More than 3,000 national and state guard troops are being deployed to assist with relief and recovery efforts as the nation’s fourth-largest city and surrounding areas try to cope with Hurricane Harvey, which since has transformed into a storm of historic proportions.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said in a news conference that the perpetual rain and dire flash flooding has produced the strongest storm the state has seen in at least 50 years. He could not confirm death totals nor the number of evacuations, but the National Weather Service reported five deaths. The service issued a statement that the storm was “catastrophic” and “beyond anything experienced.”
By Sunday afternoon, the National Weather Service was predicting that parts of Texas could receive nearly 50 inches of rain, the largest recorded total in the state’s history. Communities in southeastern Texas, already experiencing water so high that it engulfed vehicles up to their car handles, were continually being beaten down by heavy sideways rain.
The flood warnings also came with urgent pleas for residents to be cautious, stay indoors and not attempt to travel flooded roadways. Police and rescue workers implored residents who see floodwaters rising near their homes to make their way to the highest point possible – even if it is a roof – while awaiting rescue. On Saturday night, a woman was found dead by her vehicle, believed to have been trapped during a flood.
More than 66,000 homes were without electricity.The U.S. Coast Guard dispatched five helicopters and Houston is expecting about 40 additional boats to find those in need of help, Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a news conference. He defended the decision not to issue evacuation orders, noting that it would have been a “nightmare” to empty out the population of his city and the county all at once.
By 7 a.m. Central time, the National Weather Service had recorded close to 25 inches of rain in Houston, with an additional three to seven inches expected. Warnings for flash flooding and tornadoes remained in place for a large swath of the state, and storm surges are expected along the coast, bringing flooding to typically dry areas. William H. Hobby Airport was shut down.
President Donald Trump praised the way the city’s officials are handling the flood, tweeting at 8:25 a.m. that “Good news is have great talent on the ground.” He promised to head to Texas “as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption. The focus must be life and safety.”
Trump said in tweets Saturday morning that he is closely monitoring the situation from Camp David, Md., and that federal officials have been on the ground since before the storm hit. He urged residents to “be safe” and pledged a thorough federal response. “We are leaving nothing to chance,” he wrote. “City, State and Federal Govs. working great together!”
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Dylan Baddour, Kevin Sullivan, Wesley Lowery, Robert Samuels