Harvey’s wet wallop heaviest in U.S. history
Weather forecasters say Houston will soon get chance to dry out
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.
Left: Volunteers sort through donated clothing at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
Above: Trucks sit submerged in flood waters caused by tropical storm Harvey.