said that water is in businesses and homes, reminding people that if they do evacuate and go to a shelter, remember to bring their pets, have them on a leash and bring food.

Those who need to can go to a flood shelter at White's Park Community Center at 225 White's Memorial Park Road. A staging area is at East Chambers ISD Dome.

Some of the homes have four to five feet of water inside.

Authorities are using dump trucks and around 12 rescue boats to help people, with a focus first on those with medical needs and the elderly.

Hawthorne estimates 20 percent of the 2500 or so people who live in Winnie have water in their homes.

An ABC13 viewer shared video of what it looked like along I-10 westbound between Beaumont and Winnie.

The freeway is shut down in both directions from FM 365 to SH 73 in parts of Chambers and Jefferson Counties.

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An ABC13 viewer shared video of what it looked like early Thursday morning on I-10 westbound between Beaumont and Winnie.

ABC13 Chief Meteorologist Travis Herzog said overnight that a dangerous thunderstorm produced life-threatening flash flooding, dropping four to six inches of rain per hour in the area, which also saw over 1,000 lightning strikes in just 10 minutes.

Many of the homes being hit were also flooded during Hurricane Harvey just two years ago.

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