Mexico thanked for aid offer
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson praised Mexico’s generosity in offering help as the U.S. responds to Harvey, aiming Wednesday to defuse a potential sore point between two neighbors already sharply at odds over NAFTA and President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.
Since the former hurricane struck the U.S., America’s southern neighbor has offered a “wide range” of help through both the Texas state government and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Tillerson said. The U.S. hasn’t formally responded to the offer to say whether it will accept it. But Tillerson, meeting with Mexico’s top diplomat, said he wanted to thank the country nonetheless.
“It’s very generous for Mexico to offer to help in this very, very challenging time,” Tillerson said.
Hurricane bumps gas prices
DALLAS — Hurricane Harvey is sending pump prices higher for U.S. motorists and causing temporary shifts in the flow of oil and gasoline around the world after taking down a huge chunk of U.S. refining capacity.
It will be days or even weeks before the energy sector in the southeast Texas Gulf Coast is back to normal operations as it deals with flooding in the aftermath of Harvey, which has been downgraded to a tropical storm. The region from Corpus Christi, Texas, where Harvey made landfall, to the Louisiana state line accounts for about 3 percent of the U.S. economy and is a crucial export market for oil and chemicals.
Wednesday brought news that the nation’s biggest refinery, which was already running below half-speed, had begun a complete shutdown.
Houston flood insurance drops
WASHINGTON — Houston’s population is growing quickly, but when Harvey hit last weekend there were far fewer homes and other properties in the area with flood insurance than just five years ago, according to an Associated Press investigation.
The sharp, 9 percent drop in coverage means many residents fleeing Harvey’s floodwaters have no financial backup to fix up their homes and will have to draw on savings or go into debt — or perhaps be forced to sell.
A former head of the federal flood insurance program called the drops “unbelievable” and criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees the program. “When you start to see policies drop like this, FEMA should have done something about this,” said Robert Hunter, who ran the program in the late ’70s. He estimates that fewer than two of 10 homeowners with flood damage have flood insurance.
Inmate gets temporary stay
HUNTSVILLE, Texas — A 36-year-old condemned Texas inmate scheduled for execution next week has won a temporary reprieve because of Hurricane Harvey.
Bexar County prosecutors cited “extraordinary circumstances” in asking a state judge to move Juan Castillo’s execution to Dec. 14 because some of his legal team is based in Harris County. Gov. Greg Abbott has designated the county a disaster area along with dozens of other Texas counties hit by the storm.
State District Judge Jefferson Moore signed the order Wednesday agreeing to move the date.
A warning sign in Iowa, La., is partially submerged Wednesday.