A catastrophe of biblical proportions has struck southeast Texas as hurricane Harvey came ashore at Rockport with 140 plus mile per hour winds, completely destroying the town and has deluged America’s fourth largest city, Houston.
The monster storm continues to dump tremendous amounts of rain, having dumped 30 plus inches in 2 days over the low lying city. Unfortunately the storm has stalled due to lack of steering currents and is forecast to continue torrential rain for days to come.
Thousands have been trapped in their homes and required rescue by boat or helicopter as the city has been turned into a sea of islands. The National Guard has been deployed and as many as 30,000 are expected to require temporary FEMA shelter for months to come.
Across the nation’s fourth-largest city and suburbs many miles away, families scrambled to get out of their fast-flooding homes. Rescuers — in many cases neighbors helping neighbors — in fishing boats, huge dump trucks and even front-end loaders battled driving rains to move people to shelter. Some used inflatable toys to ferry their families out of inundated neighborhoods, wading through chest-deep water on foot while the region was under near-constant tornado watches.
The Brazos River, which runs southwest of Houston, is expected to reach record heights in the coming days. National Weather Service models showed the river rising to 59 feet by Tuesday, topping the previous record of 54.7 feet.
The National Weather Service — which tweeted the “beyond anything experienced” description that morning — was predicting that parts of Texas could receive nearly 50 inches of rain, the largest recorded total in the state’s history. It also warned that Harvey’s relentless downpours were expected to continue until late in the week and that flooding could become much more severe. More than 82,000 homes were without electricity in the Houston area by Sunday night as airports shuttered and hospitals planned evacuations.
The devastation was also reverberating around the world from the Houston area’s large international community. In India, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj posted a tweet Monday saying 200 Indian students were “marooned.”
“They are surrounded by neck deep water,” she wrote.
Officials said Houston, a major center for the nation’s energy industry, had suffered billions of dollars in damage and would take years to fully recover. Oil and gas companies have shut down about a quarter of their production in the Gulf of Mexico. Spot prices for gasoline are expected to jump on Monday, but the full extent of damage will not be clear for days, companies and experts said.
Harvey’s sheer size also became apparent Sunday as heavy rains and flooding were reported as far away as Austin and even Dallas. What started with a direct impact on the tiny coastal town of Rockport on Friday night has turned into a weather disaster affecting thousands of square miles and millions of people.
Mayor Sylvester Turner and other officials pleaded with residents to “shelter in place” and to make calls to overwhelmed 911 operators only in life-threatening emergencies. They urged people to climb to their roofs to await shelter if water was rising in their homes, and local TV news anchors reminded people to stay out of attics where they might be trapped by water — or to take an ax to hack their way to the roof.
Police began to ask people with high-water vehicles and boats to assist in rescue efforts on streets where abandoned cars were completely submerged. Brays Bayou, a huge waterway crossing the southwestern part of the city, rose between 10 and 20 feet overnight and by Sunday morning was flowing over bridges in its path.
Both of Houston’s major airports were closed, and many tourists and visitors found themselves stranded in hotels with no hope of leaving anytime soon. Brown said the airport flooded so quickly that shuttles were unable to get them out. They were told by police it would be unsafe to attempt to leave.
Water covered about eight blocks on the edge of Houston’s downtown, entering the ground floors of the Wortham Center, a downtown theater, and the historic Lancaster Hotel, where staff members were still posted to ward off looters. A Chase bank branch was submerged in flowing water that reached almost to its roof.
Another 20 inches of rain is expected.