- REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
On the fifth day of Harvey, it’s still raining in Houston.
The storm, which made landfall on Friday as a Category 4 hurricane but has been downgraded to a tropical storm, has caused devastating, catastrophic flooding in southeastern Texas. A rain gauge southeast of Houston on Tuesday morning broke the state record for rainfall from a tropical storm or hurricane, measuring 49.32 inches.
The city’s first responders and many volunteers are using boats, aircraft, and dump trucks to pull people from their flooded homes.
Houston’s police chief, Art Acevedo, said over 3,500 people had been rescued from the water as of Tuesday morning, and a Red Cross representative said 9,000 had arrived at the city’s convention center seeking shelter.
Officials are still focused on rescue, Acevedo said, not recovery. The former means saving people who are still alive, while the latter means finding people who died in the storm.
At least 15 deaths have been reported, and many seem to be people who were trying to escape the floodwaters in vehicles. Citing three police department officials, the Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday that an officer died in his patrol car after he took a wrong turn and got caught in the high water.
Acevedo on Monday said he was concerned that the death toll would rise once the waters finally recede.
“We know in these kind of events that, sadly, the death toll goes up historically,” Acevedo told The Associated Press. “I’m really worried about how many bodies we’re going to find.”
- Joe Raedle/Getty
Houston didn’t declare mandatory evacuations before the storm, encouraging residents to stay put unless they were in immediate danger. Some areas issued evacuation orders when bayous overflowed on Monday. Mayor Sylvester Turner has defended that decision, saying it’s often more dangerous to evacuate a city during a hurricane.
The flood levels throughout downtown Houston and the surrounding metro area have crested 10 feet in many places, covering one-story buildings and stranding tanker trailers.
The National Weather Service director, Louis Uccellini, said on Monday that the floodwaters would be slow to recede, which means it will most likely take days or weeks for the streets to regain some normalcy.
“The breadth and intensity of this rainfall are beyond anything experienced before,” the NWS’s Weather Prediction Center said over the weekend. “Catastrophic flooding is now underway and expected to continue for days.”