Trump tours disaster zone; Houston imposes overnight curfew
Hurricane Harvey has set what forecasters believe is a new rainfall record for the continental United States, officials said Tuesday. Harvey, swirling for the past few days off Texas and Louisiana — at times as a hurricane and at times a tropical storm — has dumped more than 49 inches (124.5 centimeters) of rain on the region.
CORPUS CHRISTI (AFP) — Hurricane Harvey has set what forecasters believe is a new rainfall record for the continental United States, officials said Tuesday.
Harvey, swirling for the past few days off Texas and Louisiana — at times as a hurricane and at times a tropical storm — has dumped more than 49 inches (124.5 centimeters) of rain on the region.
“The record for total rainfall from a tropical system has been BROKEN!” the National Weather Service Houston announced on Twitter.
President Donald Trump toured the Harvey disaster zone in Texas on Tuesday as he sought to project an image of leadership in America’s first big natural disaster since he took office, as the battered U.S. Gulf Coast girded for another hit from the huge storm.
Four days after Harvey slammed onshore as a Category Four hurricane, turning roads into rivers and neighborhoods into lakes in America’s fourth-largest city, emergency crews still struggled to reach hundreds of stranded people in a massive round-the-clock rescue operation.
Rain and more rain kept falling, with no sign of the nightmare easing. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner declared a nighttime curfew as the city tries to head off looting in the wake of epic flooding from Harvey.
Trump, sporting a “USA” baseball cap and clutching a Texas flag with its trademark lone star, tried to strike a unifying tone as he visited the coastal city of Corpus Christi, praising the work of state and federal officials in responding to the disaster.
“We want to be looked at in five years, in 10 years from now as, this is the way to do it,” he said.
Emerging from a briefing held inside a fire station, Trump climbed up a ladder for an impromptu address to the mix of supporters and banner-waving protesters gathered outside.
“We love you, you are special, we are here to take care of you,” the president called out. “It’s historic, its epic, but I tell you, it happened in Texas — and Texas can handle anything.”
“What a crowd, what a turnout,” Trump added, as if addressing a political rally.
The U.S. leader and First Lady Melania had no plans to visit Houston — swathes of which remain under water — to avoid disrupting recovery efforts.
But the president was nevertheless seeking to make a political statement, learning from the mistakes of former Republican leader George W. Bush, whose response to Hurricane Katrina — which walloped New Orleans exactly 12 years ago — was widely seen as botched.
Harvey, now a tropical storm, has so far driven more than 8,000 people into emergency shelters across the Lone Star State, and hundreds more still await rescue.
“We’re Trumponites. I trust he’s going to take care of us,” said Darla Fitzgerald, a 58-year-old nurse based in a Red Cross shelter in Winnie, a small town east of Houston, where the rain fell heavily Tuesday.
A Houston police officer was confirmed as the latest victim of the storm after the body of Steve Perez, who went missing after reporting for duty in the early hours of Sunday, was recovered by divers two days later.
Harvey was previously known to have left at least three people dead, with six more fatalities potentially tied to the storm, and officials warned the danger has far from passed.
Everywhere, the figures are staggering. The National Weather Service said over six million Texans have been impacted by 30 inches (76 inches) or more of rain since Friday.
Residents living around a chemical plant in the county that includes Houston were evacuated as a precaution, over fears that some of the chemicals at the facility — which produces organic peroxides — might react or cause an explosion.
With neighboring Louisiana squarely in the path of a storm now hovering off the Gulf Coast, Harvey is pressing northeastward and expected to make landfall again late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
Residents of low-lying New Orleans — which bore the brunt of Katrina’s wrath in 2005 — are bracing for up to 10 inches of rain over the next 36 hours, with a risk of flash floods.
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump receive a briefing on Tropical Storm Harvey relief efforts with Texas Governor Greg Abbott, left, in Corpus Christi, Texas, Tuesday. Trump flew into storm-ravaged Texas in a show of solidarity and leadership in the face of the deadly devastation wrought by Harvey — as the battered U.S. Gulf Coast braces for even more torrential rain.