Hurricane Harvey

UPDATE: Harvey has Slightly Increased in Strength

Tropical Storm Harvey has increased strength slightly as it returns to warmer Gulf waters.

 
THE LATEST:
 

The National Hurricane Center says Harvey has slightly increased in strength as it went back to warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

It now has sustained winds of 45 mph (72 kph), up 5 mph (8 kph).

Forecasters expect Harvey to stay over water and at 45 mph (72 kph) for 36 hours and then head back inland east of Houston sometime Wednesday. The forecast has the storm then zipping north and losing its tropical storm strength and then its tropical characteristics.

Harvey made landfall in Texas late Friday as a Category 4 hurricane and has lingered just off the coast, dropping heavy rain as a tropical storm.

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Officials say the ongoing release of water from two flood-control reservoirs in the Houston area is not expected to increase the levels of a swollen bayou that runs through heavily populated neighborhoods in west and central Houston and through the city’s downtown.

Buffalo Bayou has swollen due to torrential rain from Harvey.

Jeff Lindner is a meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District. He said Monday that levels on Buffalo Bayou have fallen from where they were Sunday. He says they’re holding steady despite the ongoing release of water from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs in west Houston.

The Army Corps of Engineers says the controlled release into Buffalo Bayou is being done to relief pressure on the two aging reservoirs. The Corps says if the releases weren’t done, excess water could go over the reservoirs’ spillways and flood a large area.

Also, the senior citizens who appear in a now-viral photo showing them submerged in waist-deep water in a Texas assisted-living center flooded by Hurricane Harvey over the weekend have been relocated to a nearby facility and a hospital.

Tim McIntosh, whose mother-in-law owns the facility in Dickinson, Texas, told The Associated Press Monday the National Guard rescued 20 people Sunday, about three hours after he shared on Twitter the harrowing photo of the living room of the La Vita Bella facility. The photo shows at least six senior citizens waist-deep in murky water, at least one sitting on a rolling walker, in a room with a popcorn machine, a cat and some bottles of water on a table.

“They are all doing fine,” said McIntosh, who defended facility owner, Trudy Lampson, who some accused on social media of not evacuating the facility on time. He said Lampson had made arrangements to evacuate the residents, but local authorities told her to stay put.

“The nursing home had to follow protocol because it’s a big ordeal to evacuate it,” he said. “These ladies are on wheelchairs and most of them on oxygen.”

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Authorities say a woman has been killed in the Houston area when a large tree dislodged by heavy rains from Harvey toppled onto her trailer home.

Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office Captain Bryan Carlisle says that the woman was killed around noon Monday in Porter. Her husband has reported that she was napping when the tree fell. Porter Fire Department firefighters had to wade through chest-level water to evacuate the woman’s husband, remove the tree and extract the body.

Harvey made landfall in Texas late Friday as a Category 4 hurricane and has lingered just off the coast, dropping heavy rain as a tropical storm.

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President Donald Trump says federal cash for storm-ravaged areas in Texas and elsewhere will arrive quickly.

He says to people suffering from Hurricane Harvey and the resulting flooding that “You’re going to have what you need and it’s going to go fast.”

Trump adds that he’s spoken with members of Congress and “everybody feels for” people in the storm’s path.

The storm has dumped historic amounts of rain on areas in and around Houston, which continues to flood. Deaths have been blamed on Hurricane Harvey, the first major natural disaster of Trump’s presidency.

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Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says the city is working on opening another “major” shelter for people fleeing flooding from Harvey as the George S. Brown Convention Center reaches capacity.

Turner toured the convention center Monday, hugging evacuees and asking how they were doing. The convention center was already more than halfway to its 5,000-person capacity.

Turner said the city was considering its options for another major shelter, but did not say which buildings could be used.

Harvey made landfall in Texas late Friday as a Category 4 hurricane and has lingered just off the coast, dropping heavy rain as a tropical storm.

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KHOU is reporting that six family members are believed to have drowned in Houston when their van was swept away by floodwaters.

The KHOU-TV report was attributed to three family members the station didn’t identify. No bodies have been recovered.

Houston police Chief Art Acevedo tells The Associated Press he has no information about the KHOU report but added that he’s “really worried about how many bodies we’re going to find” from Harvey’s devastating flooding.

According to the station, four children — the youngest, a 6-year-old girl — and their grandparents are feared dead after the van hit high floods Sunday afternoon when crossing a bridge in Greens Bayou.

