Tropical Storm Harvey has reportedly claimed at least 10 lives since making a lashing landfall at Rockport on Friday night. President Donald Trump is scheduled to arrive in Corpus Christi to survey the coastal damage Tuesday.
Downgraded from a Category 4 hurricane to a tropical storm Saturday, Harvey has stalled over the southeast, creating a “multi-day rainfall disaster” expected to last five to six days, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Six people in Harris County, one person in Rockport, and another person in La Marque, near Galveston, are said to have died as a result of the devastating storm, the Washington Post reported Monday.
Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday announced he has activated the entire Texas National Guard – around 12,000 guardsmen – to assist with search and rescue operations.
“It is imperative that we do everything possible to protect the lives and safety of people across the state of Texas as we continue to face the aftermath of this storm,” Abbott stated. “The Texas National Guard is working closely with FEMA and federal troops to respond urgently to the growing needs of Texans who have fallen victim to Hurricane Harvey, and the activation of the entire Guard will assist in the efforts already underway.”
The greater Houston area has been pummeled with 30 inches of rain in the past 72 hours, according to the National Weather Service (NWS), prompting evacuations and overwhelming emergency services. Some area residents remain trapped in their homes, while others were forced to the tops of buildings, trees, and cars, as streets in low-lying areas turned into racing rivers that submerged cars.
One confirmed death in Houston occurred when a women was overtaken by water after exiting her vehicle in a flooded area, according to Houston police. Emergency management officials estimate that around 30,000 Texas residents have been forced to take refuge in shelters and about 450,000 would be seeking disaster assistance.
The extent of Harvey’s impact throughout the state of Texas is “unknown [and] beyond anything experienced,” NWS stated in a Sunday morning tweet, urging residents to “follow orders from officials to ensure safety.”
The San Antonio Fire Department has deployed task forces to assist in rescue operations in Houston, SAFD Chief Charles Hood said in a press conference Sunday afternoon.
“This is going to be a bigger rescue effort than [during Hurricane] Katrina, just because of the consistent rain,” Hood said. “It’s very hard to deploy assets and set up bases of operation when you still have to concern yourself with weather, because you’re going to have to look for a hurricane-hardened building. The advantage we had with Katrina is that it didn’t rain a drop after the levees broke, and we had dry operations.”
As water in Houston continues to rise, people will have to be evacuated from the roofs of their homes in boats or via helicopter, weather permitting, Hood explained.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Addicks and Barker dams early Monday to release water and prevent further flooding in the region. Houston has seen as much rain as it averages in an entire year since Harvey’s arrival.
“I called [Houston] Mayor [Sylvester] Turner … and let him know that San Antonio stands ready to support him in any way they may need,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Sunday.
“I know for a fact this is the worst flood Houston has ever experienced,” NWS meteorologist Patrick Blood said, adding that the area can expect an additional 15 to 25 inches of rain over the next few days. More than 1,000 people were rescued overnight from record flooding, and more than 70,000 residents were without power as of 8 a.m. Sunday, according to authorities.
The federal government proclaimed Harris County a disaster area Sunday morning, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston) said. George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William H. Hobby Airport have been shut down.
“This is a dynamic situation that’s only beginning to unfold,” said William “Brock” Long, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator. Recovery efforts for this “landmark disaster” will take a long time. “FEMA is going to be there for years,” Long added.
San Antonio saw intermittent rainfall and winds gusts up to 60 mph, but has largely been spared the dramatic consequences that the coastal region and now Houston are experiencing. Rockport and Port Aransas sustained some of the heaviest damage in the first two days, with one death confirmed in Rockport.
“We all recognize how fortunate the city has been with regard to the weather trajectory,” Nirenberg said during Sunday’s press conference. “San Antonio had dodged the worst of it, but it is impacting our coastal neighbors in a very significant way.”
The San Antonio area remains under a tropical storm warning and flash flood watch, Nirenberg said. The City is standing down its daily emergency service activities, but is staying activated to assist the rest of state in rescue operations.
San Antonio is expected to see steady rainfall and winds between 40 and 50 mph through Sunday night. Flash flood and tropical storm warnings are expected to persist through at least Wednesday. The most damaging winds are predicted to be east of I-35 and south of I-10. The NWS also warned of “catastrophic main stem river flooding” for areas in the Guadalupe, Colorado, and San Antonio river basins.
“Although there have been some changes to the weather projections, we are still expecting several inches of rain over the weekend and through the early part of next week,” Nirenberg said Friday afternoon. “That will likely produce localized flooding.”
City officials are asking residents to use the 311 telephone service to report downed trees, rising creeks, flooding streets, downed power lights, or other storm-related damage.
Harvey ripped through Rockport just north of Corpus Christi on Friday night, devastating the small fishing and residential resort community as a Category 4 hurricane with 130 mph winds. The town of 10,000 is believed to have sustained the worst damage in the fiercest hurricane to hit Texas since Category 4 Hurricane Carla in 1961. Numerous homes and businesses were destroyed, nearly 200,000 Coastal Bend residents are reportedly without power, and it is currently unclear how many residents are unaccounted for.
Corpus Christi Mayor Joe McComb confirmed Sunday that the city had not seen any casualties related to the storm. The city was spared widespread destruction that devastated Rockport and Port Aransas, KRIS reporter and anchor Priscilla Torres told the Rivard Report Sunday. “[We are dealing with] fallen trees and no power in most places,” she said. “As of [Sunday], we had a little under 190,000 residents without power, but it’s those places like Rockport and Port Aransas that are going to need help the most.”
Gov. Greg Abbott’s Request for a Presidential Disaster Declaration was granted by FEMA about the same time that Harvey was making landfall Friday. Abbott said Sunday that the State would “provide the resources to assist Harris County and the City of Houston in these water rescues,” according to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. President Donald Trump tweeted that he would visit Texas “as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption,” and is scheduled to arrive on Air Force One at 11 a.m.at Corpus Christi International Airport, according to the White House.
Aransas County, home to Rockport and Port Aransas, was not listed on Abbott’s Friday request. U.S. Rep Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi) said Sunday that the county had been added, making the devastated area eligible for government funding. “Individuals will be able to get assistance for temporary housing and the like,” Farenthold told KRIS. “[Local] governments will be able to get money to help in dealing with the infrastructure damage.”