HOUSTON — As floodwaters receded and rescuers searched waterlogged neighborhoods for more potential victims, Houston officials began turning their attention to finding temporary housing for those in shelters and getting enough gasoline for people to fill up cars, and to the city’s long-term recovery, which will take years and billions of dollars.

Authorities raised the death toll from the storm to 37 late Thursday as the latest statewide damage surveys revealed the staggering extent of the destruction.

The Texas Department of Public Safety said more than 37,000 homes were heavily damaged and nearly 7,000 were destroyed, figures that did not include the tens of thousands of homes with minor damage. About 325,000 people have already sought federal emergency aid in the wake of Harvey. More than $57 million in individual assistance has already been paid out, FEMA officials said.

Harris County FEMA director Tom Fargione said the agency was looking for ways to house people who lost their homes to Harvey, with 32,000 people reported in shelters across Texas. Some evacuees had begun returning to their homes – the George R. Brown Convention Center, where 10,000 people took shelter at one point, housed 8,000 evacuees late Thursday.

The block-by-block search of tens of thousands of Houston homes that rescuers began Thursday was expected to be completed by Friday. Fire Chief Sam Pena said his department had responded to nearly 16,000 calls since the storm hit Saturday, over 7,600 of them for water rescues.

As the water receded in the nation’s fourth-largest city – officials expected that the floodwaters would be almost entirely gone by late Friday or early Saturday – the greatest threat of damage shifted to a region near the Texas-Louisiana state line.

The loss of power at a flood-crippled chemical plant in Port Arthur, Texas set off “popping” and fire early Thursday, and the city of Beaumont, near the Texas-Louisiana line, lost its public water supply Thursday. The plant was being monitored for further chemical reactions.

Harvey’s remnants pushed deeper inland, raising the risk of flooding as far north as Kentucky. Although it’s been downgraded to a tropical depression, Harvey was still expected to dump heavy rain on parts of Louisiana, Tennessee and Kentucky through Friday. Forecast totals ranged from 4 to 8 inches, with some places possibly getting up to a foot.

Follow along below for live updates on the storm. All times are Eastern unless otherwise noted. 


20 a.m.: Death toll climbs to 37

At least 37 people have been killed by Harvey, CBS News has confirmed.

Houston’s Harris County coroner said Thursday night that 25 people had died due to the storm.

The morgue in the fourth-largest city in the U.S. is near capacity due to deaths not only before the storm but widespread flooding prevented funeral homes from collecting bodies.Officials have asked for a refrigerated tractor-trailer to handle any overflow. 

The bodies – storm-related or not – have accumulated over the past several days as Harvey’s floodwaters swallowed the city, essentially closing down all businesses, including funeral homes.

Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences spokeswoman Tricia Bentley said Thursday the morgue has 175 bodies. Capacity is 200.

“Our agency has proactively requested assistance from the state to provide extra storage capacity as ongoing search and recovery efforts continue over the next several weeks,” she said.

12:00 a.m.: Harvey spins off tornado in Alabama

In northwest Alabama, an apparent tornado pummeled several homes near the city of Reform and minor injuries were reported, local news reports said. Jason Holmes, a meteorologist with The National Weather Service in Birmingham, said Thursday that a tornado was likely in the damage in northwest Alabama. 

In Reform, CBS affiliate WIAT reports downed trees, powerlines and houses with a lot of damage.  

Photographs published online by the Tuscaloosa News in Alabama showed huge trees splintered and toppled, houses with their shingles torn away and one mobile home so shattered it was barely recognizable in the region. Men with chainsaws went out after the storm to clear toppled trees from roads as people surveyed the damage. 

9:45 p.m.: Floodwaters to recede around Houston by Saturday

Officials say flood waters are expected to be gone from most of Houston and Harris County by late Friday or early Saturday.

Jeff Lindner, meteorologist for the Harris County Flood Control District, said Harvey flooded an estimated 136,000 structures in Harris County, or 10 percent of all structures in the county database. He called that a conservative estimate.