The driver of the vehicle, the children’s great-uncle, reportedly escaped before the van was submerged and grabbed onto a tree limb as the van sunk. He told the children inside to try to escape through the back door, but they were unable to get out.

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 Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is again praising the federal government’s response to Harvey.

Abbott said at a news conference in Corpus Christi, Texas, on Monday that he had spoken “on multiple occasions” to President Donald Trump and members of his Cabinet.

Abbott said, “I would have to grade the federal government’s response as an A-plus.” He said the storm was “if not the largest, one of the largest disasters America has ever faced.” But he says, “to see the swift response from the federal government is pretty much unparalleled.”

Abbot expressed similar sentiments Sunday. It’s a departure for Abbott. He was elected governor in 2014 decrying federal “overreach” and boasting about using his former positon as Texas attorney general to sue the Obama administration nearly 30 times.

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Officials are preparing to evacuate one of the nation’s busiest trauma centers as flooding from Harvey threatened to compromise the hospital’s supply of medicine and food.

A spokesman at Houston’s Office of Emergency Management said Monday that all 350 patients at Ben Taub Hospital would be evacuated, hopefully within a day. Floodwater and sewage got into the main hospital building’s basement and affected pharmacy, food service and other key operations. Patients will be sent to other area hospitals until repairs are made.

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center also canceled outpatient services, appointments and surgeries at all Houston-area locations through Tuesday, and was asking patients not to attempt to travel because of high water in the Texas Medical Center area.

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A mandatory evacuation has been ordered for a Southeast Texas city of about 20,000 that’s been inundated by Harvey floodwaters.

Dickinson police announced the city’s mandatory evacuation that took effect at 2 p.m. Monday.

Dickinson is a low-lying city about 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of Houston. It’s along Dickinson Bayou. Crews on Sunday rescued more than 20 residents and staffers from an assisted-living center in Dickinson that flooded.

The police statement cited the fragile infrastructure in the city amid flooding, limited working utilities and concern for the forecast track of Harvey. Transportation was available for those needing help leaving Dickinson.

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency says its response to Hurricane Harvey is “quickly drawing down” the reserves in the agency’s disaster fund.

FEMA says it’s prioritizing its response to Harvey over earlier disasters to stretch the life of its disaster aid fund to make sure it doesn’t run out of money.

In a message to Capitol Hill, FEMA says it will only fund immediate emergency response “so that FEMA can continue its focus on response and urgent recovery efforts without interruption.”

FEMA’s most recent report says it has more than $3 billion in its disaster fund. About half of that was supposed to be spent to respond to earlier disasters, but Monday’s announcement frees up more of the money for responding to Harvey.

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Former President George W. Bush says he and former first lady Laura Bush are confident that communities hit by Harvey “will recover and thrive.”

Bush, who lives in Dallas, released a statement Monday that he and his wife are “proud of the people of Texas for showing the resilience and compassion of our state.” He says they’re “moved by the heroic work of the first responders and volunteers who are putting themselves at risk to save others.”

Harvey made landfall in Texas late Friday as a Category 4 hurricane and has lingered just off the coast, dropping heavy rain as a tropical storm.

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The National Hurricane Center says Harvey is drifting “erratically” back toward the Gulf Coast after having moved inland since making landfall late Friday.

An advisory Monday afternoon from the center says life-threatening flooding continues for Houston and the broader southeastern Texas region.

Harvey has maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (64 kph). The center says it may slowly intensify as it moves closer to the coast.

Harvey is forecast to turn back toward the northeast at some point Tuesday.

An additional 25 inches (64 centimeters) of rainfall is forecast through Friday and the center says other threats include tornadoes and a coastal storm surge of 1 to 3 feet (0.3 meter to 0.91 meter) moving inland from the coast.

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rates the two 70-year-old dams that protect Houston as among a handful of “extremely high risk” dams in the U.S.

Concerns include the way the two structures were built in the 1940s, and the threat to the people and property of the nation’s 4th-biggest city if they were to fail.

The Corps said Monday it was starting to release water from the two dams, called Addicks and Barker. The move would worsen flooding in some neighborhoods, but was necessary to prevent bigger, uncontrolled flows later, the Corps said in a statement.

The Houston dams are older than even the already high average age — 56 years — of dams in the United States. The Corps has acknowledged a long history of seepage through the dams. A $75 million fix to the two dams’ floodgates is slated for completion in 2019.

