An epic, record-breaking flood catastrophe will not only get worse, but will continue for days as Tropical Storm Harvey dumps rainfall amounts of biblical proportion over Texas. After making landfall on the evening of August 25 as a Major Hurricane, Harvey has nearly stalled over Texas, allowing for incredible amounts of moisture to drop from the sky. More than 20″ of rain fell in the Houston metro region, with another 1-3 feet of rain possible in coming days; some rain has fallen at rates of 5-6″/hour. With more heavy rain on the way, things will only get exponentially worse. The National Weather Service announced, “This event is unprecedented and all impacts are unknown and beyond anything experienced.”
Even with the worst yet to come, things are downright bad in and around Houston; more than 2,000 water rescues have been performed since Harvey’s arrival, with thousands more likely needing rescue because they ignored the forecasts for epic flooding.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott says that boats and helicopters are being deployed to help with swift-water rescues in the Houston area and parts of East Texas also facing flooding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Governor Abbott told ABC’s “This Week” that they “could not be more appreciative” of what the federal government and President Trump have done to help as Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. Brock Long, the current FEMA Administrator, says more than 5,000 people from the federal government are in Texas helping disaster victims. Long said those federal employees are “doing search and rescue missions, helping to restore power ,and supporting mass care missions.” On CNN’s “State of the Union”, Long said ““We expect a huge mass care mission today, of people flocking to shelters, if they can get to shelters.”
Getting around the area ravaged by Houston is nearly impossible, if not deadly. Gary Norman, a spokesman for the Houston emergency operations center, said late Saturday that the first known fatality in Houston was a woman who appeared to have gotten out of her vehicle in high water, though authorities had not confirmed a cause of death. She was found by neighbors about 30 yards away from her vehicle. Norman says she was pronounced dead at the scene by a doctor who was in the area.
Authorities are concerned that people may drown in their attics as rising waters flood homes, leaving people with no way out. In an indication of just how high water was rising in some neighbourhoods, local officials advised flooded residents to go on to their roofs and call for help if necessary, though 911 services were said to be at capacity well before dawn. “Have reports of people getting into attic to escape floodwater,” Houston police chief Art Acevedo tweeted. “Do not do so unless you have an ax or means to break through onto your roof.” Having an axe, sledgehammer, or chainsaw may help residents get outside their home rather than drown inside, which was seen in the New Orleans area in the days after Hurricane Katrina there. Rather than get trapped in attics, authorities are urging people to wait things out if they can on the roof.
While residents are racing to their roofs, another danger is coming from the sky: tornadoes. Landfalling tropical cyclones often produce tornadoes and Harvey is no different. Earlier this morning, Tornado Warnings were issued in Houston in the same region people were getting to the tops of their homes. Typically in a tornado warning, the safest place to be is the most interior small room on the lowest floor of a structure; unfortunately for Hurricane Harvey victims, those floors are under water. With tornadoes arriving, those that decided to stay behind and not flee town before the disaster are stuck with a tough choice: do they let rising flood waters drown them, or do they let flying debris from a tornado kill them.
In addition to rapidly rising with swift currents that can easily take people, automobiles, and even structures with it, the flood waters are loaded with dangers. Dangerous insects and animals, including alligators and fire ants, toxic chemicals from nearby factories, human and animal remains, raw sewage, and infection-spreading bacteria are in the rising waters.