Lindner said 70 percent of the county’s land mass, or about 1300 square miles, was submerged by at least 1½ feet of water. The heaviest rainfall recorded in Harris County was 47.4 inches on Clear Creek at Interstate 45 in the southeastern part of the county, near the NASA Johnson Space Center.

He said there has been a very slight fall in the waters of Buffalo Bayou, which flows past downtown Houston into the Houston Ship Channel, but flood waters remain in the residential areas on the margins of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs that control flooding on Buffalo Bayou and the Houston Ship Channel. Col. Lars Zetterstrom, commander of the Galveston District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, says they remain full but that their water pools have lowered very slightly.

Lindner said the reservoirs will take three months to fully drain after 35 to 40 inches of rain fell on their watershed.

Zetterstrom says that the Addicks and Barker dams are withstanding their load well.

8:51 p.m.: Door-to-door checks in Houston nearly complete

Houston firefighters are finishing the first of six areas where they went door-to-door checking for anyone left behind in the Harvey flooding.

Fire Chief Sam Pena says firefighters hope to complete the checks in all six areas on Friday. He did not say whether anyone was found dead or alive.

Deputy Police Chief Larry Satterwhite says police received 30 reports of missing people since Harvey began and have found 11 of those. He says authorities believe most of the remaining 19 have lost the means to communicate and are either in shelters or otherwise safe. He cautioned not to assume they are dead: “It doesn’t mean the worst.”

CBS News has confirmed at least 29 people have died so far. 

Mayor Sylvester Turner says areas on the east and west sides of the city are still dealing with flooding issues, but the rest of Houston is “drying out and drying out well” and traffic is returning to the streets.

Turner says Houston is “turning the corner,” with the number of people decreasing in city emergency shelters. He expects to move people from the Toyota Center downtown to the nearby George R. Brown Convention Center on Friday. The convention center, which once housed 10,000 people at one point, sheltered about 8,000 late Thursday. Its maximum capacity is 5,000. 

8:15 p.m.: Law enforcement officials crackdown on illegal activity

Law enforcement officials from the federal government and Texas and Louisiana have formed a working group to investigate and prosecute illegal activity related to Hurricane Harvey.

Houston-based Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez says storm victims already have suffered devastation and “the last thing that victims of the damage need is to be victimized again.”

Authorities say bringing about a dozen agencies together into a single focused group is an optimal way to address calls they’re already getting about scams in the wake of Harvey. Those calls are going to relevant agencies.

He says they’re also employing lessons learned from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and will bring “a comprehensive law enforcement focus” against illegal activities.

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton says there’s no place for fraud or shady practices in rebuilding Texas and Louisiana. 

7:50 p.m.: White House preparing $5.9B request for Harvey recovery aid

The White House has prepared a request to Congress for an initial $5.9 billion package in Harvey recovery aid, a first down payment to make sure recovery efforts over the next few weeks are adequately funded.

The Trump proposal, which is being finalized pending White House consultations with key Republicans, promises to represent just a fraction of an eventual Harvey recovery package that could rival the $100-billion-plus in taxpayer-financed help for victims of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

A senior administration official said the plan will be sent to Congress on Friday and House and Senate votes appear likely next week. The official was not authorized to release the information publicly before a final decision is made and spoke on condition of anonymity. 

7:10 p.m.: Texas drivers rush to fill gas tanks as pump prices rise

More than a dozen refineries across the Gulf are closed, CBS News transportation correspondent Kris Van Cleave reports. That includes those operated by Conoco-Phillips outside Houston and Exxon Mobile in Baytown — the nation’s second largest. It normally pumps out 560,000 barrels of oil a day.

John Hofmeister is the former president of Shell Oil and laid out the current situation.

“Without it we’d be in gas lines all the time. We need that Gulf Coast,” Hofmiester told us.