The Corps ‘”was confident that the structures continue to perform as they were designed to do,” it said in Monday’s statement.

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Officials say Houston’s 911 system has received and processed 75,000 calls since Harvey inundated many parts of the city.

That includes nearly 20,000 calls just since 10 p.m. Sunday.

Joe Laud is the administration manager for the Houston Emergency Center. He said Monday that 911 operators have been able to reduce the backlog of calls they have, going from 120 to 250 calls in their queue to 10 to 15 calls.

He says that on average, the system usually get 8,000 or 9,000 calls per day.

Laud says officials have also initiated a voice activated system that lets callers know that the 911 system has received their call and that they should stay on the phone until someone comes on the line. Laud says some people were apparently hanging up because they didn’t think their call would be answered.

Harvey made landfall late Friday as a Category 4 hurricane and has lingered just off the coast, dropping heavy rain as a tropical storm.

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U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz says he won’t second-guess the decision not to ask Houston residents to evacuate before Harvey hit the city with heavy rain and wind.

The Texas Republican on Monday toured the downtown convention center housing thousands of evacuees. He says there will be “plenty of time after this disaster to look back in hindsight and see what lessons could be learned.”

Cruz said that the government “will do what is necessary to rebuild,” though he didn’t commit to voting for potential legislation to provide funding for the recovery.

Cruz wouldn’t comment on criticism from U.S. Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, that he didn’t vote for an aid package for Superstorm Sandy.

Cruz said, “This is not a time for politics.”

Speaking of rebuilding, the federal government  says it has enough disaster aid money to deal with the immediate aftermath of Harvey — for now.

But a multibillion dollar aid package is a sure bet to be added to an already packed agenda facing lawmakers when they return to Washington next week.

Top Capitol Hill aides say they have assurances from the Trump administration that the $3 billion balance in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster fund is enough to handle immediate needs, such as debris removal and temporary shelter for thousands of Texas residents displaced from their homes.

An infusion of more FEMA money will be needed soon, however, given the magnitude of the storm. It’s seen as a likely add-on to a temporary government-wide funding bill to prevent a shutdown in October.

News 887’s Al Ortiz interviewed Freddy Borrego, a resident of the Terranova West subdivision, located about seven miles west of I-45, which has several homes severely flooded.

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Texas’ governor activating the entire Texas National Guard for search and rescue efforts following Hurricane Harvey, bringing the total deployment to roughly 12,000.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday that it’s “imperative we do everything possible” to protect lives. About 3,000 guard members had already been mobilized along the Texas coast.

Abbott says Texas is now activating others who are physically able and not currently deployed elsewhere.

Houston officials say they have rescued more than 2,000 people from flooding in the city. Harvey made landfall on Friday as a Category 4 hurricane.

So far there have been two confirmed storm related deaths, one in Port Aransas, one in Houston and another three unconfirmed. 

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Harris County Judge Ed Emmet says hundreds of people who’ve been rescued from their homes, vehicles and other places amid catastrophic flooding are being taken to dry land but not straight to shelters.

Emmett said at a news conference Monday that many people are being ferried to a parking lot, school or other dry area as rescue personnel move on to the next rescue that’s needed. Those people then are struggling to find shelter, food and other resources.

Emmett says the focus now is on getting those people to shelters.

Meanwhile, Houston police Chief Art Acevedo on Monday told “Good Morning America” that he knows of 200 to 250 water rescues that still must be done in the city and that he hopes they’ll be completed by the end of the day.

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence is stressing that the federal government will support Harvey recovery efforts going forward.

In an interview with Houston radio station KTRH Monday morning, Pence said the federal government will make the resources available to see Texas through rescue operations and recovery.

Pence noted that given the “magnitude of the flooding” that “it will be years coming back.”

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Residents west of the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs in Houston are being advised to evacuate their homes on Monday, if they haven’t done so already. The Army Corps of Engineers began controlled releases from the reservoirs shortly after midnight.
 
The water is being released into the already flooded Buffalo Bayou, to flow into the Houston Ship Channel. But the levels in Addicks and Barker are still rising, at more than 1 foot per hour. That’s fueled by surging creeks that empty into the reservoirs. The result is that water is backing up to the west of both reservoirs. Thousands of homes in the way are either already being flooded or at risk.
 
Officials say that they had to allow the controlled release now. They say the alternative would have been an uncontrolled release later. That would cause more damage, at the very least. But allowing the water to continue building could also threaten the structural integrity of the Addicks and Barker Dams. Those two dams are rated among the most unsafe in the country.

