Thousands of homes are taking on water and hundreds of people are trapped and stranded in rising floodwaters across the Houston metro after Harvey dumped more than 20″ of rain. The death toll from Harvey has risen to at least 3 as hundreds of water rescues are underway across the area.
“There is life-threatening, catastrophic flooding happening now in Southeast Harris County,” Jeff Lindner of the Harris County Flood Control District told The Weather Channel.
Lindner said water had overtopped Interstate 10, that there had been more than 400 water rescues overnight in the Houston area and that hundreds more were stranded in cars across roadways in the area.
Flash flood emergencies have been issued area where the extreme rainfall has inundated homes, vehicles and killed at least two people. There are now three confirmed deaths in Harvey.
The Harris County medical examiner’s office confirmed a woman was killed in flooding, according to the Associated Press. She appeared to have exited her vehicle in high water and was found 30 yards away by neighbors. The Houston Fire Department said a man died in floodwaters overnight Saturday into Sunday. More details on the third death were not immediately available.
Residents have been forced to climb into their attics to escape rising water, KTRK-TV reports.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office reports some homes are flooded with more than 6 feet of water.
Parts of southeast Houston received 12-19 inches of rain in just six hours Saturday night into early Sunday, according to the Houston Flood Control District.
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Jersey Village officials suggested residents northwest of Houston along the White Oak Bayou consider whether they need to evacuate. The city issued a notice saying the bayou could rise out of its banks before long.
“It’s quite possible that the streets could get impassable so we wanted to get that recommendation out,” Jersey Village City Manager Austin Bleess told the Associated Press.There have been reports of multiple water rescues from cars and homes in Houston. A Cadillac is now completely submerged in water after a man tried to drive down a flooding road near White Oak Bayou. Crews performed a water rescue to bring the driver to safety.
Buffalo and Brays Bayou on the west side of The Loop are climbing out of their banks due to torrential rainfall. Floodwaters in In addition, Mary’s Creek in Friendswood has surged out its banks, surpassing its 500-year water mark.
Houston’s Hobby airport was closed Sunday morning due to the storm.
Heavy rainfall and gusty winds will persist in the Houston area for days, according to weather.com meteorologist Linda Lam. Feet of rain is expected with rainfall totals in excess of 40 inches possible in local areas.
Earlier in the storm, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott urged more people to flee, however, local authorities told people to remain in their homes and recommended no widespread evacuations, AP reports. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner addressed the decision during a press conference, saying there may be a “greater danger” in having people who don’t need to be evacuated on roads that could flood.
In Houston, a group of roughly 40 people living underneath a section of Highway 59 said they planned to ride out the storm in their tents despite available social services, according to Chron.com.
“It’s an all-hands-on-deck situation,” Special Assistant to the Mayor for Homeless Initiatives Marc Eichenbaum told Chron.com. “Homeless outreach teams have been out for days informing our unsheltered homeless individuals about the weather and offering them immediate placements in shelters.”
Friday Harris County officials declared a state of disaster for the Houston area.
In nearby Galveston, the local Independent School District announced that classes at all locations have been canceled on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. All non-essential staff were released at 11:00 am on Friday.
Because of the storm, four cruise ships due this weekend to Galveston with a combined 20,000 people on board will wait until Tuesday to return to port, WFAA reports.
Galveston tourist attractions announced they would be closed throughout the weekend, including “Galveston Historical Foundation attractions; Bishop’s Palace, Pier 21 Theater, Harbor Tours, Tall Ship ELISSA, Texas Seaport Museum, Salvage Warehouse and the Eighteen Seventy One store on The Strand will be closed,” according to Galveston.com.
Officials say rain from Hurricane Harvey could inundate Houston roads and neighborhoods as early as Saturday night, but Lindner told the AP that two key reservoirs in the flood control system — at the Addicks and Barker dams — are currently near-empty and are in no danger of flooding neighborhoods close by.
A Rockport man was killed when his house caught fire at the height of the storm, according to media reports.
Aransas County Judge C.H. “Burt” Mills Jr. told the Austin American-Statesman 12 to 14 people were injured by Harvey, the Associated Press reports.
