Harvey takes aim at Louisiana as Trump travels to survey stricken Texas – Washington Post
HOUSTON — The remnants of deadly Hurricane Harvey spun toward Louisiana on Tuesday with more potentially disastrous flooding and emergency evacuations as President Trump planned to survey the ongoing devastation in stricken Texas.
Trump’s scheduled visits Tuesday to Corpus Christi and Austin, the state capital, come after he pledged swift action by the federal government to provide relief to states affected by Harvey. The trip is also set to occur on the 12th anniversary of the last massive storm to pinwheel in from the Gulf with catastrophic damage: Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall in Louisiana on Aug. 29, 2005.
The death toll in Texas had reached at least 10 people, officials said, but they warned it could rise as authorities pursue reports of people apparently lost in the torrential downpours unleashes by Harvey since Friday. In Montgomery County, northwest of Houston, police said a man was presumed drowned after attempting to swim across fast-moving flood wash.
Meanwhile, the storm clouds continue to drench the region with an unprecedented deluge — reaching 43 inches since Friday in south Houston and surpassing 40 inches in several other places in around the city, the National Weather Service reported.
Lashing rain continued to pound Houston, which remains littered with abandoned cars across its downtown. Almost no stores appeared to be open Tuesday, even as people are desperate to restock food and supplies since the city effectively shut down on Saturday. A line began forming outside a Kroger grocery store in southwest Houston before 8 a.m., with more than three hours before the store planned to open. Dozens of people had also lined up at another grocery store across the street, so many that store officials were limiting how many people they let inside.
The National Weather Service reported that more than 42 inches of rain had fallen in Houston due to Harvey. Some parts of Louisiana had already seen more than a foot of rain, and flash flood warnings and watches were in effect for much of the Lake Charles region as forecasters said up to 10 inches or more rain could fall before the storm is done. New Orleans was under a tornado and flash flood watch until Thursday.
In Texas, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had begun Monday to release water from two Houston dams to deal with the surging water in reservoirs there. But one of the reservoirs began spilling over Tuesday morning, which the Army Corps of Engineers had warned could happen as water levels in the reservoirs swelled to record levels. Officials in Brazoria County, south of Houston, warned that a levee there had breached.
Harvey is moving toward the northeast, with its center expected to be just off the middle and upper Texas coast through Tuesday night, the National Hurricane Center said Tuesday morning. After that, the storm is forecast to move inland on the northwestern Gulf Coast on Wednesday.
Forecasters say more than a foot of additional rain is still expected to fall through Friday over parts of the Texas coast and Louisiana, and the National Weather Service warned Tuesday of potential flooding in southern Mississippi as well as southeastern Louisiana.
The Department of Labor said Tuesday it had approved an initial $10 million grant to help with cleanup efforts in Texas. Trump on Monday declared “emergency conditions” in Louisiana, and not long before that, federal authorities had warned Harvey could force more than 30,000 people from their homes by the time skies are expected to clear later this week.
Hundreds of schools have shut down across Texas. Thousands of people have already piled into shelters in Houston and beyond, seeking safety from the storm without a clear idea of when, or if, they could return home. The George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston had taken in 9,200 people as of Tuesday morning, said Charles Maltbie, a regional disaster officer for the Red Cross who is at the convention. That number is nearly double the center’s anticipated capacity of 5,000.
The convention center is the evacuation site for all air evacuations, Maltbie said, and bus evacuations are being diverted to other shelters around the city. When asked what the center’s top capacity is, Maltbie said: “We will meet the need.”
“We just can’t take any more,” Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso said in western Louisiana, urging residents to leave flood-prone homes Monday. “Anything we get is going to be crucial at this point.”
The immediate focus for many remained on Houston, the country’s fourth-largest city and a sprawling metropolitan area that has seen its share of floods. But the deluge of the past two days is unprecedented.
