Crippled Hous­ton watches dams, lev­ees; Fore­cast of­fers hope

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HOUS­TON -- With its flood de­fenses 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."

The res­cues went on. Fed­eral and lo­cal agen­cies said they had lifted more than 13,000 peo­ple out of the flood­wa­ters 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 Wed­nes­day, "it's the end of the be­gin­ning," Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter me­te­o­rol­o­gist Den­nis Felt­gen said.

Har­vey will spend much of Wed­nes­day 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 Wed­nes­day and only a 30 per­cent chance of show­ers and thun­der­storms for Thurs­day. Fri­day's fore­cast called for mostly sunny skies with a high near 94.

In all, more than 17,000 peo­ple have sought refuge in Texas shel­ters, and that num­ber seemed cer­tain to in­crease, 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 cen­ter.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Ed­wards said he ex­pected Texas of­fi­cials to de­cide within 48 hours whether to ac­cept his of­fer, which comes as Louisiana deals with its own flood­ing. About 500 peo­ple were evac­u­ated from flooded neigh­bor­hoods in south­west Louisiana, Ed­wards said.

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 Wed­nes­day.

In an ap­par­ent re­sponse to scat­tered re­ports of loot­ing, the mayor also im­posed a cur­few. Po­lice Chief Art Acevedo said vi­o­la­tors would be ques­tioned, searched and ar­rested.

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.

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.

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

Au­thor­i­ties ac­knowl­edge that fa­tal­i­ties from Har­vey could soar once the flood­wa­ters start to re­cede from one of Amer­ica's largest metropoli­tan cen­ters.

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 flood­wa­ters.

En­gi­neers be­gan re­leas­ing water from the Ad­dicks and Barker reser­voirs Mon­day to ease the strain on the dams. But the re­leases were not enough to re­lieve the pres­sure af­ter the re­lent­less down­pours, Army Corps of En­gi­neers of­fi­cials said. Both reser­voirs are at record highs.

The re­lease of the water means that more homes and streets will flood, and some homes will be in­un­dated for up to a month, said Jeff Lin­der of the Har­ris County Flood Con­trol Dis­trict.

Bra­zo­ria County au­thor­i­ties posted a mes­sage on Twit­ter warn­ing that the levee at Columbia Lakes south of Hous­ton had been breached and telling peo­ple to "GET OUT NOW!!" Bra­zo­ria County Judge Matt Sebesta said res­i­dents were warned that the levee would be over­topped at some point, and a manda­tory evac­u­a­tion or­der was given Sun­day.

The levee was later for­ti­fied, but of­fi­cials said they did not know how long the work would hold.

Of­fi­cials in Hous­ton were also keep­ing an eye on infrastructure such as bridges, roads and pipe­lines that are in the path of the flood­wa­ters.

Water in the Hous­ton Ship Chan­nel, one of the na­tion's busiest wa­ter­ways, which serves the Port of Hous­ton and Hous­ton's petro­chem­i­cal com­plex, is at lev­els never seen be­fore, Lin­der said.

The San Jac­into River, which emp­ties into the chan­nel, has pipe­lines and roads and bridges not de­signed for the cur­rent del­uge, Lin­der said, and the chance of infrastructure fail­ures will in­crease the "longer we keep the water in place."

Among the wor­ries is de­bris com­ing down the river and crash­ing into struc­tures and the pos­si­bil­ity that pipe­lines in the riverbed will be scoured by swift cur­rents. In 1994, a pipe­line rup­tured on the river near In­ter­state 10 and caught fire.

Dur­ing a visit to the storm zone, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump kept his dis­tance from the epi­cen­ter of the dam­age in Hous­ton to avoid dis­rupt­ing re­cov­ery op­er­a­tions. But he planned to re­turn to the re­gion Satur­day to meet with some of the vic­tims, press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders said.

Af­ter five con­sec­u­tive days of rain, Har­vey set a new con­ti­nen­tal U.S. record for rain­fall for a trop­i­cal sys­tem.

The rains in Cedar Bayou, near Mont Belvieu, Texas, to­taled 51.88 inches (1.32 me­ters) as of Tues­day af­ter­noon. That's a record for both Texas and the con­ti­nen­tal United States, but it does not quite sur­pass the 52 inches (1.33 me­ters) from Trop­i­cal Cy­clone Hiki in Kauai, Hawaii, in 1950, be­fore Hawaii be­came a state.

The pre­vi­ous record was 48 inches (1.22 me­ters) set in 1978 in Me­d­ina, Texas, by Trop­i­cal Storm Amelia. A weather sta­tion southeast of Hous­ton re­ported 49.32 inches (1.25 me­ters) of rain.

Be­fore it breaks up, Har­vey could creep as far east as Mis­sis­sippi by Thurs­day, mean­ing New Or­leans, where Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina un­leashed its full wrath in 2005, is in Har­vey's path. Fore­bod­ing images of Har­vey lit up weather radar screens on the 12th an­niver­sary of the day Ka­t­rina made land­fall in Plaque­m­ines Parish.

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 10,000 square miles (25,900 square kilo­me­ters), an area slightly big­ger than New Jersey. AP

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