Harvey again makes landfall, this time as a tropical storm, in western Louisiana – Washington Post

 In U.S.
Houston residents evacuate their homes amid Harvey flooding after a reservoir spilled over for the first time in history. (Dalton Bennett,Whitney Shefte/The Washington Post)

HOUSTON — The devastating storm once known as Hurricane Harvey, already the biggest rainstorm in the history of the continental United States, made landfall again Wednesday morning, bringing a new wave of punishing bands of rain into Texas and Louisiana.

Five days after roaring onto the Texas coast, leaving behind disastrous flooding and a mounting death toll that had reached at least 22 people, Harvey made landfall early Wednesday morning near tiny Cameron, La.

Now a tropical storm and expected to weaken now that it has crossed the coastline, Harvey’s immediate impact is not expected to be similar to what happened when it slammed into Texas as a Category 4 hurricane last week and dropped feet of rainfall.

But forecasters said the danger was far from over. The National Weather Service said Wednesday that “catastrophic and life-threatening flooding will continue in and around Houston eastward into southwest Louisiana for the rest of the week.” The service also warned that “expected heavy rains spreading northeastward from Louisiana into western Kentucky may also lead to flash flooding” across those areas, imperiling a new swath of the population.

As Harvey approached, storm-battered Louisiana — where memories of Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall in the state 12 years ago this week, are still fresh — hunkered down, evacuating hundreds of people and deploying the Louisiana National Guard.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), in a news conference Tuesday, urged people to “prepare and pray.” Flash flood warnings were issued across eastern Texas and western Louisiana, areas facing mounting rainfall totals as Harvey continued its onslaught.

Beaumont, Tex., about 80 miles east of Houston, had seen more than 32 inches of rain by Wednesday morning, according to reports released by the National Weather Service. Parts of Interstate-10 near Beaumont were left swallowed by floodwaters — with road signs poking above the wind-driven chop.

About 60 miles to the east, Lake Charles, La., had seen more than a foot of rain, and forecasts say the rain is expected to continue. A storm surge warning was posted across the coast of southern Louisiana, from Holly Beach to Morgan City.

In Houston, Harvey’s movements up the coast meant a respite from the heavy rains that have pelted the city since the weekend, even as the storm’s true toll remained ineffably unknown. More than 50 inches of rain over four days had turned the country’s fourth-largest city into a sea of muddy brown water, as boats skimmed along what had been neighborhood streets in search of survivors.

The impact in the Houston area was staggering. Between 25 and 30 percent of Harris County — home to 4.5 million people in Houston and its near suburbs — was flooded as of Tuesday afternoon, according to Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist with the county flood control district. That is an area potentially as large as New York City and Chicago combined.

Even though the heavy rain had departed and glimmers of hope — along with glimpses of the sun — had returned to Houston, officials were still struggling to define the enormity of what had happened.

At least 22 deaths were blamed on the storm, a number expected to rise as authorities are able to enter flooded homes and cars. The toll includes Sgt. Steve Perez with the Houston Police Department. The 60-year-old veteran officer’s body was found early Tuesday morning, officials said, after he drowned while driving in to work early Sunday morning during the storm’s peak.

“He laid down his life,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said during an emotional news briefing Tuesday.

Other stories of loss, grief and agony had begun to emerge. Six family members were apparently swept away while trying to escape the storm. Police in Beaumont, Tex., said Tuesday that a woman and her young child had gotten out of their car on a flooded road and were swept into a canal. When authorities found them, the young girl was clinging to her mother and about to go under a trestle, where they would have been lost for good, police said. The mother died, while the young girl is in stable condition.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner imposed a curfew in the city starting Tuesday from midnight to 5 a.m. local time to deter looting of abandoned homes.

“There are some who might want to take advantage of this situation, so even before it gets a foothold in the city, we just need to hold things in check,” Turner said at a news conference.

It was still too early to assess the total number of homes and other buildings damaged, in part because rescue crews were still having trouble even reaching some areas because of flooded or flood-damaged roads, said Francisco Sanchez, spokesman for the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

“We’re still in the middle of the response,” he said.

  A close-up view of the flooding in Houston View Graphic

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