Home / National News / At least three dead as 'unprecedented' flooding hits Houston area

 

(HOUSTON) — Houston is being inundated with flooding of historic proportions after the ferocious Hurricane Harvey set in over the Texas Gulf Coast this weekend, dumping torrential rain on the city with no end in sight for days.

This event is unprecedented & all impacts are unknown & beyond anything experienced. Follow orders from officials to ensure safety. #Harvey pic.twitter.com/IjpWLey1h8

— NWS (@NWS) August 27, 2017

The massive amounts of flooding comes after the storm, which has now left at least three people dead and bashed the Texas coast, leaving buildings and parts of communities submerged. In Houston, there were more than a thousand calls for rescues and people were forced to their rooftops.

A third death was confirmed Sunday by La Marque, Texas Mayor Bobby Hocking. The body of a 52-year-old man was found at the Walmart on I-45. La Marque is about 38 miles southeast from Houston on the Gulf Coast.

“At this time, it is unknown if the subject passed away from health conditions or due to drowning. There was high water in the area of Walmart last night,” the La Marque Police Department said in a statement.

Officials said 25 inches of rain had fallen, and one meteorologist estimated some 340 billion gallons of rainfall inundated the area.

Meteorologist Travis Herzog, who works for ABC affiliate staton KTRK-TV, estimates that 340-370 billion gallons of rainwater has fallen so far, which exceeds other major flooding events that have affected the region in recent years by over 100 billion gallons.

PRELIMINARY: I’m estimating 340-370 BILLION gallons of rain has fallen over Harris County.

Tax Day: 240 billion
Memorial Day: 162 billion

— Travis Herzog (@TravisABC13) August 27, 2017

President Trump tweeted about the storm Sunday morning.

Wow – Now experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood! We have an all out effort going, and going well!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2017

One person died in Houston as a result of the flood, the city’s police chief, Art Acevedo, confirmed late Saturday, marking the second confirmed death from Harvey.

“Sadly we have lost one female member of our community who encountered floodwaters in her vehicle, got out and was swept away,” Acevedo said. “We also have reports of one other brutality but have not confirmed it.”

Officials said another person died in the coastal city of Rockport.

Though Harvey weakened to a tropical storm by Saturday afternoon, southeast Texas — particularly Houston — continued to be hammered by the storm into Sunday morning.

More than 1,000 people were rescued overnight from the treacherous flooding in the Houston area, the National Weather Service (NWS) reported.

On Sunday, the NWS announced flash flood emergency situations for 12 counties in southeast Texas. At 4:39 a.m., an NWS bulletin said, “Rainfall amounts in the last 24 hours of 14 to 28 inches has fallen in portions of the emergency area.”

The bulletin continued, “This is a flash flood emergency from the Bay City area to Wharton to Waller across the Houston Metro area to Stafford to Friendswood to League City and Santa Fe. Travel across the area is severely hampered if not impossible. Over 1,000 high-water rescues have been performed and, in some places, emergency crews cannot reach the worst-hit areas.”

The NWS urged residents Sunday morning, “Move to higher ground now. This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation. Do not attempt to travel unless you are fleeing an area subject to flooding or under an evacuation order.”

Emergency services in Houston are being pushed to the limit, prompting the city to tweet that residents should only call emergency services if in “imminent danger.”

911 services at capacity. If u can shelter in place do so, a few inches in your home is not imminent danger. Only call if in imminent danger

— City of Houston (@HoustonTX) August 27, 2017

ABC affiliate KTRK-TV tweeted the below photo of a viewer stuck in an attic with their children.

.@houstonpolice a viewer in their attic with kids wanted to know if any rescues were planned near I-10 and 59? Please pass on to dispatch pic.twitter.com/cJCRjKoZmx

— ABC13 Houston (@abc13houston) August 27, 2017

At a press conference Saturday night, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said, “It’s a serious storm. It’s going to last four or five days — and today is Day 1.” He urged residents to refrain from driving.

Acevedo warned residents to stay off the roads.

Please get off roadways now. This large band is causing roadways to flood and folks are being stranded in it. Don’t try to outwit nature.

— Chief Art Acevedo (@ArtAcevedo) August 27, 2017

And those who did not heed the aforementioned warning found themselves stranded.

Side streets in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood are impassable. Live coverage of flash flood emergency -> https://t.co/061RrYz27B. #ABC13 pic.twitter.com/siW6FpyWi9

— Steve Campion (@SteveABC13) August 27, 2017

Because of heavy rainfall, Sylvester at the press conference said several rivers were rising above banks. Homes in the west part of the city were also experiencing flooding, he said.

