‘Heart wrenching’ | Gov. Abbott speaks in Conroe after parts of Southeast Texas inundated with floods

The rain has ended and water has started to recede after days of rain caused rivers to go over their banks

CONROE, Texas — Floodwaters in the Houston area and parts of Southeast Texas began to recede on Monday, allowing residents to begin returning to their homes and assess damages after days of heavy rainfall that pummeled the area and led to hundreds of rescues — including people who were stranded on rooftops.

While officials in Harris County, where Houston is located, reported no deaths or major injuries from the flooding, Gov. Greg Abbott said there were at least three deaths in the state. Among those killed was a 4-year-old boy in North Texas who died after riding in a car that was swept away in fast waters.

After days of heavy rainfall in the Houston area and other parts of Southeast Texas, Monday’s weather was dominated by mostly sunny skies and little if any rain.

“We can absolutely see the light at the end of the tunnel, and we’ve made it through the worst of this weather event,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the county’s top elected official, told reporters Monday.

RELATED: Have you been affected by the floods? Here’s what Harris Co. wants you to do with debris

Areas near Lake Livingston, located northeast of Houston, received upwards of 23 inches (58 centimeters) of rain over the past week, National Weather Service meteorologist Jimmy Fowler said. Areas in northeastern Harris County, the nation’s third-largest county, had a range of between 6 inches (15 centimeters) to almost 17 inches (43 centimeters) of rain in that same period.

The governor was in Conroe on Monday to assess the damage from flooding around the Houston area.

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Hidalgo said 233 people and 186 pets had been rescued in Harris County over the last few days. Active rescues stopped Monday, and officials were transitioning from a response phase into recovery mode and cleanup, she said.

Across Texas, more than 600 people were rescued by local and state authorities, Abbott said. A disaster declaration was issued by Abbott for 91 counties impacted by the severe weather.

RELATED: State of Texas wants you to report damage from flooding | In English and Spanish

“It has been heart wrenching to see our fellow Texans be literally inundated with record water fall,” Abbott said.

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While many of the impacted neighborhoods and subdivisions along the San Jacinto River in Harris County were accessible on Monday, others remained cut off by flooded roadways.

“We’re a resilient community. I know we’ll continue to recover from this,” said Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.

At least five school districts around the Houston area were closed on Monday due to the flooding.

Houston is one of the most flood-prone metro areas in the country. Hurricane Harvey in 2017 dumped historic rainfall that flooded thousands of homes and resulted in more than 60,000 rescues.

Most of the city of Houston was not heavily impacted by last week’s rainfall, except for the neighborhood of Kingwood, where some homes and roads flooded.

Abbott said preliminary reports showed at least 800 structures in the state had been damaged. But he expected that number to increase as officials in many impacted communities had not yet begun to assess the destruction.

Various counties and communities north and east of the Houston area on Monday were also transitioning from rescue to recovery.

“I don’t think this is going to be a short term recovery, that’s for sure. It’s going to be a very long term recovery,” said Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy.

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At least 174 water rescues were done in Polk County, where many areas still remained underwater on Monday, Murphy said.

In Walker County, water rescues had stopped, but swift-water rescue teams were checking on residents in about 100 homes who had decided not to evacuate but now couldn’t leave because of high water, said Sherri Pegoda, the county’s deputy emergency management coordinator. The rescue teams were taking food and water to these residents, she said.

“Another week or maybe two before the waters recede enough for them to get out on their own,” Pegoda said.

As he rode a boat through a rural flooded neighborhood in Trinity County on Sunday, Sheriff Woody Wallace said during a Facebook livestream that the residents in his county had “suffered much.”

During the livestream, partially submerged cars and street signs could be seen around Wallace. At one point, a game warden on the boat rescued an armadillo that had been swimming in the flood waters.

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“Poor little thing out here about to drown,” Wallace said, adding they would take the armadillo, which he named Sam, to shore.

In Johnson County, south of Fort Worth, a 4-year-old boy died when he was swept away after the vehicle he was riding in became stuck in swift-moving water near the community of Lillian just before 2 a.m. Sunday, an official said. The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office said the cause of death of the child, who would have turned 5 later this month, was drowning.

Abbott said two other deaths tied to the severe weather were a man in Bosque County who was swept away by rushing waters and a Conroe Police Department officer who died after being injured when a tornado struck his home in Trinity County on April 28.

Murphy said she is tired of dealing with historic weather events, but “whatever happens, whatever Mother Nature sends our way, then we will deal with.”

RELATED: Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo says mandatory evacuation lifted for residents in areas affected by flooding

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