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The director of the National Weather Service is warning that the catastrophic flooding that’s overwhelming Houston and other parts of Texas will worsen in the coming days and then be slow to recede once Harvey finally moves on.

Director Louis Uccellini said during a news conference Monday that up to 20 inches  of rain could fall in the coming days, on top of the more than 30 inches some places have already seen.

He says some of the heaviest rainfall today, at a pace of 6 inches  an hour, will fall east of Houston in places such as Beaumont and Lake Charles, Louisiana.

He adds that while Houston is experiencing a break from the rain Monday morning, heavy rainfall is forecast to return later in the day into Tuesday.

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Houston police chief, Art Acevedo,  is concerned about the prospect of more flooding, but is “keeping  fingers crossed” that the rain will subside.

In an interview Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Chief Art Acevedo says drainage is a concern.

Acevedo said  “not sure where the water is going because it’s just so much that we can’t really absorb more in the ground at this point. … We have way too much water and not enough places for it to drain.”

He says officers have voiced frustration that they don’t have enough high-water vehicles to quickly help everyone who is stranded.

He also warned any criminals who might try to take advantage of the disaster that his force has already arrested half a dozen people for looting.

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)  is asking for volunteers to help Texas recover from Harvey.

William “Brock” Long, FEMA administrator, told a news conference in Washington Monday that “we need citizens to be involved,” because the storm and resulting flooding is greater than the government can handle.

Long urges individuals and organizations to check the website www.nvoad.org or call 1-800-621-FEMA to find out how to help. He’s asking for financial donations and for people “to figure out how to get involved as we help Texas find a new normal.”

A National Weather Service official says the peak flooding from the Houston-area storm is expected to max out Wednesday and Thursday, but said the floods will be slow to recede and that catastrophic flooding will persist.

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Harvey continues to head back toward the Gulf of Mexico at a slow pace.

The National Hurricane Center says in its 4 a.m. CDT update that the tropical storm that made landfall late Friday as a Category 4 hurricane, dropping heavy rain in the Houston area, still has sustained winds of up to 40 mph (65 kph) and is centered 20 miles (30 kilometers) east of Victoria, Texas, about 120 miles (193 kilometers) southwest of Houston. It continues to creep to the southeast at 3 mph (4.8 kph).

That means it remains virtually stalled near the coast and continues to drop heavy rain on the Houston and Galveston areas. In the past 48 hours, numerous spots in the region have measured more than 25 inches (64 centimeters) of rain.

The hurricane center says Harvey’s center was expected to drift off the middle Texas coast on Monday and meander offshore through Tuesday before beginning “a slow northeastward motion.” The center says those in the upper Texas coast and in southwestern Louisiana should continue to monitor Harvey’s progress.

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Officials released more water from Houston-area reservoirs overwhelmed by Harvey early Monday in a move aimed at protecting the city’s downtown from devastating floods, but that could still endanger thousands of homes, even as the city braced for more rain.

Harvey, which made landfall late Friday as a Category 4 hurricane and has lingered dropping heavy rain as a tropical storm, sent devastating floods pouring into Houston on Sunday.

 

The rising water chased thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground and overwhelmed rescuers who could not keep up with the constant calls for help.

Residents living near the Addicks and Barker reservoirs — that were designed to prevent flooding in downtown Houston — were warned Sunday that a controlled release from both reservoirs would cause additional street flooding that could spill into homes. Rising water levels and continuing rain was putting pressure on the dams that could cause a failure without the release.

Harris and Fort Bend county officials advised residents to pack their cars Sunday night and wait for daylight Monday to leave.

“The idea is to prepare … pack up what you need and put it in your vehicle and when the sun comes up, get out,” said Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist for the Harris County Flood Control District. “And you don’t have to go far, you just need to get out of this area.”

The Army Corps of Engineers started the reservoir releases before 2 a.m. Monday — ahead of schedule — because water levels were increasing dramatically at a rate of more than six inches (15 centimeters) per hour, a Corps spokesman Jay Townsend said. The timetable was moved up to prevent more homes from being flooded, Townsend said.

Meanwhile, officials in Fort Bend County, Houston’s southwestern suburbs, late Sunday issued widespread mandatory evacuation orders along the Brazos River levee districts.

