Flood­wa­ter starts drop­ping as Hous­ton counts cost

Irish Examiner - - World News -

Storm Har­vey’s flood­wa­ters have started drop­ping across much of the Hous­ton area and the sun peeked through thin­ning clouds in the first glim­mer of hope in days for the be­sieged US city.

But the cri­sis is far from over, and the storm has be­gun to give up more of its dead.

The num­ber of con­firmed deaths rose to at least 22 after au­thor­i­ties found the sub­merged van in which six mem­bers of a Hous­ton fam­ily, in­clud­ing four chil­dren, were be­lieved to have died when their ve­hi­cle was swept off a bridge.

The bodies of at least two adults were spot­ted in­side in the murky wa­ter, said au­thor­i­ties.

“Un­for­tu­nately, it seems that our worst thoughts are be­ing re­alised,” said Har­ris County Sheriff Ed Gon­za­lez.

While con­di­tions in Hous­ton ap­peared to im­prove, the dis­as­ter took a turn for the worse along the Texas-Louisiana state line.

The Texas com­mu­ni­ties of Beau­mont and Port Arthur strug­gled with ris­ing flood­wa­ters and worked to evac­u­ate res­i­dents after Har­vey rolled ashore early yes­ter­day for the sec­ond time in six days, hit­ting south-west­ern Louisiana as a trop­i­cal storm with winds of 72km/h and heavy rain.

For much of the rest of the Hous­ton area, fore­cast­ers said the rain is pretty much over and the wa­ter is al­ready back within its chan­nels in some places.

“We have good news,” said Jeff Lind­ner, a me­te­o­rol­o­gist with the Har­ris County Flood Con­trol Dis­trict. “The wa­ter lev­els are go­ing down. And that’s for the first time in sev­eral days.”

Also, the wa­ter in two reser­voirs that pro­tect down­town Hous­ton from flood­ing was likely to crest last evening at lev­els slightly be­low those that were fore­cast, said of­fi­cials.

Nev­er­the­less, many thou­sands of homes in and around the na­tion’s fourth­largest city were still

swamped and could stay that way for days or longer.

Some Hous­ton-area neigh­bour­hoods were still in dan­ger of more flood­ing from a levee breach. And of­fi­cials said emer­gency call cen­tres in the Hous­ton area were still get­ting more than 1,000 calls an hour from peo­ple seek­ing help.

Au­thor­i­ties ex­pect the death toll to rise as the wa­ters re­cede and they are able to take full stock of the de­struc­tion wrought by the hur­ri­cane.

The dead in­clude a man who tried to swim across a flooded road­way, a for­mer foot­ball and track coach in sub­ur­ban Hous­ton, and a woman who died after she and her young daugh­ter were swept into a rainswollen drainage canal in Beau­mont.

The child was res­cued cling­ing to her dead mother, said au­thor­i­ties.

Har­vey it­self was “spin­ning down” and ex­pected to weaken into a trop­i­cal de­pres­sion some­time last night, said Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­tre me­te­o­rol­o­gist Den­nis Felt­gen. A trop­i­cal de­pres­sion has winds of 61km/h or less.

From there, the rem­nants of the hur­ri­cane are ex­pected to move from Louisiana into Mis­sis­sippi, Ten­nessee, and Ken­tucky in the next few days, with flood­ing pos­si­ble in those states.

“Once we get this thing in­land dur­ing the day, it’s the end of the be­gin­ning,” said Mr Felt­gen. “Texas is go­ing to get a chance to fi­nally dry out as this sys­tem pulls out.”

The re­prieve from the rain was wel­come.

Eu­gene Rideaux, a 42year-old me­chanic who showed up at evan­ge­list Joel Os­teen’s huge Lake­wood Church to sort do­na­tions for evac­uees, said he had not been able to work or do much since the storm hit, so he was eager to get out of his dark house and help.

“It’s been so dark for days now, I’m just ready to see some light. Some sun­shine. I’m tired of the dark­ness,” said Mr Rideaux.

“But it’s a tough city, and we’re go­ing to make this into a pos­i­tive and come to­gether.”

When Har­vey paid its re­turn visit to land overnight Tues­day, it hit near Cameron, Louisiana, about 72km from Port Arthur.

Port Arthur found it­self in­creas­ingly iso­lated as flood­wa­ters swamped ma­jor roads out of the city and spilled into a storm shel­ter with about 100 peo­ple in­side. Mo­tiva En­ter­prises closed its re­fin­ery, the largest in the na­tion, be­cause of flood­ing.

Some 13,000 peo­ple have been res­cued in the Hous­ton area, and more than 17,000 have sought refuge in Texas shel­ters. With the wa­ter still high in places and many hard-hit ar­eas still in­ac­ces­si­ble, those num­bers seemed cer­tain to in­crease.

Har­vey ini­tially came ashore as a Cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane in Texas on Fri­day, then ex­e­cuted a U-turn and lin­gered off the coast as a trop­i­cal storm for days, in­un­dat­ing Hous­ton.

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