Every major waterway in the city spilled over its banks. Gullies overflowed. Even neighborhoods far from a creek or bayou flooded. The hardest-hit areas were in the south and southeast, the downstream end of the waterways.
But the southwest sections of the Houston area may be the next venue for catastrophe. The Brazos River, which runs through Fort Bend County, home to more than 716,000 people, has been swelling as the runoff from the storm collects in its banks. National Weather Service models showed the river rising to 59 feet by Tuesday, topping the previous record of 54.7 feet.
Earlier Tuesday, evacuation orders were given for two prisons with thousands of inmates near the Brazos.
Fort Bend County Judge John Hebert warned Monday night that more than a hundred square miles along the river could flood overnight and into Tuesday as the river swells to unprecedented heights.
“They can guarantee we’ll have a record flood in for Fort Bend County,” he said. “In areas under mandatory evacuation, the danger is very real.”
Authorities issued mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders for parts of that area and warned that anyone who ignores mandatory evacuation orders will not be aided by first responders when the waters rise. But with virtually all the main thoroughfares already closed because of high water, many of the affected residents saw no way out.
Kim Adoubeif, 60, was among about a dozen residents of the Greatwood subdivision who stood in the rain atop a levee on the Brazos River on Monday to gaze at the water and ponder their fate. She said she checked online traffic maps and couldn’t find a route to safety.
“Every way out, there are roads that are flooded,” she said, holding an umbrella against the rain. “So we might not even find a way out.”
In the River Park subdivision, Byron Golden, 60, and his wife planned to stay put in their home. Other neighbors had tried to leave, only to meet flooded roads separating them from Interstate 10, a main artery out of town.
“We did plan an escape route, but at this time it may be too late to leave,” Golden said. He figured it would be better to get caught in a flood in his two-story house than in his car on the road.
Golden and his wife spent the day putting important documents and sentimental possessions into plastic bags and carrying their important things upstairs.
Some who did evacuate ran into difficulties Monday as they tried to reach shelters. In north Houston, for example, rescuers who picked up people forced out of their drenched homes brought them to a fire station to be transported to the M.O. Campbell Center, a school gym and activity center that had been converted to a shelter.
But when the shelter reached capacity, its doors were shut, and at least 300 people were stranded at the fire station.
The horror stories led authorities to urge patience and persistence on the part of residents needing help.
“Please don’t give up on us. None of us are going to give up,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said at a news conference Monday.
Among those helping with the rescue efforts alongside first responders were volunteers with boats. On Monday afternoon, dozens from both groups crowded near the Grand Vista subdivision on Harlem Road in the Brazos River area, on the edge of the water that stretched from the road to the rainy horizon.
Boats were unloading evacuees — among them the elderly and children — onto the road, then turning back into the flood.
“It messed me up seeing the kids and babies,” said Jorge Ramirez, 28, who brought over his Alumacraft flat-bottom boat after seeing on Facebook that folks were stuck in this neighborhood. “That’s who we’re trying to get out first.”
He said he’d made about five trips in four hours.
Authorities also faced new questions about whether they should have evacuated Houston. Asked Monday about the decision to recommend that people shelter in place rather than leave the city, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said there was no point in thinking about past decisions.
“We are where we are now,” he said.
Of those confirmed dead late Monday, six were in Harris County, which includes Houston; one was in Rockport, near where Harvey made landfall; and another person was discovered in La Marque, near Galveston. Police said a woman in her 60s died in Porter, a town north of Houston; she was napping in her bedroom when a large oak tree landed on her mobile home.
Somashekhar and Berman reported from Washington. Emily Wax-Thibodeaux in Katy, Tex.; Ed O’Keefe, Wesley Lowery, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Katie Zezima, Brian Murphy and Amy B Wang in Washington; Dylan Baddour and Brittney Martin in Houston; Ashley Cusick in New Orleans; and Mary Lee Grant in Corpus Christi, Tex., contributed to this report.
Powered by WPeMatico