Con­firmed death toll now at 31


HOUS­TON — Har­vey’s flood­wa­ters started drop­ping across much of the Hous­ton area and the storm weak­ened slightly Wed­nes­day, but ma­jor dan­gers re­mained for the U.S. Gulf Coast area, in­clud­ing the threat of an ex­plo­sion at a stricken Texas chem­i­cal plant and ma­jor flood­ing near the Texas-Louisiana line.

The scope of the dev­as­ta­tion caused by the hur­ri­cane came into sharper fo­cus, mean­while, and the murky flood­wa­ters from the record-break­ing, 4-foot del­uge of rain be­gan yield­ing up more bod­ies, as pre­dicted. The con­firmed death toll climbed to at least 31.

As the wa­ter re­ceded, Hous­ton’s fire depart­ment said it would be­gin a blockby-block search of thou­sands of flooded homes. As­sis­tant Fire Chief Richard Mann said the searches were to en­sure “no peo­ple were left be­hind.”

While con­di­tions in the na­tion’s fourth-largest city ap­peared to im­prove, another cri­sis re­lated to Har­vey emerged at a chem­i­cal plant about 25 miles north­east of Hous­ton. A spokes­woman for the Arkema Inc. plant in Crosby, Texas, said late Wed­nes­day that the flooded fa­cil­ity had lost power and backup gen­er­a­tors, leav­ing it with­out re­frig­er­a­tion for chem­i­cals that be­come volatile as the tem­per­a­ture rises.

“The fire will hap­pen. ... It will be ex­plo­sive and in­tense in na­ture,” said Janet Hill, spokes­woman for the com­pany.

The last of the plant’s em­ploy­ees evac­u­ated on Tues­day and res­i­dents within 1.5 miles were told to leave, Hill said.

Another threat was east of Hous­ton where con­di­tions de­te­ri­o­rated close to the Louisiana line as Har­vey again reached land.

Beau­mont and Port Arthur, Texas, strug­gled with ris­ing flood­wa­ters and worked to evac­u­ate res­i­dents after Har­vey com­pleted a U-turn in the Gulf of Mex­ico and rolled ashore early Wed­nes­day for the sec­ond time in six days. It hit south­west­ern Louisiana as a trop­i­cal storm with heavy rain and winds of 45 mph.

Fore­cast­ers down­graded Har­vey to a trop­i­cal de­pres­sion late Wed­nes­day, but it still has lots of rain and po­ten­tial dam­age to spread, with 4 to 8 inches fore­cast from the Louisiana-Texas line into Ten­nessee and Ken­tucky through Fri­day. Some spots may get as much as a foot, rais­ing the risk of more flood­ing.


Tracy Thi­bodeaux stands on West Port Arthur Road in Beau­mont, Texas, and looks for her mother and fa­ther, who were stranded in their flooded home on Wed­nes­day.

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