Trump vis­its Texas

The Sentinel-Record - - FRONT PAGE - NO­MAAN MER­CHANT JUAN LOZANO

HOUSTON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump vis­ited Texas on Tues­day, and the White House said his stops in Cor­pus Christi and Austin were meant to high­light co­or­di­na­tion at all lev­els of gov­ern­ment and lay the ground­work for what is ex­pected to be a lengthy re­cov­ery af­ter the storm.

“We are go­ing to get you back and op­er­at­ing im­me­di­ately,” Trump told an im­promptu crowd that gath­ered out­side a Cor­pus Christi fire station about 30 miles from where the storm made land­fall on Fri­day.

“What a crowd, what a turnout,” Trump de­clared be­fore wav­ing a Texas flag from atop a

step lad­der po­si­tioned be­tween two fire trucks. “This is his­toric. It’s epic what hap­pened, but you know what, it hap­pened in Texas, and Texas can han­dle any­thing.”

Trump spoke op­ti­misti­cally about the pace of the re­cov­ery, and pre­dicted his re­sponse would be a text­book case for future pres­i­dents.

The pres­i­dent kept his dis­tance from the epi­cen­ter of the dam­age in Houston to avoid dis­rupt­ing re­cov­ery op­er­a­tions. But he plans to re­turn to the re­gion on Satur­day, and Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence will visit as well. 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.”

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 today, “it’s the end of the be­gin­ning,” Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter me­te­o­rol­o­gist Den­nis Felt­gen said.

Har­vey will spend much of today 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 today 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.

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 today.

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 Cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane, au­thor­i­ties and fam­ily mem­bers have re­ported more than 10 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 a drainage chan­nel 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.

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 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 from Trop­i­cal Cy­clone Hiki in Kauai, Hawaii, in 1950, be­fore Hawaii be­came a state.

The pre­vi­ous record was 48 inches set in 1978 in Me­d­ina, Texas, by Trop­i­cal Storm Amelia. A weather station south­east of Houston re­ported 49.32 inches 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, an area slightly big­ger than New Jersey.

The As­so­ci­ated Press

RECORD DOWN­POUR: Wa­ter from Ad­dicks Reser­voir flows into neigh­bor­hoods as flood­wa­ters from Trop­i­cal Storm Har­vey rise Tues­day in Houston. 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 from Har­vey that have crip­pled the area af­ter five con­sec­u­tive days of rain that set a new con­ti­nen­tal U.S. record for rain­fall for a trop­i­cal sys­tem.

The As­so­ci­ated Press

FIND­ING SHEL­TER: Evac­uees es­cap­ing the flood­wa­ters from Trop­i­cal Storm Har­vey rest Tues­day at the Ge­orge R. Brown Con­ven­tion Cen­ter that has been set up as a shel­ter in Houston.

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