Officials in several coastal Texas towns asked residents to stay away until they could get a better scope of the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey, now a tropical storm, during its Friday night landfall.
In Port Aransas, Mayor Charles Bujan told The Weather Channel there was widespread damage – including a trailer park that is 100-percent destroyed. Search and rescue operations continued in the town Saturday afternoon, and all residents were asked to stay out of the town because damage was severe and authorities needed more time to survey, KIII-TV reported.
During a Saturday press conference, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said that it’s too early to speculate how much property damage the storm has incurred, although one estimate has put it at up to $2 billion.
Buildings were ripped to shreds in Rockport and firefighters were unable to respond to pleas for help in the hours following Harvey’s Friday night landfall along the Texas coast.
In Rockport, a town of about 10,000 located on Aransas Bay, KTRK-TV reported 10 people sustained injuries when the roof of a senior housing complex collapsed during the storm. The severity of those injuries was unknown.
“We know there is widespread devastation,” Rockport Mayor CJ Wax said during a Saturday morning interview with The Weather Channel. “I think it’s safe to say we took a Cat. 4 (hurricane) right on the nose, and we’d appreciate everyone’s prayers.”
Officials estimate that 40 percent of residents did not heed voluntary evacuation orders and remained in the city as Harvey roared ashore.
Firefighters in Rockport said they wouldn’t be able to respond to emergency calls until conditions improved, KTRK also reported.
“There’s nothing we can do at this moment,” Rockport volunteer fire department Chief Steve Sims told KTRK. “We are anxious to get out there and make assessments, but we’re hunkered down for now.”
Rockport City Manager Kevin Carruth told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times that an unknown number of buildings were destroyed by Harvey’s punishing winds. Earlier reports that Rockport High School had been destroyed were inaccurate, the report added, but the structure did sustain heavy damage.
“A part of the roof has caved in, but the reports that buildings have disappeared don’t appear to be accurate,” volunteer fire department spokeswoman Gillian Cox told the Caller-Times.
About 128 people were evacuated from a Fairfield Inn in Rockport after the hotel suffered severe damage, according to a National Weather Service report.
The U.S. Coast Guard rescued four people from the vessel Signet Enterprise Saturday near Port Aransas, according to DVIDS. In total, at least 20 people have been rescued from vessels.
Nearby Cities Prepare For Significant Rainfall
City officials in Rosenburg began calling for mandatory evacuations in parts of the city late Saturday morning, Chron.com reports.
Saturday the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management issued a mandatory evacuation orderfor residents living in low-lying areas near the San Bernard River and a voluntary evacuation order for those in low-lying areas near the Brazos River, according to a release.
Possible Tornadoes Leave Behind Damage in Nearby Cities
Storms that hit parts of Texas during Saturday left behind damages that may take days to be inspected by survey crews to determine if they were indeed tornadoes. Damage from these storms may be very similar to damage seen close to where the eyewall of Harvey pushed through along the coast at peak intensity, according to weather.com meteorologist Jonathan Belles.
Photos and videos posted to social media showed a possible tornado rolling through a neighborhood in Cypress, Texas, Saturday.
According to reports on the ground, it “touched town near the Berry Center in Cypress and damaged at least one home and a fence next door to the home.” No injuries were reported.
More than 50 homes in Missouri City were damaged by a storm when it hit the Sienna Plantation neighborhood, KHOU.com reports. Several homes had the roofs torn off and collapsed walls. A responding deputy was reportedly blown off the road.
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Damage was also reported in Katy, Texas, Saturday morning, ABC13.com reports. A manager of RV, Boat & Mini Storage says the storm crossed the Katy Freeway before slamming into their offices, scattering metal debris and auto parts across the parking lot and lawn. NWS
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“We were here last night, and we basically had the place sealed up so water couldn’t get in,” the manager, only identified as BJ, told ABC13. “My partner called me in the morning at 6 o’clock and said everything was destroyed. A tornado had came through around 5:30 and crossed I-10. Totally ruined the office.”