“Best case the refinery should be up and operating again for the most part by the middle of September. Worst case some of those refineries — if they’re really seriously damaged — they could be down through Thanksgiving or longer,” he added.

The Houston area is a major hub for the energy industry.

At a Shell Station at Interstate 635 in Dallas, manager Tim Flatt had an employee wave away motorists with a paper “Out of Gas” sign after they twice went dry on Thursday. They got a refill at about 10 a.m. and were drained again by 2 p.m.

“People are insane right now,” Flatt said. “A lot of people don’t need gas, but they’re coming to get gas. It’s just been crazy.”

Prices rose with the demand: One Chevron station in downtown Dallas that sold regular gas for $2.29 a gallon just before the storm was charging $2.99 on Thursday. Others charged well over $3, and one downtown Shell station charged $3.97 for a regular gallon of gas. At three gas stations in north Dallas, yellow bags or caution tape was wrapped around pumps just after noon. 

6:45 p.m.: Carnival Cruise ships to return to Galveston

Reuters news agency reports that three Galveston, Texas-based Carnival Cruise Lines ships will return to the Port of Galveston this weekend, days after Tropical Storm Harvey forced them to delay plans to dock there, the company said on Thursday.

Carnival’s Freedom, Breeze and Valor were stationed around New Orleans while Harvey ripped through Texas.

Carnival said it expected the Port of Galveston to reopen beginning on Friday and that all three of its ships would be en route back to Galveston by Thursday evening, Reuters writes.

6:05 p.m.: Department of Labor says Texans are survivors

“Today was a difficult day … we saw a lot of destruction … but Texans were helping each other,” Alexander Acosta said. “Texans helping Texans … and my takeaway today is that Texans are survivors. They are helping each other … they are solving their problems.”

Acosta announced that $30 million is being provided to the state of Texas to assess workforce needs from the Dislocated Worker Fund. They also approved Disaster Unemployment Insurance so that some have access to the means until they find a job.

6:02 p.m.: Department of Transportation signs executive order

Secretary Elaine Chau said that $100 million in financial support is being made available to meet the transportation infrastructure needs in Texas. About $353 million is allocated for pending Department of Transportation funds available to Texas between Thursday and the end of the fiscal year (October 30).

The Department has more than 40 staff members on the ground coordinating in Texas to get transit back up and running.

Chau said that Beaumont airport remains closed to domestic passengers. She also addressed that officials are assessing roadways as floodwaters recede.

Chau announced an hour ago — at the request of Gov. Abbott — an executive order that waves the requirements to allow expedited fuel deliveries from 25 surrounding states.

6 p.m.: Acting Secretary of Homeland Security supports Texas

Elaine Duke says more than 10,000 were rescued in Texas and assisting victims get back home. $50 million has been given out in individual assistance. “We expect search and rescue to continue for the next couple days,” she said.

As the floodwaters recede, Duke says recovery will commence in the neighborhoods hardest hit by Harvey.

5:50 p.m.: Texas governor, Vice President Pence, officials speak in Texas

“I’m so proud of the way the president, the vice president and their entire Cabinet have stood up, stood strong and supported the people of Texas,” Gov. Greg Abbott said. He praised their quick response in wake of Harvey.

“The people I thank the most are fellow Texans … the way fellow Texans helping Texans … is the average, everyday Texan who are the true heroes,” Abbott said.

Vice President Pence thanked the extraordinary leadership Abbott and his team are providing to the people of Texas.

“Seeing the results … thank you for your leadership,” Pence said. “The president sent Karen and I here today to survey the damage and ensure that the full resources of the federal government are being brought in support of the effort of state and local officials to rescue those that are in harm’s way, to help communities begin to recover and to lay a foundation to rebuild Texas in the wake of this horrific storm.”

Pence said that the president will return to Texas on Saturday with the first lady and will be traveling to Houston and other destinations in the state to reinforce the administration’s resources and compassion to victims of Harvey.

