Har­vey’s wet wal­lop heav­i­est in U.S. his­tory

Weather fore­cast­ers say Hous­ton will soon get chance to dry out

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS - NO­MAAN MER­CHANT AND JUAN LOZANO

OUSTON — With its flood de­fences strained, the crip­pled city of Hous­ton anx­iously watched dams and lev­ees Tues­day to see if they would hold un­til the rain stops, and me­te­o­rol­o­gists of­fered the first rea­son for hope — a fore­cast with less than an inch of rain and even a chance for sun­shine.

The hu­man toll con­tin­ued to mount, both in deaths and in the ever-swelling num­ber of scared peo­ple made home­less by the cat­a­strophic storm that is now the heav­i­est trop­i­cal down­pour in U.S. his­tory.

The city’s largest shel­ter was over­flow­ing when the mayor an­nounced plans to cre­ate space for thou­sands of ex­tra peo­ple by open­ing two and pos­si­bly three more mega-shel­ters.

“We are not turn­ing any­one away. But it does mean we need to ex­pand our ca­pa­bil­i­ties and our ca­pac­ity,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “Re­lief is com­ing.”

HThe res­cues went on. Fed­eral and lo­cal agen­cies said they had lifted more than 13,000 peo­ple out of the flood wa­ters in the Hous­ton area and sur­round­ing cities and coun­ties. Louisiana’s gover­nor of­fered to take in Har­vey vic­tims from Texas, and tel­e­van­ge­list Joel Os­teen opened his Hous­ton megachurch, a 16,000-seat for­mer arena, after crit­ics blasted him on so­cial me­dia for not act­ing to help fam­i­lies dis­placed by the storm.

Me­te­o­rol­o­gists said the sprawl­ing city would soon get a chance to dry out.

When Har­vey re­turns to land to­day, “it’s the end of the be­gin­ning,” Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter me­te­o­rol­o­gist Den­nis Felt­gen said.

Har­vey will spend much of to­day drop­ping rain on Louisiana be­fore mov­ing on to Arkansas, Ten­nessee and parts of Mis­souri, which could also see flood­ing.

But Felt­gen cau­tioned: “We’re not done with this. There’s still an aw­ful lot of real es­tate and a lot of peo­ple who are go­ing to feel the im­pacts of the storm.”

The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice pre­dicted less of an inch of rain for Hous­ton on to­day and only a 30 per cent chance of show­ers and thun­der­storms for Thurs­day. Fri­day’s fore­cast called for mostly sunny skies with a high near 34 C.

In all, more than 17,000 peo­ple have sought refuge in Texas shel­ters, and that num­ber seemed cer­tain to in­crease in the com­ing days, the Amer­i­can Red Cross said.

The city’s largest shel­ter, the George R. Brown Con­ven­tion Cen­ter, held more than 9,000 peo­ple, al­most twice the num­ber of­fi­cials orig­i­nally planned to house there. The crowds in­cluded many from out­side Hous­ton.

By the end of the day, the Toy­ota Cen­ter, home of the NBA’s Rock­ets, had be­gun ac­cept­ing peo­ple who could not find space at the con­ven­tion cen­tre.

The city has asked the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency for more sup­plies, in­clud­ing cots and food, for an ad­di­tional 10,000 peo­ple, said the mayor, who hoped to get the sup­plies no later than to­day.

Four days after the storm rav­aged the Texas coast­line as a hur­ri­cane, au­thor­i­ties and fam­ily mem­bers have re­ported more than a dozen deaths from Har­vey. They in­clude a woman killed when heavy rain sent a large oak tree crash­ing onto her trailer and an­other woman who ap­par­ently drowned after her ve­hi­cle was swept off a bridge.

Six mem­bers of a fam­ily were feared dead after their van sank into Greens Bayou in the com­mu­nity of East Hous­ton. A Hous­ton ho­tel said one of its em­ploy­ees dis­ap­peared while help­ing about 100 guests and work­ers evac­u­ate the build­ing.

Hous­ton po­lice con­firmed that a 60-year-old of­fi­cer drowned in his pa­trol car after he be­came trapped in high wa­ter while driv­ing to work. Sgt. Steve Perez had been with the force for 34 years.

Au­thor­i­ties ac­knowl­edge that fa­tal­i­ties from Har­vey could soar once the flood wa­ters start to re­cede from one of Amer­ica’s most sprawl­ing metropoli­tan cen­tres.

The storm con­tin­ued to take a toll even as the weather out­look im­proved slightly.

A pair of 70-year-old reser­voir dams that pro­tect down­town Hous­ton and a levee in a sub­ur­ban sub­di­vi­sion be­gan over­flow­ing Tues­day, adding to the ris­ing flood wa­ters from Har­vey that have crip­pled the area after five con­sec­u­tive days of rain that set a new con­ti­nen­tal U.S. record for rain­fall for a trop­i­cal sys­tem.

The dis­as­ter is un­fold­ing on an epic scale, with the na­tion’s fourth-largest city mostly par­a­lyzed by the storm that ar­rived as a Cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane and then parked over the Gulf Coast. The Hous­ton metro area cov­ers about 25,900 square kilo­me­tres, an area slightly big­ger than New Jersey.

EL­IZ­A­BETH CON­LEY / HOUS­TON CHRON­I­CLE

Left: Vol­un­teers sort through do­nated cloth­ing at the George R. Brown Con­ven­tion Cen­ter.

MICHAEL CIA­GLO / HOUS­TON CHRON­I­CLE

Above: Trucks sit sub­merged in flood wa­ters caused by trop­i­cal storm Har­vey.

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