‘Catastrophic flooding’ persists even as Houston waterways recede

Flooding in Louisiana from Harvey isn’t expected to be anywhere near the record levels seen in Houston.

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As Tropical Storm Harvey takes aim at southwestern Louisiana, where it is expected to make landfall again Wednesday morning, New Orleans residents are bracing for flooding. (Aug. 29)
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Volunteers and first responders rescue residents from rising floodwaters in Houston on Aug. 29, 2017.(Photo: Scott Clause , The Advertiser, via USA TODAY Network)

HOUSTON — Nearly all waterways in and around the city had crested and floodwaters were slowly receding Wednesday, but the region faced an enormous task to emerge from the devastation of Harvey, which the National Hurricane Center announced Wednesday night was downgraded from a tropical storm to a tropical depression.

The good news on water levels came hours after the storm made a second landfall, slamming coastal Louisiana not far from the Texas border. And although the rain had stopped in Houston, the east Texas city of Port Arthur was hit so hard a shelter was flooded and had be evacuated.

“Our whole city is underwater right now,” Port Arthur Mayor Derrick Freeman, whose own home was swamped by three feet of water, said in a Facebook post Wednesday. The city was pleading for more boats to aid in rescues.

Harvey’s impact was far from over. The storm, which first hit the Texas coast Friday as a strong hurricane, was forecast to drop up to 10 inches of rain on Louisiana before moving on to Arkansas, Tennessee and parts of Missouri. Forecasters warned of possible tornadoes across a wide swath of the Southeast as Harvey rolled inland.

GOOD NEWS for Harris County: almost all watersheds have crested (not rising)! Levels are still have but water is receding! #hounews#harvey

“We are working with the state of Louisiana as the storm moves through their state,” Elaine Duke, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, said at a Washington news conference. She also warned that, despite receding waters in Houston, “catastrophic flooding is likely to persist days after the rain stops.”

The confirmed death toll was in double-digits, including six family members whose bodies were found Wednesday in a van that disappeared in high water three days earlier.

“We are sad to confirm we have retrieved six victims from a van that was submerged in Greens Bayou. #harvey,” the Harris County Sheriff’s Office tweeted.

Authorities were concerned that more bodies would be found when the water recedes.

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Six members of a Houston family, including four children, were found dead Wednesday, still trapped in their van which had fallen into a storm-ravaged bayou after being swept off a bridge. (Aug. 30)
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AccuWeather estimated Harvey’s cost at $160 billion, making it the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history.  AccuWeather president Joel Myers called Harvey a “1,000-year storm” and said parts of Houston will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

More: Harvey to be costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, with an estimated cost of $160 billion

More: Texas mom dies saving her infant daughter during Hurricane Harvey flooding

Some areas near Houston received more than 50 inches of rain, more than the level usually seen in a year. The storm was not expected to bring the devastating flooding seen here to Louisiana and other states, but flash flooding could occur, AccuWeather reported.

FEMA Administrator Brock Long said more than 30,000 people took refuge in more than 200 shelters, large and small, in Texas. About 1,800 evacuees have been moved to hotels and other longer-term housing options, he said.

In Houston, authorities opened two more megashelters — the arena that houses the NBA Rockets and the stadium home of the NFL Texans — after the convention center quickly became packed with almost 9,000 evacuees.

Joel Osteen, pastor of the Lakewood megachurch, and his wife opened the doors of his 16,000-seat arena to evacuees. Osteen was engulfed in a social media controversy after the storm first hit, accused of denying shelter to evacuees.

A link has been posted to your Facebook feed.

One sports site that will be used for its intended purpose is Minute Maid Park. The Houston Astros announced Wednesday that they would return to business on Sunday with a three-game series against the New York Mets.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner imposed a midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew aimed at ensuring that vacant homes and streets would be safe. Turner and Police Chief Art Acevedo have issued stern warnings that looters would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. 

“People were very cooperative last night,” Turner said Wednesday. “The curfew will remain in effect until we get past the situation we are in.”

Tiffany Duron wasn’t convinced. The East Houston resident packed her things and was eager to leave the convention center Wednesday, even though floodwaters had reached her roof line when she and her family fled for the shelter two days earlier.

“They were already breaking into my neighbors'” homes, she said, adding that the looters “are making it worse for everybody.”

A link has been posted to your Facebook feed.

More than 13,000 people have been rescued from flooded homes. Gov. Greg Abbott said another 10,000 National Guard troops from across the nation would be joining the 14,000 already deployed in the region to provide security and aid in rescue efforts. 

