Dangers from Harvey loom for Texas as Houston floodwaters recede — live updates – CBS News

 In U.S.

HOUSTON — Major dangers for the U.S. Gulf Coast area loomed Thursday with the threat of major flooding further east near the Texas-Louisiana line and two explosions at a Texas chemical plant as Harvey’s floodwaters began receding in the Houston area after five days of torrential rain.

Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, struggled with rising water as the area was pounded with what remained of the weakening storm, while Houston’s fire department said it would begin a block-by-block search of thousands of flooded homes. Assistant Fire Chief Richard Mann said the searches were to ensure “no people were left behind.”

The confirmed death toll climbed to at least 29, including six family members – four of them children – whose bodies were pulled Wednesday from a van that had been swept off a Houston bridge into a bayou.

“Unfortunately, it seems that our worst thoughts are being realized,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said after the van that disappeared over the weekend was found in 10 feet of muddy water.

Follow along below for live updates on the storm. All times are Eastern unless otherwise noted. 

7:36 a.m.: Hospital treats nearly two dozen after plant explosions

A Texas hospital said nearly two dozen people were being treated after two explosions at a flooded chemical plant in Crosby.

Laurie Terry of Houston Methodist San Jacinto in Baytown told CBS News that 21 emergency responders and police officers were displaying symptoms of respiratory distress.

Terry said the group wasn’t expected to suffer long-term effects and would likely be released later Thursday.

5:30 a.m.: Chemical plant explosions, smoke reported

Two explosions have been reported at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, 25 miles northeast of Houston, CBS Houston affiliate KHOU-TV reported early Thursday. Arkema officials had previously said they believed that sometime within the next several days, chemicals at the plant would degrade, explode and catch fire due to Harvey flooding-related power outages and a resulting loss of needed refrigeration of the chemicals at the site. 

3:15 a.m.: JJ Watt aid fund leaping

When the NFL’s Houston Texans star JJ Watt set up an online fundraiser to help the city in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, he hoped to raise $250,000. Now, just a few days later, it’s raised $8.5 million and quickly on its way to $10 million.  Watt revealed the news Wednesday evening on Twitter, CBS Houston affiliate KHOU-TV notes.

3:00 a.m.: Threat from reservoir grows

Fort Bend County, immediately southwest of Houston, went from urging residents of some areas to evacuate to ordering them to early Thursday after the Army Corps of Engineers forecast record water levels in the Barker Reservoir and warned of imminent additional flooding. The reservoir began overflowing Tuesday.  

2:15 a.m.: Southeast Texas city loses water supply

Beaumont lost serviced from its main pump station due to rising levels of the Neches River caused by Tropical Storm Harvey, the city announced early Thursday.

The pump station draws from the river as its main source of water for Beaumont’s water system.

The city has also lost its secondary water source, at the Loeb wells in Hardin County.

Officials said they’ll have to wait until water levels recede before they can determine the extent of damage and make any needed repairs, adding there’s no way to say how long that wil take.

12:45 a.m.: Death toll rises to 28

CBS News confirmed seven more fatalities in Texas due to Harvey, bringing the death toll to 28.

Wed., Aug. 30:

9:05 p.m.: Judge blocks parts of Texas’ “sanctuary cities” law

A U.S. judge Wednesday stopped parts of a Texas law intended to help federal immigration enforcement by punishing so-called “sanctuary cities” two days before it was to take effect, the Reuters news agency reports.

Chief U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio’s federal court found the Texas measure was unlikely to withstand constitutional scrutiny, Reuters adds.

The law, SB 4, had been cheered by President Trump’s administration but decried by immigrants’ rights groups who say it could force anyone who looks like they might be in the country illegally to “show papers.”

The measure sailed through the Republican-controlled Legislature despite months of protests and opposition from business groups who worried that it could cause a labor-force shortage in industries such as construction. Opponents sued, arguing it violated the U.S. Constitution, and U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia’s ruling in San Antonio keeps it from taking effect as planned Friday – allowing the case time to proceed.

In a 94-page ruling, Garcia wrote that there “is overwhelming evidence by local officials, including local law enforcement, that SB 4 will erode public trust and make many communities and neighborhoods less safe” and that “localities will suffer adverse economic consequences which, in turn, will harm the state of Texas.”

“The Court cannot and does not second guess the Legislature,” he continued. “However, the state may not exercise its authority in a manner that violates the United States Constitution.”