The city’s public transportation agency announced Saturday night that it was suspending all bus and rail service. Flooding was also reported in the area around Hobby Airport.

Flooding is occurring in the inbound and outbound lanes around Hobby Airport.

— Hobby Airport (@HobbyAirport) August 27, 2017

The devastating scene in Houston did not come as a surprise to residents, though. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Saturday warned of additional downpours forecast to drench already-flooded communities in the coming days.

“Our biggest concern is between 20 and 30 more inches of rain in areas ranging from Corpus Christi over to Houston,” Abbott said at a press conference. “We want to do everything we possibly can to keep people out of rising water.”

Abbott said search-and-rescue missions and cleanup efforts have already begun in some parts of Texas, after Harvey slammed into the state’s Gulf Coast Friday night as a Category 4 hurricane, unleashing a dangerous wrath of torrential rain and 130 mph winds. By Saturday afternoon, Harvey had gradually downgraded to a tropical storm as maximum sustained winds dropped to 60 mph by the evening, but the National Weather Service still warned of a “serious flooding event unfolding” inland over Texas, as well as “torrential rains.”

Abbott, who visited with evacuees from the Corpus Christi area in San Antonio, said the displaced residents he met are in “strong” spirits despite the damage done and the ominous forecast.

“They are what I call typical Texans. They were resilient, they were strong, they were strong-spirited, they were happy,” he told reporters at the press conference Saturday afternoon. “They were just happy to be there and be alive.”

But Harvey has already proven to be deadly. In the Texas coastal city of Rockport, one person was confirmed dead Saturday afternoon as a result of the storm. More victims are likely, officials there said.

Although Harvey is projected to churn over southeastern Texas through the weekend, residents in hard-hit communities re-emerged Saturday to assess the damage and risk their lives to save others after a tumultuous night of rain, wind and reported tornadoes.

Here’s what you need to know about the strongest storm to hit the Lone Star State in decades:

What’s ahead: More rain, flooding, tornadoes

Texans expect a great deal more rain as the storm lingers over the region and meanders between Victoria and San Antonio through the weekend.

“We are still expecting 25 to 30 inches across southeast Texas,” ABC News Meteorologist Daniel Manzo said Saturday. “This is in addition to what has already fallen this morning.”

Flash-flood watches and warnings were in effect Saturday for much of southeastern Texas. Around 40 inches of rain is expected in some areas.

The forecast track shows Harvey heading back toward the coastline and interacting with the warm waters of the Gulf Coast early next week. This means areas that were already hit hard along the Texas coast should expect even more rain and wind, setting the stage for potentially catastrophic flooding.

Harvey is projected to take off Wednesday heading northeast and moving further inland into Texas, but staying west of Houston.

The storm is an evolving system, and its track could change.

Tornadoes are also a concern as there is a high risk of them in the region.

ABC affiliate KTRK-TV in Houston reported that a possible tornado was spotted in Texas’ Fort Bend County. KTRK-TValso reported tornado damage to as many as 50 homes in Missouri City.

At 4 p.m. local time, a tornado was confirmed near Cypress as well.

Injured residents

The full extent of injuries in Texas overnight remains unclear. Around midnight local time, Rockport City Manager Kevin Carruth said a total of 10 people were being treated for injuries stemming from Harvey.

Among the wounded were those at a senior housing complex, where the roof collapsed. Rescuers were able to transport the injured to a local jail that was serving as a makeshift medical center, Carruth said.

Abbott said at the press conference Saturday afternoon that he could not confirm any fatalities from the storm. However, officials later confirmed that one person was dead in Rockport as a result of the storm.

Damaged structures

In Rockport, some 31 miles northeast of Corpus Christi, the city manager told ABC News that multiple buildings had been damaged, including the courthouse and the public school. The coastal community experienced peak wind surges of more than 125 mph overnight, according to the NWS.

Rockport Volunteer Fire Department Chief Steve Sims told ABC News early Saturday that about 22 firefighters were still hunkered down at the local fire station. The department has about 25 to 30 pending calls, and firefighters are eager to help, Sims said, but they aren’t able to respond until weather conditions improve and it’s safe for them to travel.

Sims said search-and-rescue missions, as well as an assessment of the damage to the city of about 10,000 people, won’t likely launch until later Saturday morning.

Fortunately, Sims said, the firehouse has fared well in the storm thus far.

“It rattled, it shook, but made it through it,” he said.

Meanwhile, images out of Corpus Christi showed flooded streets, destroyed buildings and debris.

In Missouri City, a reporter with KTRK-TV tweeted photos of downed trees and houses without roofs.