Pence expressed his appreciation to the first responders and nearly 21,000 federal personnel who have responded to Harvey.

“I think Karen and I today are most inspired by volunteers,” Pence said. “Every American should know that even in this difficult time … the very best of the people of Texas and America are shining forth.”

Pence also urged Americans to donate and volunteer as much as they can. “We are one American family — and when one hurts we all hurt,” Pence said. “We are with you today, we will be with you tomorrow and we will be with you every day until this great state and these great communities recover and rebuild to be even better and stronger than ever before.”

5:40 p.m.: Official urges Texans to wait to fill gas tanks

The head of the Texas agency that regulates the oil and gas industry is urging people to wait three or four days to fill their cars and trucks with gasoline if they can.

Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton said Thursday that people are panicking and that’s causing a run on gas and empty fuel pumps.

He says there is plenty of gas in Houston and elsewhere, but there are logistical problems of making sure all of the stations are getting it.

He says he doesn’t think it will be an issue a week from now as long as people stay calm and fill up their tanks as they normally would.

5:05 p.m.: Irma becomes Category 3 storm

Far out over the Atlantic, Hurricane Irma has turned into a Category 3 storm, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in its latest advisory. It poses no immediate threat to land.

Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 115 mph with higher gusts. Irma is moving toward the west-northwest near 12 mph. This motion is expected to continue today, followed by a westward turn on Saturday, and a west-southwestward motion by Sunday.

4:04 p.m.: Drivers brace for gas shortages as Harvey knocks out refineries

Drivers in northern Texas are rushing to fill up their gas tanks as prices at the pump in the area rise and some stations run out of fuel altogether as Harvey continues to wreak havoc.

QuikTrip, a chain with 135 gas stations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, is keeping about half of them without gas, a spokesman said. 

Around Dallas, pumps at several service stations in places like Denton, McKinney and Little Elm are seeing gas shortages, leading customers to scramble.  

Northern Texas was particularly affected because it’s supplied by a few pipelines that have shut down, said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at the Oil Price Information Service. Those pipes also supply the lower Midwest and the Ohio Valley, a region that also could be affected. And southern states are beginning to see price spikes amid news that a major pipeline that delivers gas to the region would close indefinitely.  

Read the full story here.

3:39 p.m.: Trump to donate $1 million to recovery effort, Sanders says

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says President Trump is pledging $1 million of his own money to help in the recovery efforts in Texas and Louisiana.

Sanders added that Mr. Trump will likely travel to the Houston area and Lake Charles, Louisiana, during a planned trip for Saturday.

3:23 p.m.: Texas governor declares Sunday a statewide day of prayer 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared Sunday a day of prayer for his waterlogged state.

The Republican governor and Vice President Mike Pence visited a church in the city of Rockport on Thursday that was damaged when Harvey came ashore last Friday as a Category 4 hurricane.

Abbott says Texans will pray on Sunday for those affected by the storm and for everyone who has helped them, including first-responders.

Harvey has caused record flooding in parts of the state and has been blamed for the deaths of more than 30 people.

3:14 p.m.: Trump speaks with Trudeau

President Trump spoke to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by phone Thursday about the flooding in Texas and Louisiana, the White House said in a release. Mr. Trump “thanked Prime Minister Trudeau and the people of Canada for their offer of assistance and underscored the close ties between our two nations,” the White House said.

3:09 p.m.: White House says 100,000 homes affected

White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert says initial estimates indicate about 100,000 homes were affected by Harvey. He said the White House will send a request for supplemental funding to Congress “shortly.”

3:01 p.m.: White House press briefing begins

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and homeland security adviser Tom Bossert are speaking and taking questions at the White House. Watch live in the player at the top of this article.

1:46 p.m.: Pence surveys damage at church in Rockport

Vice President Mike Pence surveyed damage at a church that was hit hard by Harvey in Rockport, Texas.