Garcia’s order suspends the law’s most contentious language while suggesting that even parts of the law that can go forward won’t withstand further legal challenges.

8:15 p.m.: Harvey downgraded to tropical depression

National Hurricane Center (NHC) downgrades Harvey to a tropical depression, but says catastrophic flooding continues.

Harvey, which was previously a tropical storm for 102 hours since 2 p.m. Aug. 26, weakened Wednesday and is about 10 miles southwest of Alexandria, Louisiana, with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph, according to NHC.

“Catastrophic and life threatening flooding will continue in and around Houston, Beaumont/Port Arthur, eastward into southwest Louisiana for the rest of the week,” the NHC said.

Harvey is expected to produce an additional 4 to 8 inches of rainfall along the Texas-Louisiana line.

7:25 p.m.: Houston officials hold evening press update

  • Houston curfew goes in effect Thursday beginning 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. Central Time
  • Officials received 5,000 calls for help Wednesday; 1,500 high water vehicles were dispatched to remove people out of homes or vehicles
  • Up to 40 people rescued Wednesday; nearly 4,500 rescued so far (by Houston police and fire department)
  • Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says bills will be wiped clean for police Sgt. Steve Perez, 60, who died after he became trapped in his patrol car as he was driving to work
  • “This is a storm that does not discriminate simply based on geography,” Mayor Turner said
  • “We have seen a transition from rescue calls to recovery operations,” Fire Chief Richard Mann said
  • Mann said a “wide area search” will begin Thursday in areas hardest hit by Harvey which will be a one- to two-week process
  • Mann said since Harvey inundated the Houston area, the fire department received more than 15,000 calls for service
  • United Airlines will be sending help from LAX with five additional aircraft, according to Mario Diaz, regional director of Houston airport system
  • Diaz said Thursday will see the first set of international flights begin from Houston airports (to Beijing and Instanbul)
  • On Saturday midday: Southwest will resume and ramp up all of its flights from Hobby Airport (domestic and international)
  • On Sunday: expecting a full complement of international and domestic operations; 75 to 85 percent over the ensuing week
  • Diaz told passengers not to go to area airports unless you have a confirmed seat or received confirmation from the airline

6:55 p.m.: Louisiana governor offers aid to Texas

Wednesday afternoon brought the unusual sight of Louisiana’s governor holding a news conference on Texas soil.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards visited a command post set up by Louisiana government agencies on the side of Interstate 10 in Orange.

Edwards said Louisiana wanted to send help, including Fish and Wildlife agents and the Louisiana National Guard because “it’s the right thing to do.”

School buses and transit buses were sent from Lake Charles to carry evacuees to two shelters the state is running there. Louisiana has also opened a shelter in Alexandria, the largest city in the central part of the state.

Edwards said he’d spoken to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Wednesday about the effort. He said Louisiana would assist for “however long it takes,” saying the state owes its western neighbor a debt for its aid in 2005.

Edwards says, “Twelve years and a day ago, it was Hurricane Katrina.”

6:45 p.m.: Dramatic footage of a swift water rescue

The El Paso Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Search, Trauma and Rescue (BORSTAR) agents and their law enforcement partners conducted a swift water rescue in Houston, Texas.

They released video which you can watch below. A woman is shown clinging to a utility pole and is heard saying, “I’m sorry.”

6:30 p.m.: Expansion of disaster declaration sought

Louisiana Gov. Edwards asked for expansion of a federal emergency disaster declaration as Tropical Storm Harvey moves through the state.

President Trump already issued such a declaration for five southwestern parishes: Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jefferson Davis and Vermilion.

In a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Wednesday, Edwards sought the addition of Allen, Acadia, Iberia, Natchitoches, Rapides, Sabine and Vernon.

The declaration authorizes the federal government to cover 75 percent of costs of certain emergency protective measures.

6:20 p.m.: Chemical plant releases updated statement

Officials from a chemical plant at risk of exploding after floodwaters caused by Harvey to knock out electricity to the facility in Crosby, Texas, released an updated statement.

“People are working around the clock under extremely challenging conditions, and the work thus far has been tremendous,” Arkema Inc. president and CEO Rich Rowe wrote in a statement.

“Right now, we have an unprecedented 6 feet of water at the plant,” the statement continued. “We have lost primary power and two sources of emergency backup power. As a result, we have lost critical refrigeration of the materials on site that could now explode and cause a subsequent intense fire. The high water and lack of power leave us with no way to prevent it. We have evacuated our personnel for their own safety.”

