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Monday, August 28

"Chaos in Houston as floodwaters reach roof lines of single story homes"

 -- Quotes are from the latest Associated Press update, below. First here are my notes, taken mostly from Houston's Fox26 reports today, which I've been listening to at YouTube:

Weather update approx. 3:30pm from Fox26 Houston TV (via YouTube)
  • Harvey is now back over the water, but this means it's drawing in moisture, although slowly.
  • Southeast Texas is still on the 'wrong' side of the storm
  • heavy rains still falling - will continue heavy at least 24 hours -- but rains not as heavy as yesterday.
  • winds picking up to about 40 mph gusts; avg sustained winds between 20-30 mph.

Dangerous Waters In Houston, nearby areas
  • some rivers still rising; many roads still impassable.
  • Fox26 reported late this morning that there were 346 high water areas on roadways into/through Houston that are dangerous; footage of some of those areas shows the waters are moving very swiftly. Also, 'flash flood' areas keep emerging  
  • Houston - Fort Bend neighborhoods within levees ordered to evacuate (Fox26 Houston - 1:39 PM CDT posted a list of the neighborhoods, which are several, at their website). Some parts are under voluntary evacuation according to Fox26; I guess if your neighborhood is not on the list that means you have a choice about whether to evacuate.
More Help is on the Way:

From Fox26 reporting earlier this afternoon
  • Squad of Navy helicopters (at least 4) flying in from Virginia to deliver supplies to Houston and help with rescues.
  • City of Phoenix, AZ 80 member team with canines and (2?) structural engineers flying in to help Houston; the team is the best urban search and rescue squad in the USA.
  • Entire Texas National Guard now called up (about 12,000 to be eventually deployed) to help flood victims; at least 1,000 Guards arrived earlier today in Houston.
  • More boats (about 40) and high-water vehicles are being sent to Houston for use by official rescue teams.
  • The volunteer cavalry ("Cajun Navy") is also arriving. Fox26 reported this morning on a caravan of 20-25 trucks driven by volunteers hauling boats that arrived in Houston from Louisiana. "Texans came to our rescue [during the big floods last year in Louisiana, which got almost no national coverage] and now we're coming to theirs."  From what a volunteer said around 1 AM the Cajun Navy had been trying since last night to get into Houston but were blocked by flooding/heavy rains.  
The Panic Factor:
  • Panic has set in for many residents still waiting for rescue, some of whom are stranded in rising waters; some are clinging to poles, other structures. Earlier today Fox26 reported a Houston resident screaming, "Save me or I'm going to die!" and some residents jumping off bridges into swift (and toxic) waters.
  • Some panic is simply due to exhaustion after waiting without food or water for many hours for rescue. Some residents feel abandoned because they don't understand that they can be stranded in an area where responders, whether official or volunteer, cannot go at that time because of very dangerous water conditions. If their cell phone batteries have given out, they'd have no way of knowing this, especially after dark.
  •   And they might not understand that no matter how dire they believe their situation, others are in a life-or-death situation and the rescue of such people takes priority.  
  • Residents in need of rescue can be frustrated by long waits on hold when they call 911; they will often hang up, thus losing their place in the call line-up. The advice from officials is to stay on the line no matter what and that 911 operators can see from the call the location of callers. Houston has added more 911 operators but they are dealing with an unprecedented volume of calls. 

Headlines from CNBC report today on the power outages; report updated approximately 4:45 PM EDT:

  • About 280,000 Texas customers were without power on Monday, according to four of the state's investor-owned utilities.
  • Continued high winds, rain and flooding were preventing the companies from restoring power in some of the hardest hit areas.
  • Thousands of out-of-state workers helped to restore electricity to some customers.
Latest Associated Press update via Chicago Tribune - 2:28 PM today (I'll assume CDT)
Chaos in Houston as floodwaters reach roof lines; 6 in van that was swept away feared dead
By Michael Graczyk and David Phillip

(HOUSTON) Floodwaters reached the roof lines of single-story homes Monday and people could be heard pleading for help from inside as Harvey poured rain on the Houston area for a fourth consecutive day after a chaotic weekend of rising water and rescues.

The nation's fourth-largest city was still largely paralyzed, and there was no relief in sight from the storm that spun into Texas as a Category 4 hurricane, then parked itself over the Gulf Coast. With nearly 2 more feet of rain expected, authorities worried whether the worst was yet to come.

