Houston gets break, Har­vey moves on

Con­firmed death toll climbs to 25, in­clud­ing six fam­ily mem­bers

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - NOMAAN MERCHANT AND JUAN LOZANO

HOUSTON — Har­vey’s flood wa­ters started drop­ping across much of the Houston area and the sun came out Wed­nes­day in a glim­mer of hope for the stricken city, even as the storm dou­bled back to­ward land and bat­tered com­mu­ni­ties far­ther east, near the Texas-Louisiana line.

The scope of the devastation wrought by the hur­ri­cane came into sharper fo­cus, mean­while, and the murky green flood wa­ters from the record-break­ing, 120-cen­time­tre del­uge of rain be­gan yield­ing up bod­ies as pre­dicted.

The con­firmed death toll climbed to 25, in­clud­ing six fam­ily mem­bers — four of them chil­dren — whose bod­ies were pulled Wed­nes­day from a van that had been swept off a Houston bridge into a bayou.

Au­thor­i­ties are in­ves­ti­gat­ing at least 17 more deaths to de­ter­mine whether they were storm-re­lated.

“Un­for­tu­nately, it seems that our worst thoughts are be­ing re­al­ized,” Har­ris County Sher­iff Ed Gon­za­lez said af­ter the van was found in three me­tres of muddy wa­ter.

While con­di­tions in the na­tion’s fourth-largest city ap­peared to im­prove, au­thor­i­ties warned that the cri­sis across the re­gion is far from over. The storm, in fact, took a turn for the worse east of Houston, close to the Louisiana line.

Beau­mont and Port Arthur, Texas, strug­gled with ris­ing flood wa­ters and worked to evac­u­ate res­i­dents af­ter Har­vey com­pleted a Uturn in the Gulf of Mex­ico and rolled ashore early Wed­nes­day for the sec­ond time in six days. It hit south­west­ern Louisiana as a trop­i­cal storm with heavy rain and winds of 72 km/h.

Fore­cast­ers pre­dicted that a wob­bling and weak­en­ing Har­vey will be down­graded to a trop­i­cal de­pres­sion late Wed­nes­day or early Thurs­day and com­pletely dis­si­pate within three to four days.

But it still has lots of rain and po­ten­tial dam­age to spread, with 10 to 20 cen­time­tres fore­cast from the Louisiana-Texas line into Ten­nessee and Ken­tucky through Fri­day. Some spots may get as much as 30 cen­time­tres, rais­ing the risk of more flood­ing.

For much of the rest of the Houston area, fore­cast­ers said the rain is pretty much over.

“We have good news,” said Jeff Lind­ner, a me­te­o­rol­o­gist with the Har­ris County Flood Con­trol District. “The wa­ter lev­els are go­ing down.”

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city’s two ma­jor air­ports would be up and run­ning again in the af­ter­noon.

At Her­mann Park, south of down­town, chil­dren glided by in strollers and wag­ons, jog­gers took in mid­day runs and cou­ples walked be­side cas­cad­ing foun­tains and be­neath a sparkling sun. Peo­ple pulled into drive-thru restau­rants and emerged from a store with gro­ceries.

Xyrius Langston, 26, went fish­ing along with sev­eral fam­ily mem­bers at a pond in the Houston sub­urb of Missouri City.

“I’ve been wait­ing to go fish­ing for a while now,” he said. “Once the wa­ter went down this morn­ing, we were out.”

At the same time, many thou­sands of Houston-area homes are un­der wa­ter and could stay that way for days or weeks. And Lind­ner cau­tioned that homes near at least one swollen bayou could still get flooded.

Of­fi­cials said 911 cen­tres in the Houston area are get­ting more than 1,000 calls an hour from peo­ple seek­ing help. About 10,000 more Na­tional Guard troops are be­ing de­ployed to Texas, bring­ing the to­tal to 24,000, Gov. Greg Ab­bot said.

Al­to­gether, more than 1,000 homes in Texas were de­stroyed and close to 50,000 dam­aged, and more than 32,000 peo­ple were in shel­ters across the state, emer­gency of­fi­cials re­ported.

Maricedalia Os­o­rio, who is liv­ing the U.S. with­out per­mis­sion, was stay­ing with her seven chil­dren at a shel­ter set up at Houston’s NRG Cen­ter. She went there only af­ter Houston au­thor­i­ties as­sured her she would not be asked about her im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus.

“They know that we have no house,” she said of her chil­dren, who were wait­ing in line to eat. “I said, ‘We are OK, we are to­gether. We are go­ing to get back ev­ery­thing.’”

Con­firmed deaths from the storm in­clude a mar­ried cou­ple who drowned af­ter their pickup truck was swept away while they were on the phone with a 911 dis­patcher ask­ing for help, of­fi­cials said.

Oth­ers among the dead in­clude a woman whose body was dis­cov­ered float­ing in Beau­mont, a man who tried to swim across a flooded road, and a woman who died af­ter she and her young daugh­ter were swept into a drainage canal in Beau­mont. The child was res­cued cling­ing to her dead mother, au­thor­i­ties said.

JABIN BOTSFORD, THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Glenda Mon­te­lon­geo, Richard Martinez and his two sons are helped out of a boat af­ter be­ing res­cued.

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