“The federal, state and local authorities were contacted a few days ago, and we are working very closely with them to manage this matter. They have ordered the surrounding community to be evacuated, too.”

6:10 p.m.: CBS News witnesses livestock rescue

CBS News producer Christina Ruffini shot video of a rescue of livestock in Crosby, Texas.

6 p.m.: Harvey may weaken to tropical depression

Forecasters predict a wobbling and weakening Harvey will be downgraded to a tropical depression late Wednesday or early Thursday and that the killer storm will completely dissipate within three to four days.

But with 40 mph winds as of Wednesday afternoon, Harvey still has lots of rain and potential damage to spread, this time further north.

The National Hurricane Center says that Harvey should drop 4 to 8 inches more of rain from the Louisiana/Texas border northeastward into Tennessee and Kentucky through Friday. Some spots may get as much as a foot of rain. Flooding is a possibility.

The threat of heavy rains for Houston has ended, but catastrophic and potentially deadly flooding will continue around Houston, Beaumont, Port Arthur and southwest Louisiana for the rest of the week.

5:25 p.m.: Death toll rises to 21, CBS News confirms

Two are confirmed drowned near the town of Simonton, Texas. Deputies say the two drove into high water.

The Associated Press cites authorities who say a married couple drove their pickup truck into Harvey’s floodwaters has drowned after the current from a nearby creek swept them away.

Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Maj. Chad Norvell says the couple was on the phone with 911 asking for help when the line went silent. When officers found the truck, it was completely submerged.

Norvell identified the couple as 65-year-old Donald Rogers and 58-year-old Rochelle Rogers.

They lived in a rural area of the county southwest of Houston and they were headed to a relative’s house nearby.

4:59 p.m.: Flooding in nursing home traps 70 residents

About 70 residents at a nursing home in Port Arthur, Texas, were trapped in knee-deep water with scarce food Wednesday afternoon, CBS affiliate KFDM-TV reports.

Employees tell KFDM the situation became dire at the Lake Arthur Place nursing home, where many residents were confined to wheelchairs.

Police officers arrived on the scene around 3:30 p.m. ET while KFDM was live on the air from the nursing home. Footage showed one elderly resident being pushed through several feet of water and lifted into a boat outside the facility.

4:34 p.m.: Retirement home residents evacuated by airboat

Residents of a retirement home in Orange, Texas, are being evacuated by airboat from the flooded facility about 30 miles east of Beaumont.

Agents from the Florida Wildlife Commission and two trucks from the Louisiana Army National Guard are participating in the evacuation of the Golden Years Retirement home.

Water in the parking lot was thigh deep about 3 p.m. Wednesday as guardsmen entered the building and carried residents from the second floor where they had been sheltering in a dry area of the small facility.

Wildlife agents then floated the residents, one by one in a Wildlife Commission airboat to the truck. About six residents had been rescued as of midafternoon and it was unclear how many more were sheltering on the second floor.

Texas Health and Human Services records show Golden Years has a licensed capacity of 16. Department spokeswoman Carrie Williams said more than 2,800 residents of about 120 long-term care facilities in areas affected by Harvey had been evacuated by Tuesday. That number was expected to grow.

3:43 p.m.: Death toll rises to 19 as 2 more confirmed dead

The number of people killed in relation to Harvey is now at least 19, CBS News confirms.

Joshua Feuerstein, 33, died when he drove his pickup into standing water Monday. Another man, who has not been identified, drowned Monday night after reportedly trying to swim across floodwaters on Houston’s Grand Parkway.

The death toll stood at 10 Wednesday morning and rose to 11, after a woman was found dead in Beaumont, Texas. It reached 17 after police discovered the bodies of six missing family members in a partially submerged van in a bayou in Houston.

3:05 p.m.: Death row inmate wins temporary reprieve in Texas

A 36-year-old inmate scheduled for execution in Texas next week was granted a temporary reprieve because of Harvey.

Bexar County prosecutors cited “extraordinary circumstances” in asking to move Juan Castillo’s execution to Dec. 14 because some of his legal team is based in Harris County, which has been slammed by the tropical storm. On Wednesday, a state judge agreed.

Castillo had been scheduled for lethal injection Sept. 7 in Huntsville for the slaying of 19-year-old Tommy Garcia Jr. during a 2003 robbery in San Antonio.

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