The storm has been blamed for at least two confirmed deaths. A Houston television station reported Monday that six family members were believed to have drowned when their van was swept away by floodwaters.
The KHOU report was attributed to three family members the station did not identify. No bodies have been recovered.
Police Chief Art Acevedo told The Associated Press that he had no information about the report but said that he's "really worried about how many bodies we're going to find."
According to the station, four children and their grandparents were feared dead after the van hit high floods Sunday when crossing a bridge in Greens Bayou.
The driver of the vehicle, the children's great-uncle, reportedly escaped before the van sank by grabbing a tree limb. He told the children inside to try to escape through the back door, but they were unable to get out.
The disaster unfolded on an epic scale in one of America's most sprawling metropolitan centers. The Houston metro area covers about 10,000 square miles, an area slightly bigger than New Jersey. It's crisscrossed by about 1,700 miles of channels, creeks and bayous that drain into the Gulf .
The flooding was so widespread that the levels of city waterways have either equaled or surpassed those of Tropical Storm Allison from 2001, and no major highway has been spared some overflow.
The city's normally bustling business district was virtually deserted Monday, with emergency vehicles making up most of the traffic. Most traffic signals were out and most businesses closed.
Elsewhere, water gushed from two reservoirs overwhelmed by Harvey as officials sought to release pressure on a pair of dams where floodwaters were at risk of spilling uncontrolled from around the sides of the barriers. The move aimed at protecting the downtown business district risked flooding thousands more homes.
Meanwhile, rescuers continued plucking people from the floodwaters — at least 2,000 so far, according to Acevedo. At least 185 critical rescue requests were still pending on Monday morning, he said.
Rescuers were giving priority to life-and-death situations, leaving many people to fend for themselves.
Chris Thorn was among the many volunteers still helping with the mass evacuation that began Sunday. He drove with a buddy from the Dallas area with their flat-bottom hunting boat to pull strangers out of the water.
"I couldn't sit at home and watch it on TV and do nothing since I have a boat and all the tools to help," he said.
They got to Spring, Texas, where Cypress Creek had breached Interstate 45 and went to work, helping people out of a gated community near the creek.
"It's never flooded here," resident Lane Cross said from the front of Thorn's boat, holding his brown dog, Max. "I don't even have flood insurance."
Houston's 911 system has received 75,000 calls since Harvey inundated the city, including 20,000 just since late Sunday. The city normally averages 8,000 to 9,000 calls per day.
The Red Cross quickly set up Houston's George R. Brown Convention Center and other venues as shelters. The center, which was also used as a shelter for Katrina refugees in 2005, can accommodate roughly 5,000 people. By Monday morning, it was already half full.
People living near Houston's Addicks and Barker reservoirs were warned Sunday that a controlled release would cause additional street flooding that could spill into homes. The rising water and ongoing rain put pressure on a pair of dams that were created to prevent flooding in downtown Houston. If the pressure is not relieved, officials said, it could allow water to spill outside the dams.
Harris and Fort Bend county officials advised residents to pack their cars Sunday night and leave in the morning.
The Army Corps of Engineers started the reservoir releases before 2 a.m. Monday — ahead of schedule — because water levels were increasing at a rate of more than 6 inches per hour, Corps spokesman Jay Townsend said.
In the Cypress Forest Estates neighborhood in northern Harris County, people called for help from inside their homes as water from a nearby creek climbed to the same level as their eaves. A steady procession of rescue boats floated into the area.
One man, Joe Garcia, carried his German shepherd in the chest-deep water before being picked up by a boat. Garcia said he floated out a tub of his belongings, then went back in for the dog.
Up to 20 more inches of rain could fall in the coming days, on top of the more than 30 inches some places have already seen, weather service Director Louis Uccellini said Monday.
That means the flooding will get worse in the days ahead and that the floodwaters will be slow to recede once Harvey finally moves on, the weather service said.
The amount of water was so unprecedented that meteorologists had to update the color charts on the weather service's rainfall maps.
Rescuers were giving priority to life-and-death situations, leaving many affected families to fend for themselves. Several hospitals in the Houston area were evacuated due to the rising waters.
The White House said President Donald Trump would visit Texas on Tuesday, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump.
Harvey was the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 13 years and the strongest to strike Texas since 1961's Hurricane Carla, the most powerful Texas hurricane on record.
Associated Press writers Carla K. Johnson in Chicago; Juan Lozano, Josh Replogle and Robert Ray in Houston; Peter Banda in Dickinson, Texas; and Jamie Stengle and Claudia Lauer in Dallas contributed to this report.

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