Harvey brings catastrophic flooding to Texas: 5 people reported dead

Houston and other parts of southeast Texas are experiencing “catastrophic, life-threatening flooding,” federal officials said Sunday.


By Edgar Walters

Houston and other parts of southeast Texas are experiencing “catastrophic, life-threatening flooding,” federal officials said Sunday, as Harvey, now a slow-moving tropical storm, hovers over the region, dumping rainfall.

At least five people in the Houston area are dead, the Houston Chronicle reported. Across the region, rising waters stranded people in their homes and on rooftops, and entire stretches of freeway were submerged. Officials believed the first fatality to be a woman who was found dead near her car, in which she had likely been trapped during a flood, according to the Washington Post.

“We’re urging people to stay off the streets,” Gary Norman, a spokesman for Houston’s emergency management system, told the Post. “We’re still very much in rescue mode.”

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner wrote on Twitter that Houston 911 was being overwhelmed with calls but was still functional.  

“There are a number of stranded people on our streets calling 911 exhausting needed resources,” he wrote. “You can help by staying off the streets.”

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo told people in flooding areas to consider climbing on top of the roof of their homes.

“Reports of people getting into attic to escape floodwater – do not do so unless you have an ax or means to break through onto your roof,” Acevedo wrote on Twitter.

Between Saturday and Sunday morning, Houston and Galveston received about two feet of measured rainfall, the National Weather Service said. The region is expected to receive up to two more feet of rainfall over the coming days.

“I know for a fact this is the worst flood Houston has ever experienced,” Patrick Blood, a National Weather Service meteorologist, told the Chronicle.

“Worse than Allison,” the 2001 tropical storm that sat over Houston, causing nearly two dozen deaths and extreme flooding, Blood said. “It’s so widespread.”

With emergency resources strapped, social media became a channel where pleas for rescue were issued for those trapped by flood waters that are expected to keep rising. The posts gave glimpses of the unfolding crisis and included exact addresses, names and pictures of southeast Texas’ stranded residents.

One woman asked for help for a 70-year-old man trapped in a one-story house without an attic on S. Braeswood Boulevard in Houston. Another asked for help for a couple and their two cats in Dickinson, Texas.

“Please help if you can or get this information to authorities,” claimed a post from twitter user Alicia Stepp. “The entire street of Colony Creek Drive needs rescue.”

Yet another asked for help for 10 people, 3 dogs and two cats stuck on a roof in Dickinson. One post about a Houston family, which included a sick child, came with a picture of the people standing on their rain-soaked roof.

Harvey made landfall late Friday as a Category 4 hurricane that left one person dead in Rockport and wreaked havoc on buildings along the Texas coast. Over time, as the storm crept inland, its wind speeds diminished and meteorologists downgraded it to a tropical storm. Once inland, the storm slowed to a crawl and dropped hours of torrential rain across southeast Texas, which caused officials to warn of catastrophic flooding for days to come.

At a Sunday press conference, Turner defended his earlier advice encouraging Houstonians not to evacuate.

“You cannot put, in the city of Houston, 2.3 million people on the road,” he said. “That is dangerous.”
Added Turner: “If you think the situation right now is bad — you give an order to evacuate, you create a nightmare."

On Friday, a White House spokeswoman said the president would soon travel to Texas. But by Sunday morning, the president appeared to be delaying the trip, citing a need to stay out of the way as rescue efforts continue.

"I will be going to Texas as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption. The focus must be life and safety," Trump tweeted Sunday morning.

Additional reporting by Abby Livingston and Brandon Formby

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

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