Rain ceases, misery remains
Waters recede in Houston; Port Arthur still submerged
Nearly all waterways in and around the city crested, and floodwaters slowly receded, but the region faced an enormous task to emerge from the devastation of Harvey, which was downgraded Wednesday night by the National Hurricane Center from a tropical storm to a tropical depression.
The storm made a second landfall, slamming coastal Louisiana not far from the Texas border. Although the rain stopped in Houston, the East Texas city of Port Arthur was hit so hard that a shelter was flooded and had to be evacuated.
“Our whole city is underwater right now,” Port Arthur Mayor Derrick Freeman, whose home was swamped by 3 feet of water, said in a Facebook post.
The city pleaded for more boats to help rescue people.
The hardships from Harvey are far from over. The storm, which hit the Texas coast Friday as a strong hurricane, was forecast to drop up to 10 inches of rain on Louisiana before moving on to Arkansas, Tennessee and parts of Missouri. Forecasters warned of possible tornadoes across a wide swath of the Southeast as Harvey rolled inland.
“We are working with the state of Louisiana as the storm moves through their state,” Elaine Duke, acting secretary of Homeland Security, said in Washington.
She warned that despite receding waters in Houston, “catastrophic flooding is likely to persist days after the rain stops.”
The confirmed death toll was in double digits, including six family members whose bodies were found Wednesday in a van that disappeared in high water three days earlier.
“We are sad to confirm we have retrieved six victims from a van that was submerged in Greens Bayou,” the Harris County Sheriff ’s Office tweeted.
Authorities were concerned that more bodies would be found as the water recedes.
AccuWeather estimated Harvey’s cost at $160 billion, which would make it the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. AccuWeather President Joel Myers called Harvey a “1,000-year storm” and said parts of Houston will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
Some areas near Houston received more than 50 inches of rain, more than the level usually seen in a year. The storm was not likely to bring such devastating flooding to Louisiana and other states, but flash flooding could occur, AccuWeather reported.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said more than 30,000 people took refuge in more than 200 shelters, large and small, in Texas. About 1,800 evacuees were moved to hotels and other longer-term housing options, he said.
In Houston, authorities opened two more mega-shelters — the arena that houses the NBA’s Rockets and the stadium home of the NFL’s Texans — after the convention center was packed with almost 9,000 evacuees.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner imposed a midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew aimed at ensuring that va- cant homes and streets would be safe. Turner and Police Chief Art Acevedo warned that looters would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“People were very cooperative last night,” Turner said Wednesday. “The curfew will remain in effect until we get past the situation we are in.”
Tiffany Duron wasn’t convinced. The East Houston resident packed her things and was eager to leave the convention center Wednesday, even though floodwaters had reached her roof line when she and her family fled for the shelter two days earlier.
“They were already breaking into my neighbors’ ” homes, she said, adding that the looters “are making it worse for everybody.”
More than 13,000 people have been rescued from flooded homes.
Gov. Greg Abbott said an additional 10,000 National Guard troops from across the nation would join the 14,000 deployed in the region to provide security and aid in rescue efforts.
Taylor reports for The (Lafayette, La.) Daily Advertiser; Bacon for USA TODAY from McLean, Va. Contributing: Doyle Rice, Rick Jervis, Bart Jansen and Jane Onyanga- Omara, USA TODAY
A patient waits for rescue from a health care facility in Port Arthur, Texas, that was flooded after Hurricane Harvey. “Our whole city is underwater,” Mayor Derrick Freeman said.
Tiffaany Duron, her daughter Emma Sledge, 3, and their dog Daisy are among the thousands of flooding victims who took shelter at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.