MAJOR TORNADO DAMAGE in Sienna Plantation (Missouri City) roofs blown off, lots of big trees down. @abc13houston #HurricaneHarvey pic.twitter.com/Zctbg2IsIF

— Foti Kallergis (@FotiABC13) August 26, 2017

In Fort Bend County, Major Chad Norvell of the sheriff’s office tweeted about reported damage.

Confirmed roof torn off by possible tornado on Vieux Carre in Sienna. Minor injuries reported. @NWSHouston #HouWx

— Major Chad Norvell (@chad_norvell) August 26, 2017

In Victoria, an Exxon station was also damaged by severe winds, and street signs were strewn across thoroughfares.

Shooting wind at this gas station and it RIPPED the gas price sign right off. #Harvey #Victoria #abc13 pic.twitter.com/1vkmlENn1v

— Courtney Fischer (@CourtneyABC13) August 26, 2017

FLYING DEBRIS: this is what I mean. Street sign came off and fell right in the middle of the road. Look up! #abc13 #Victoria pic.twitter.com/Rkb0sPauIi

— Courtney Fischer (@CourtneyABC13) August 26, 2017

How officials are responding

At Abbott’s request, Trump on Saturday issued a major disaster declaration that immediately allows federal aid to flow to Texas’ state and local recovery efforts in areas affected by Harvey. This means residents, cities and counties can begin the “rebuilding process” as quickly as possible, Abbott said.

Abbott has issued a proclamation waiving hotel taxes and state park fees for evacuees and first responders anywhere in Texas affected by the storm.

By Saturday afternoon, some 1,000 personnel had been assigned to search-and-rescue operations across Texas, and the state’s military department had deployed more than 1,800 service members to assist in responding to Harvey’s aftermath. The state’s public safety department had also assigned 80 troopers to the Corpus Christi area to assist with law enforcement needs, Abbott said.

Texas’ transportation department had 228 buses ready to move evacuees to safety. More than 100 bus trips were already made by Saturday afternoon, Abbott said.

“It was so heartening to shake the hands of these evacuees as they got off these buses,” the Texas governor said at a press conference. “They were just happy to be alive.”

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard responded to “vessels in distress” near Port Aransas on Saturday morning, after its Corpus Christi sector received “mayday notifications from crewmembers aboard the tugboats Belle Chase, Sandy Point and Sabine Pass.”

Two MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aircrews were deployed from the Coast Guard’s air station in Corpus Christi to assist the rescue.

“As information continues to come into the Coast Guard, we continue to monitor and respond to any situations for safety of life at sea,” Capt. Tony Hahn, commander of Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi, said in a statement Saturday morning.

Aircraft were also deployed from Corpus Christi to “conduct patrols and assess damage” in the area with the intent of reopening the port of Brownsville, the Coast Guard said, while urging Texas residents to “stay safe and not venture out while storm damage is assessed.” Other crews in shallow-draft vessels, capable of responding in flooded urban areas, headed to parts of Texas and Louisiana.

In a tweet on Saturday, the president cheered on Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long.

You are doing a great job – the world is watching! Be safe. https://t.co/PJLdxy3hD9

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 26, 2017

According to Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold, Trump is planning to visit the state early next week.

In my call with @VP he said @realDonaldTrump plans on visiting our area early next week. #HurricaneHarvey

— Blake Farenthold (@farenthold) August 26, 2017

FEMA is also “closely” monitoring the storm and “working around the clock to prepare and support” efforts on the ground, Brock said in a tweet Friday morning.

Storm preparations began earlier this week in both Texas and Louisiana. As of Saturday afternoon, FEMA had amassed more than 396,000 liters of water, 524,000 meals, 4,500 tarps and 53 generators at incident-support bases in Seguin and Fort Worth, Texas, as well as in Camp Beauregard, Louisiana, should the states need them.

FEMA officials were also in New Orleans on Friday working to make sure the Louisiana city’s pumps are functioning in anticipation of the 7 to 10 inches of rainfall expected there. The National Guard had also readied 500,000 sandbags, FEMA said.

As of Saturday morning, the American Red Cross had opened 21 shelters where 1,450 people displaced by the storm were staying as of Saturday afternoon, and 42 more shelters were on standby if needed.  Officials were also in the process of getting food, water, ice and other supplies to communities in need and setting up staging areas so those supplies could be distributed.

A spokesperson for the American Red Cross told ABC News they also have hundreds of trained disaster relief workers in Texas as well as truckloads of kitchen supplies, tens of thousands of ready-to-eat meals and trailers packed with shelter supplies that include cots and blankets.

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