Many everyday people have been aiding in those efforts. In West Houston, Joel Moore said he had gone out on search-and-rescue missions with his church, retrieving about a dozen residents. “It’s a constant anxiety and dread,” he said.

Long said that, once the boats are gone, volunteers will be needed to help clean up homes and provide other services for years. Houston’s airports were scheduled to begin limited operations late Wednesday, and some roads were finally clearing — small victories on a long road to recovery.

“This is going to be an incredibly large disaster for the country,” Long said. “The economic cost to measure this disaster, we aren’t going to know the true cost of that for many years.”

Taylor reports for The (Lafayette, La.) Daily Advertiser; Bacon for USA TODAY from McLean, Va. Contributing: Doyle Rice, Rick Jervis, Bart Jansen and Jane Onyanga-Omara, USA TODAY

More: Harvey search and rescue: ‘Constant anxiety and dread’

 

 

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Rescuers had to transport many of the residents at the Gulf Healthcare Center in Port Arthur, Texas in their beds as flood waters rose to catastrophic levels.
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J.J. Watt, defensive end for the Houston Texans, has raised his disaster relief goal to $5 million as donations continue to pour in for what began as a modest fundraising campaign in the wake of devastating flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.
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Six members of a Houston family, including four children, were found dead Wednesday, still trapped in their van which had fallen into a storm-ravaged bayou after being swept off a bridge. (Aug. 30)
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The National Hurricane Center says Harvey should soon slow to a tropical depression. But, the Center says Beaumont, Texas, and Cameron, Louisiana, are “still under the gun” for rain and conditions won’t improve until Wednesday night. (Aug. 30)
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The administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) William “Brock” Long, says federal resources are still in “life-saving, life-sustaining mode,” in response to the massive floods in Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath. (Aug. 30)
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Joel Osteen opened his Houston megachurch to flood victims Tuesday after social media critics slammed the televangelist for not offering to house people in need. Osteen says early in the storm, the church was in danger of flooding. (Aug. 30)
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Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo became tearful when he confirmed the death of Sgt. Steve Perez who drowned in his vehicle when he was trying to report to duty during Tropical Storm Harvey’s catastrophic flooding. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
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Some of the people evacuating or being rescued from the floods in Houston, Texas are gathering at a gas station in northeast Houston. Trucks are bringing the evacuees to the station, and some are going from there to shelters. (Aug. 29)
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An elderly disabled woman and her family were among hundreds of people in and around Houston rescued from the floodwaters left by Hurricane Harvey.

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Volunteers out in force in the flooded roads of Spring, Texas to help rescue residents stranded in their homes after Hurricane Harvey.(Aug. 23)
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The city of Houston is working on opening another “major” shelter for people fleeing flooding from Harvey as the George S. Brown Convention Center reaches capacity. Many evacuees say they left with just the clothes on their backs. (Aug. 28)
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Volunteers out in force in the flooded roads of Spring, Texas to help rescue residents stranded in their homes after Hurricane Harvey. (Aug. 28)
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Per Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ request, President Donald Trump has issued a federal emergency declaration for Louisiana as Harvey dumps heavy bands of rain on the state. (Aug. 28)
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Texas Governor Greg Abbott says he gives the “federal government an A-plus” in their response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. (Aug. 28)
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Houston police Chief Art Acevedo says authorities have rescued 2,000 people from flooding in the city. Acevedo says the city has 185 critical rescue requests still pending as of Monday morning. (Aug. 28)
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The shelter set up inside the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston has already reached half its capacity. (Aug. 28)
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Houston floods spark chaos, much more rain to come
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FEMA Administrator Brock Long warns Harvey’s widespread devastation will be felt for a long time.
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Tropical Storm Harvey sent massive floods through the Houston area Sunday, chasing thousands to rooftops or higher ground and overwhelming rescuers. Federal disaster declarations indicate the storm has so far affected about 6.8 million people. (Aug. 28)
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The U.S. Coast Guard continues to rescue victims in the aftermath of Harvey.

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Rescue scenes played out across the Houston area Sunday as floodwaters inundated the nation’s fourth-largest city following Hurricane Harvey. (Aug. 27)
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City officials in Corpus Christi, Texas are warning residents that approaching Hurricane Harvey ‘is serious’ and they should be prepared for some rough days ahead. (Aug. 25)
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Video shot outside of an apartment complex in Houston, Texas shows the flood waters rising after Hurricane Harvey.

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With time running out, Corpus Christi residents boarded buses to San Antonio Friday, just hours before Hurricane Harvey was expected to make landfall as a Category 3 hurricane. (Aug. 25)
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Desperate Houston flood victims are using Twitter to reach out for help, as many of them are trapped on their roofs with friends and family.

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