Harvey causes deadly floods, is set to drop ‘unprecedented’ rain totals in Texas – Washington Post
By Sunday afternoon, the National Weather Service was predicting that parts of Texas could receive nearly 50 inches of rain, the largest recorded total in the state’s history. Communities in southeastern Texas, already experiencing water so high that it engulfed vehicles up to their car handles, were continually being beaten down by heavy sideways rain.
The flood warnings also came with urgent pleas for residents to be cautious, stay indoors and not attempt to travel flooded roadways. Police and rescue workers implored residents who see floodwaters rising near their homes to make their way to the highest point possible — even if it is a roof — while awaiting rescue. On Saturday night, a woman was found dead by her vehicle, believed to have been trapped during a flood.
The U.S. Coast Guard dispatched five helicopters and Houston is expecting about 40 additional boats to find those in need of help, Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a news conference. More than 66,000 homes were without electricity.
“This disaster is going to be a landmark event,” said Brock Long, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, speaking to CNN’s “State of the Union.” He said he expects the agency to be working in the area for years as Texas recovers from the storm.
By 7 a.m. Central time, the National Weather Service had recorded close to 25 inches of rain around Houston, with an additional three to seven inches expected. Warnings for flash flooding and tornadoes remained in place for a large swath of the state, and storm surges are expected along the coast, bringing flooding to typically dry areas. William H. Hobby Airport was shut down.
“There’s flooding all over this city,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said in a live stream video early Sunday morning. “We have one fatality, and a potential second fatality from the floodwaters out here.”
As it scrambles to open shelters across Texas, the Red Cross command center in Houston is now “physically isolated” because of floodwaters, said Paul Carden, district director of Red Cross activities in South Texas, which includes Corpus Christi.
“The advice is if you don’t have to be out, don’t be out,” said Bill Begley, a spokesman with the Joint Information Center in Houston around 7:30 a.m. Central time. He said most of the calls for help it has received have come from residents who tried to drive through the storm and wounded up getting stuck in high water.
President Trump praised the way the city’s officials are handling the flood, tweeting at 8:25 a.m. that the “Good news is that we have great talent on the ground.” He promised to head to Texas “as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption. The focus must be life and safety.”
Southwest Airlines flight attendant Allison Brown estimated that at least 50 flight attendants, a number of pilots, airport staff and hundreds of passengers have been stranded at William P. Hobby Airport since at least 1 a.m. Sunday.
Brown said the airport flooded so quickly that shuttles were unable to get to them out. They were told by police that it would be unsafe to attempt to leave.
“Luckily we have the restaurant staff or else we would’ve been stuck with no food,” Brown said. “Waters in the road are around four feet — minimum — surrounding the airport.”
The Marriott Courtyard Hotel in Southwest Houston, along the banks of the Brays Bayou, was surrounded by floodwater when guests woke up this morning.
The bayou had overflown its banks and completely swamped a bridge near the hotel, with waters rising at least 10 to 20 feet or more since Saturday. Its powerful brown flow carried large tree branches and other debris.
All roads in the area were underwater, and a park across the bayou was completely flooded. A car nearby had been abandoned, its doors left open. City traffic lights were still blinking red and green over the empty and flooded bridge, but most buildings visible in the area seemed to be dark and possibly without power.
By midmorning, Nichelle Mosby stood up to her knees in floodwater in the parking lot, grimacing with a towel over her head to block the rain.
Mosby and six family members, including a 4-year-old girl, had come from Louisiana to visit relatives. When Harvey hit, they booked into the Courtyard. Now they were stranded with dozens of other guests.
“We went through Katrina, but this feels different,” she said. Instead of a gradual buildup of rising water, she said, “this was like a gush of water that came up too fast.”
In the lobby, John McMillian, 70, sat eating breakfast with his wife, Debbie McMillian, 64, and their daughter, Tara, 29.
They were in town so John McMillian could have five days of treatment for his leukemia at MD Anderson Cancer Center just down the road. He had three days of treatment and was supposed to have his fourth on Sunday, but now they were stranded.