VP Pence in Rockport, Texas, visiting site of First Baptist Church damaged by Hurricane Harvey and meeting with storm victims. pic.twitter.com/n3yH9gleCy

— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) August 31, 2017

He spoke briefly before meeting victims affected by the storm, saying “we are here today, we will be here tomorrow, and we will be here every day.”

Pence said he spoke to President Trump from Air Force Two and relayed a message from the president: “‘Tell ’em we love Texas,'” Pence said.

Pence commended “the extraordinary first responders who at this very hour are pulling citizens out of harm’s way.” 

1:15 p.m.: Pence arrives in Corpus Christi

Vice President Mike Pence has landed in Corpus Christi, Texas, where he will survey flooding caused by Harvey along with other Cabinet members.

Pence arrived in Corpus Christi with his wife Karen, acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta. They were greeted on the tarmac by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and his wife Cecilia.

12:35 p.m.: Dramatic footage of helicopter rescues in Port Arthur

Helicopter crews in Port Arthur, Texas, rescued residents trapped by floodwaters, hovering over homes and repeatedly lifting people into the air.

Footage showed crews making multiple rescues in a residential area where water appeared to still be several feet deep. Port Arthur was one of the towns hardest hit by Harvey.

12:29 p.m.: EPA: No “concentrations of concern” of toxic chemicals at Arkema plant

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it is working with local and federal authorities to monitor the situation in Crosby, Texas, where a trailer at an Arkema chemical plant exploded and caught fire.

“EPA has emergency response personnel on the scene and the Agency is currently reviewing data received from an aircraft that surveyed the scene early this morning,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement. “This information indicates that there are no concentrations of concern for toxic materials reported at this time.”

The agency says it has deployed aircraft to the scene to collect chemical information about the smoke cloud produced by the fire.

12:00 p.m.: Gas prices jump after Harvey

Gasoline prices in Texas and across the country have increased by at least 10 cents since Harvey came ashore and caused record flooding in places.

AAA Texas on Thursday reported the average price at the pump statewide was $2.26 per gallon. That’s 12 cents higher than a week ago, before Harvey made landfall, and 4 cents higher than on Wednesday.

The association survey says U.S. gasoline prices Thursday averaged $2.45 per gallon, which is 10 cents higher than a week ago and 5 cents more than on Wednesday.

11:56 a.m.: Irma reaches hurricane-strength in the Atlantic

Far out over the Atlantic, Hurricane Irma formed as a Category 2 storm, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. It posed no immediate threat to land.

Irma’s center was about 650 miles west of the Cabo Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa Thursday morning. Maximum sustained winds were near 100 mph. It was heading west-northwest at 10 mph, and no coastal watches or warnings were in effect.

The center said Irma was forecast to become a major storm by Thursday night.

11:06 a.m.: Arkema executive talks to CBS News about fire at chemical plant

Following a press conference on the situation at an Arkema Inc. chemical plant that caught fire in Crosby, Texas, early Thursday, executive Richard Rennard spoke to CBS News correspondent David Begnaud about the risk at the plant.

“The concern is that when these things degrade, they generate heat. When they generate heat, they can burn. When they burn, they burn aggressively. You can have an explosion,” Rennard said. “We wanted to remove people from any potential hazard or risk for a potential explosion.”

Rennard said he was confident the 1.5-mile evacuation zone around the plant was large enough to keep residents safe. He said the company was monitoring the remaining eight containers at the plant but couldn’t say for sure whether Arkema would be able to anticipate future explosions.

“We want to make sure that we just have the right information in the hands of the citizens of the community,” Rennard said.

10:01 a.m.: Officials provide update on fire at Arkema chemical plant

A fire continues to burn at a chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, after a reaction in a trailer storing unrefrigerated chemicals, officials said at a press conference Thursday morning.

Bob Royall, assistant chief of emergency operations for the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office, said officials were taking a “defensive posture” toward the situation at the Arkema Inc. plant but downplayed the severity of the fire.


A trailer burns at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas.

