The Latest: Flooded major Houston highway pumped out
Posted September 7
HOUSTON — The Latest on the aftermath of Harvey in Texas (all times local):
Crews have finished pumping Harvey floodwaters from a major Houston highway. But prospects aren't good for an immediate reopening of the road to ease traffic jams that have clogged the city's west side this week in the storm's aftermath.
The West Beltway 8 in Houston — a major north-south artery — has been shut down since the storm hit nearly two weeks ago. Water almost rose to the top of underpasses. Releases of water from two storm-swollen reservoirs on the west side of Houston also exacerbated the problem.
Harris County Toll Road Authority officials say they've starting replacing pavement in the southbound lanes of the highway damaged by the water. A sinkhole also must be addressed.
Houston Independent School District Superintendent Richard Carranza says 202 schools — about two-thirds of the city's public schools — will be opening on Monday.
The start of the new school year is two weeks later than originally scheduled because of damage from Harvey.
Carranza says 73 schools still are being evaluated and the start of classes for students in those schools could be put off until Sept. 18. The school chief says another nine schools are so badly damaged that students will have to be relocated to other campuses.
Carranza says none of the district's some 300 schools and facilities escaped without some impact from the storm.
Houston has the nation's seventh-largest school system, with about 216,000 students.
Seven police officers and other emergency responders who say they were sickened by a chemical fire at a storm-flooded plant outside Houston are suing its owner for gross negligence and seeking $1 million in damages.
The seven are also demanding a restraining order to prevent plant owner Arkema Inc. from altering the scene. The suit in state court Thursday says Arkema failed to properly store the chemicals considering how prone the region is to floods.
The chemicals became unstable and exploded Aug. 31 after refrigeration was lost to generator failures.
The officers were on the 1.5-mile (2.41-kilometer) perimeter of an evacuation zone established two days earlier after plant workers abandoned the Arkema facility, warning of impending disaster.
According to the lawsuit, the officers doubled over vomiting, unable to breathe, and medical personnel who tried to help were also overwhelmed and began to vomit and gasp for air.
Some officers jumped inside their vehicles. Authorities said at the time they were treated for respiratory irritation and released.
An expert says Harvey produced rainfall amounts that will rewrite the weather books in Texas and the U.S., setting new standards for historic rainfall and flooding.
John Nielsen-Gammon is an atmospheric sciences professor at Texas A&M University who also serves as Texas state climatologist. He said in a news release Thursday that "Harvey is head and shoulders above all previous multi-day storms ever recorded in the continental United States."
Nielsen-Gammon says the most amazing record is for the five-day total over an area of 10,000 square miles. He says Harvey averaged 34.72 inches (88.19 centimeters) over five days. He says the previous all-time U.S. record, set in Texas in 1899, was estimated at 21.39 inches (54.33 centimeters).
He says Harris County averaged between 33.5 inches (85.09 centimeters) and 35.5 inches (90.17 centimeters) of rainfall over a five-day period. The previous all-time central and eastern United States record for the same size area was less than 30.5 inches (77.47 centimeters).
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has picked the leader of the Texas A&M University System to head the state's recovery efforts in the wake of Harvey.
Abbott announced Thursday that A&M Chancellor John Sharp will oversee the response to the storm that roared into Texas as a Category 4 hurricane last month and dumped record rainfall over the Houston area.
Sharp is a former Democratic lawmaker and a longtime friend of former Gov. Rick Perry. He says one the guiding principles will be to "future-proof" the rebuilding effort in hopes of mitigating future disasters.
Harvey is so far blamed for at least 70 deaths and destroying or damaging more than 200,000 homes.
A California geophysicist says the sheer weight of the torrential rains brought by Harvey has caused Houston to sink by 2 centimeters.
Chris Milliner, a postdoctoral fellow at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, says water weighs about a ton per cubic meter and the flooding was so widespread that it "flexed Earth's crust."
He told the Houston Chronicle that he used observations from the Nevada Geodetic Laboratory and other statistics to measure the drop.
Milliner says it will only be temporary. Once the floodwaters recede, there will be an "opposite elastic response of the crust," similar to jumping on a mattress.
He refers to the phenomenon as local elastic subsidence and says it's found in other places that experience significant seasonal changes in water or ice.
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