Houston Astros fans flee Minute Maid Park as rain pours in

Houston Astros fans flee Minute Maid Park as rain pours in
Houston Astros fans make their way away from a very wet Minute Maid Park, where rain started pouring in through the roof and water gushed up through storm grates. (David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

Early this week, about 1,000 Houston Rockets fans were forced to sleep in the Toyota Center after heavy rain left them stranded at the basketball arena. On Saturday, it was time for Houston Astros fans to feel the force of this week’s storms.

The game was nearing its end in the eighth inning as rain started pouring through the dome-shaped roof of Minute Maid Park.

The Astros were still fighting for a lead over the Chicago White Sox when storms arrived shortly after 4 p.m.

Officials kept the game going and announced that the stadium would stay open for fans to wait out the storm. But then the roof started to leak and, with memories of what happened to Rockets fans Monday still fresh, an exodus began.

“Once the rain started you could see a bunch of people in our section exiting,” said Christina Pavlas, 23, a physical therapist.

The water was at least three inches deep around the concourse as hundreds of people tried to leave the park. Photos sent out on Twitter showed geysers spurting from drains in the ground around the stadium’s edges. Streams spilled through the ceiling and onto fans’ heads.

The field didn’t flood, but some water poured in from overhead.

Pavlas said the rain clearly flustered some White Sox outfielders, who kept shuffling around to avoid it as the Astros scored two runs.

“The entire roof, especially our section, it was like a waterfall,” said Sam Alford, 26, an elementary school gym teacher from nearby Baytown. “We were like, ‘Keep the taps open!”

Alford, who came with Pavlas sporting his Astros jersey, stuck it out to watch the Astros win 3 to 0.

“We finished strong. This is Houston weather,” he said after they had dashed to his truck and prepared to leave.

Scott Bishop, 47, who went to the game with his son, Nathan, said he knew the rain was going to be heavy before heading to the game, but he won tickets at a charity auction and didn’t want them to go to waste.

They decided to play it safe and leave when water started to pour in the stadium. Bishop, a financial planner, said he didn’t want to end up stuck in the park until morning.

Elizabeth Powell, 41, felt it was safe enough to bring her two children to the game from nearby Manvel.

"I didn't think this round of storms would be quite as intense," as those that stranded fans at the Rockets game, she said.

Storms and flooding earlier this week forced the downtown nonprofit where she works to close for a day, and foul weather has been interrupting her son's Little League and her daughter's soccer games.

“This is definitely not the norm," she said as her husband pulled up outside the ballpark in the family truck and their kids clambered in.

Stephanie Jacobs, 48, didn't hesitate to attend the Astros game, even after people got stranded at the Rockets game and more storm warnings followed.

“I'm a native Houstonian, so the rain doesn't scare me,” Jacobs, who works in patient care at a local hospital, said as she stood outside the ballpark under an umbrella.  Thunder sounded in the background. “L.A. has earthquakes. We have rain.”

The rain could last through the night as more storms develop and move toward Houston, said emergency operations center officials. Flash flood warnings are in effect for the city until 7 a.m. Sunday.

As Houston has grown into the nation's fourth-largest city, more people and businesses have moved in, especially downtown, and Jacobs said the infrastructure hasn't kept up.

"The city does need help in the flooded areas,” she said. “We are the Bayou City and we need better drainage."

Jacobs was so unfazed by the rain, she left set on grabbing a bite to eat before heading to work.

"You can't stop living," because of storms, she said.

Charlotte McDougald, 46, didn't really have a choice about going to the ballpark Saturday: She works as a cashier.

She hadn't followed the weather reports, and when she saw dark storm clouds rolling in, her first thought was “it's bad.”

But all the fans on her side of the building stayed, she said.

Afterward, as she waited for a ride outside with other workers, McDougald said she wasn't sure whether her neighborhood had flooded.

“I don't know about over there yet,” she said as lightning illuminated the darkening sky.

McDougald said she would just have to wait and see. She wasn't fazed. Buses were still running on schedule. Water was draining off the streets. She's from New Jersey, but has lived here for more than 16 years.

“I've seen worse,” she said.

Here are some accounts of the flooding from attendees:

Twitter: @mollyhf

Times Staff Writer Katie Shepherd contributed to this report from Los Angeles.