CBS News

“These are small container ruptures that may have a sound or something of that nature. These are not massive explosions,” Royall said.

Royall said officials anticipated the fires and were maintaining a 1.5-mile perimeter around the plant.

Arkema executive Richard Rennard said refrigerated containers were used to store organic peroxide after the flooding caused the plant’s regular power and backup generators to fail. But those refrigerated containers also failed, causing the chemicals to degrade and eventually burn in one of the containers.

He said the company anticipates that the eight remaining containers “where products are starting to degrade will produce more explosions.”

“We encourage anyone who may be exposed to smoke coming from this fire to call their doctor or seek medical advice,” Rennard said.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said one deputy inhaled a “non-toxic irritant” and received treatment.

8:17 a.m.: Police call plant incident a “series of pops”

Police said an incident at a Houston-area chemical plant early Thursday was not an explosion but instead a “series of pops.”

The incident caused a fire to break out at the Arkema plant in Crosby, Harris County police said

Arkema Inc. earlier said in a statement on its website that the Harris County Emergency Operations Center reported two explosions and black smoke coming from the plant at about 2 a.m.

7:50 a.m.: Major gasoline pipeline to be shut down

Colonial Pipeline says it plans to shut down a key line that supplies gasoline to the South due to storm-related refinery shutdowns and Harvey’s effect on its facilities west of Lake Charles, Louisiana. The Georgia-based company said in a statement that it expects to shut off the line Thursday. The company had already closed down another line that transports primarily diesel and aviation fuels.

The pipeline provides nearly 40 percent of the South’s gasoline.

In September 2016, a leak and gas spill in Alabama that closed the Colonial Pipeline led to days of empty gas station pumps and higher prices in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas.

The company didn’t say how long it expects the closure to last, saying it will know more when workers can evaluate its facilities. 

7:36 a.m.: Hospital treats nearly two dozen after explosions

A Texas hospital said nearly two dozen people were being treated after two explosions at a flooded chemical plant in Crosby.

Laurie Terry of Houston Methodist San Jacinto in Baytown told CBS News that 21 emergency responders and police officers were displaying symptoms of respiratory distress.

Terry said the group wasn’t expected to suffer long-term effects and would likely be released later Thursday.

5:30 a.m.: Chemical plant explosions, smoke reported

Two explosions have been reported at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, 25 miles northeast of Houston, CBS Houston affiliate KHOU-TV reported early Thursday. Arkema officials had previously said they believed that sometime within the next several days, chemicals at the plant would degrade, explode and catch fire due to Harvey flooding-related power outages and a resulting loss of needed refrigeration of the chemicals at the site.

3:15 a.m.: J.J. Watt aid fund leaping

When the NFL’s Houston Texans star J.J. Watt set up an online fundraiser to help the city in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, he hoped to raise $250,000. Now, just a few days later, it’s raised $8.5 million and quickly on its way to $10 million.  Watt revealed the news Wednesday evening on Twitter, CBS Houston affiliate KHOU-TV notes.

3:00 a.m.: Threat from reservoir grows

Fort Bend County, immediately southwest of Houston, went from urging residents of some areas to evacuate to ordering them to early Thursday after the Army Corps of Engineers forecast record water levels in the Barker Reservoir and warned of imminent additional flooding. The reservoir began overflowing Tuesday.  

2:15 a.m.: Southeast Texas city loses water supply

Beaumont lost serviced from its main pump station due to rising levels of the Neches River caused by Tropical Storm Harvey, the city announced early Thursday.

The pump station draws from the river as its main source of water for Beaumont’s water system.

The city has also lost its secondary water source, at the Loeb wells in Hardin County.

Officials said they’ll have to wait until water levels recede before they can determine the extent of damage and make any needed repairs, adding there’s no way to say how long that will take.

12:45 a.m.: Death toll rises to 28

CBS News confirmed seven more fatalities in Texas due to Harvey, bringing the death toll to 28.

Find previous updates on Harvey here.

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