Weather

The mighty Harvey hovers near Texas, lays waste to Houston

Posted August 28

— A tropical storm, Harvey, has been parked just off the Texas coast since the weekend and has been causing havoc across much of the state, but in particular in the Houston area, with excessive rain and flooding. Forecasters say the storm has the potential to drop the highest amount of rain ever recorded in Texas.

Here are some details about the storm and its impact.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Harvey came ashore late Friday about 30 miles (50 kilometers) northeast of Corpus Christi, Texas, as a Category 4 hurricane, but has since been downgraded to a tropical storm. The slow-moving storm has caused catastrophic flooding in Texas. As of Monday morning, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said as many as 50 counties are affected by the flooding.

The rain and floods have been blamed in at least three deaths.

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RESCUES

Houston police Chief Art Acevedo says authorities have rescued 2,000 people from flooding, and fire officials say they have responded to more than 5,500 calls for service since Harvey launched its attack on the city. Gov. Greg Abbott has activated the entire Texas National Guard for search and rescue efforts, bringing the total deployment to roughly 12,000. Hundreds of emergency responders from Texas and beyond have been deployed to Houston, the nation's fourth-largest city, to assist in rescue operations.

Over the weekend, emergency crews joined with volunteers to conduct a rescue effort reminiscent of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, with helicopters landing near flooded freeways, airboats buzzing across submerged neighborhoods and high-wheel vehicles plowing through water-logged intersections.

In some areas, the water was high enough to gush into second floors and authorities urged people hoping for rescue to get on top of their homes to avoid becoming trapped in attics, and to wave sheets or towels to draw attention.

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ESCAPES

Rescuers have been prioritizing rescues in life-or-death situations, leaving many affected families to fend for themselves.

Some broke windows to get out of their homes and plunge into the floodwaters below.

Some escaped the floods in kayaks or canoes, or they swam. Others used less conventional crafts: inflatable beach toys, rubber rafts and air mattresses. Others waded while carrying trash bags stuffed with their belongings and small animals in picnic coolers.

Mayor Sylvester Turner says about 5,500 displaced people have moved into city shelters. About half of them are at the George R. Brown Convention Center. And with the downpours forecast to continue in the coming days, thousands more people are expected to abandon their homes.

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WHAT IS THE FORECAST?

National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini said during a news conference Monday that up to 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain could fall in the coming days, on top of the more than 30 inches (75 centimeters) some parts of Texas have already seen.

The weather service has forecast that Harvey could drop as much as 50 inches (1.3 meters) of rain on Houston and its suburbs before it moves on or blows itself out. That would be the highest amount of rainfall ever recorded in Texas.

Uccellini has warned that the catastrophic flooding in Houston and elsewhere can only get worse in the coming days — and that it will be slow to recede even after Harvey has gone.

To add to the misery for some, a controlled release of water from two bloated flood-control reservoirs will divert potential flooding from downtown Houston to some nearby neighborhoods, threatening thousands of homes.

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