County officials were preparing for the river to reach major flood stages late Sunday. County Judge Robert Herbert said at a news conference that National Weather Service officials were predicting that the water could rise to 59 feet (18 meters), three feet (90 centimeters) above 2016 records and what Herbert called an “800-year flood level.” Herbert said that amount of water would top the levees and carries a threat of levee failure.

On Sunday, incessant rain covered much of Houston in turbid, gray-green water and turned streets into rivers navigable only by boat.

In a rescue effort that recalled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, helicopters landed near flooded freeways, airboats buzzed across submerged neighborhoods and high-water vehicles plowed through water-logged intersections. Some people managed with kayaks or canoes or swam.

Volunteers joined emergency teams in pulling people from their homes or from the water. The flooding was so widespread that authorities had trouble pinpointing the worst areas. They urged people to get on top of their houses to avoid becoming trapped in attics and to wave sheets or towels to draw attention to their location.

Judging from federal disaster declarations, the storm has so far affected about a quarter of the Texas population, or 6.8 million people in 18 counties. It was blamed in at least two deaths.

As the water rose, the National Weather Service issued another ominous forecast: Before the storm that arrived Friday as a Category 4 hurricane is gone, some parts of Houston and its suburbs could get as much as 50 inches (1.3 meters) of rain. That would be the highest amount ever recorded in Texas.

Some areas have already received about half that amount. Since Thursday, South Houston recorded nearly 25 inches (63 centimeters), and the suburbs of Santa Fe and Dayton got 27 inches (69 centimeters).

“The breadth and intensity of this rainfall is beyond anything experienced before,” the National Weather Service said in a statement.

Average rainfall totals will end up around 40 inches (1 meter) for Houston, weather service meteorologist Patrick Burke said.

The director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long, predicted that the aftermath of the storm would require FEMA’s involvement for years.

“This disaster’s going to be a landmark event,” Long said.

Rescuers had to give top priority to life-and-death situations, leaving many affected families to fend for themselves. And several hospitals in the Houston area were evacuated due to the rising waters.

It was not clear how many people were plucked from the floodwaters. Up to 1,200 people had to be rescued in Galveston County alone, said Mark Henry, the county judge, the county’s top administrative post.

Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center was quickly opened as a shelter. It was also used as a shelter for Katrina refugees in 2005.

Gillis Leho arrived there soaking wet. She said she awoke Sunday to find her downstairs flooded. She tried to move some belongings upstairs, then grabbed her grandchildren.

“When they told us the current was getting high, we had to bust a window to get out,” Leho said.

Some people used inflatable beach toys, rubber rafts and even air mattresses to get through the water to safety. Others waded while carrying trash bags stuffed with their belongings and small animals in picnic coolers.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said authorities had received more than 2,000 calls for help, with more coming in. He urged drivers to stay off roads to avoid adding to the number of those stranded.

“I don’t need to tell anyone this is a very, very serious and unprecedented storm,” Turner told a news conference. “We have several hundred structural flooding reports. We expect that number to rise pretty dramatically.”

The deteriorating situation was bound to provoke questions about the conflicting advice given by the governor and Houston leaders before the hurricane. Gov. Greg Abbott urged people to flee from Harvey’s path, but the Houston mayor issued no evacuation orders and told everyone to stay home.

The governor refused to point fingers on Sunday.

“Now is not the time to second-guess the decisions that were made,” Abbott, a Republican, said at a news conference in Austin. “What’s important is that everybody work together to ensure that we are going to, first, save lives and, second, help people across the state rebuild.”

The mayor, a Democrat, defended his decision, saying there was no way to know which parts of the city were most vulnerable.

“If you think the situation right now is bad, and you give an order to evacuate, you are creating a nightmare,” Turner said, citing the risks of sending the city’s 2.3 million inhabitants onto the highways at the same time.

The Coast Guard deployed five helicopters and asked for additional aircraft from New Orleans.

The White House announced that President Donald Trump would visit Texas on Tuesday. He met Sunday by teleconference with top administration officials to discuss federal support for response and recovery efforts.

The rescues unfolded a day after Harvey settled over the Texas coastline. The system weakened Saturday to a tropical storm. By early Monday, Harvey had shifted a little closer to Texas, hovering about 20 miles (30 kilometers) east of Victoria, with sustained winds of about 40 mph (65 kph). The National Hurricane Center said it continued to edge in a southeasterly direction at 3 mph (4.8 kph).

Harvey was the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 13 years and the strongest to strike Texas since 1961’s Hurricane Carla, the most powerful Texas hurricane on record.

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