Harvey rains ‘worse than the worst-case scenario’ in Texas
20 inches fall in some areas, with storm expected to linger for days
USA TODAY Network HOUSTON Helicopters plucked desperate flood victims from rooftops Sunday while boats and trucks swept hundreds more residents to safety as the remnants of Hurricane Harvey fueled historic rains and devastating flooding across a wide swath of East Texas.
The unrelenting rain was forecast well into the week, and the Texas Gulf Coast braced for several days of catastrophic flooding.
The National Weather Service said some areas could be slammed with an “unprecedented” 50 inches of rain by week’s end.
“This event is unprecedented & all impacts are unknown & beyond anything experienced,” the weather service tweeted. “Follow orders from officials to ensure safety.”
Gov. Greg Abbott activated 3,000 National Guard troops in addition to hundreds of other state emergency personnel aiding local first responders.
He said 600 boats were assisting rescue efforts, and the Coast Guard said at least 16 helicopters were tapped for air rescues.
Convoys of buses and a mobile hospital unit were on the way to Houston and the Gulf Coast, as were truckloads of food and volunteers, Abbott said.
“They now know the cavalry is coming,” the governor said. “Our top priority is to protect human life.”
Flooding was overwhelming the Houston metropolitan area. Scenes of families being shuttled to safety played out in scores of neighborhoods. By early Sunday, the Coast Guard said it already had rescued more than 100 people from rooftops.
“The flooding in and around America’s 4th most-populous city is going to write world headlines and set records for generations,” tweeted meteorologist Roger Edwards of the weather service’s Storm Prediction Center.
President Donald Trump will head to the state Tuesday, the White House said Sunday afternoon.
The weather service said parts of Harris County had been hit with more than 20 inches of rain in 24 hours. Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist with the county Flood Control District, called the rainfall totals “staggering.”
This is “worse than the worst-case scenario for Houston,” tweeted WeatherBell meteorologist Ryan Maue.
Mayor Sylvester Turner said emergency officials had been overwhelmed with more than 2,000 calls for rescue, and he urged residents not to call unless their situation was life-threatening.
Turner confirmed one death in Houston, saying a woman drowned trying to flee her car in high water. Another death was reported in a house fire in coastal Aransas County.
Turner defended his administration’s decision not to call for evacuations ahead of the storm, saying it was too difficult to determine which areas of the sprawling city of 2.3 million people were likely to take the worst hit.
The entire city has seen at least some flooding, he said.
“You give an order to evacuate, you are creating a nightmare,” he said.
Neighbors use their personal boats to rescue Jane Rhodes on Sunday in Friendswood, Texas. Forecasters were warning that the remnants of Hurricane Harvey could cause even more catastrophic flooding in the coming days.