Houston Mayor Strongly Encouraging Evacuations Near Reservoirs

Weather Channel

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is strongly encouraging anyone living east side of Houston’s flood control reservoirs with water still inside their home to evacuate.

“Second story housing and above will not be safe,” the mayor said in a series of tweets. “Apartments, therefore, are covered by evacuation request. But only residences with water on [the] first floor. Water may stay there for two weeks.”

Turner said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be releasing reservoir water into Buffalo Bayou for 15 days, and the Corps has said the releases are necessary to avoid larger catastrophe if the city should receive another heavy rainfall event. The mayor said 15,000 to 20,000 homes could be impacted by flooding due to water releases from the reservoir. 

“If not enough heeding of voluntary evacuation request, [a] mandatory order will be considered,” Turner tweeted.

The boundaries for those who need to evacuate are anyone south of I-10, west of Gessner, north of Briarforest, and east of reservoirs. Only homes with water inside now. The city will provide transportation to a shelter at the NRG complex in South Houston.

Harvey’s death toll has risen to at least 40, and officials fear as floodwaters finally recede, the death toll will rise dramatically.

Rescuers in Houston began searching block-by-block Thursday to find anyone, dead or alive, that may have been left behind in the floodwaters from Harvey, which damaged tens of thousands of homes.

According to the Houston County Flood Control District, there are an estimated 136,000 flooded structures in the Houston area, which equates to roughly 10 percent of registered structures in Harris County Appraisal District.

Over 200 firefighters, police officers and volunteer search-and-rescue teams have spread throughout the Meyerland neighborhood looking for survivors or bodies, the Associated Press reports. They pounded on doors, looked through windows and checked with neighbors.

“We don’t think we’re going to find any humans, but we’re prepared if we do,” Houston Fire Department District Chief James Pennington told the AP.

Fire Chief Sam Pena says firefighters hope to complete the checks in all six areas by Friday.

Deputy Police Chief Larry Satterwhite told AP that police have received 30 reports of missing people since Harvey began, and 11 of those people have been found. Authorities believe the remaining 19 have lost the means to communicate and are either in shelters or otherwise safe. He cautioned not to assume they are dead.

“It doesn’t mean the worst,” he added.

(MORE: Missing Van Recovered in Harris County, Texas; 2 of 6 Missing Found Dead in Van)

At least 16 have died in Harris County, where officials confirmed Wednesday that they’d located a missing van days after it was swept away by Harvey’s flooding. All six of the van’s passengers were found dead inside the vehicle.

On Monday, Virginia Saldivar told the AP her brother-in-law was driving the van Sunday when a strong current took the vehicle over a bridge and into the bayou. The driver was able to get out and urged the children to escape through the back door, Saldivar said, but they could not.

Family member Andrew Saldivar told the Houston Chronicle that he found the van Tuesday night after flood waters began to recede. He also said he discovered the grandparents’ bodies inside the vehicle.

Officials confirmed the death of a Houston police officer who drowned while on his way to work Tuesday. Turner identified the fallen officer as 60-year-old Sergeant Steve Perez.

Perez, who had been with the department for more than 30 years, was in his patrol car Sunday morning when he got trapped in high water at I-45 and the Hardy Toll Road, the Houston Chronicle reports.

“Sometimes you find a way to make it happen, or you die in trying,” Turner told the Chronicle. “Sgt. Perez lost his life because he tried to make it happen, he tried to get at his post…that’s the ultimate sacrifice.”

Despite thousands of rescues, city officials worry that the death toll could jump dramatically.

“We know in these kinds of events that, sadly, the death toll goes up historically,” Acevedo told the AP. “I’m really worried about how many bodies we’re going to find.”

The sheriff’s Office confirmed two new deaths in the Fort Bend County on Thursday, Donald, 65, and Rochelle, 58, Rogers who drowned in floodwaters in the Fulshear area.

On Wednesday, two people were killed when they drove into high water near Simonton, Texas, according to a tweet by the Fort Bend Sheriff’s Department.

There have been two deaths reported in Beaumont, including a woman who died Tuesday after being swept away by floodwaters while holding her child. Local police said Colette Sulcer, 41, pulled her car into a theater parking lot, where it became stalled in high water. She took her daughter and exited the vehicle, but was swept roughly a half-mile away.

A rescue crew spotted Sulcer floating with daughter, who was holding onto her mother. The child was suffering from hypothermia, but responsive. Officers pulled them into their boat, but Sulcer was unresponsive and efforts to revive her failed. The child has been hospitalized in stable condition.

Alexander Kwoksum Sung, 64, drowned at his workplace in South Houston Sunday.

At least two deaths have been reported in Montgomery County, according to the sheriff’s office. Two deaths have also been reported in Fort Bend County.

Two people were killed in Jasper, Texas, after a tree collapsed onto their vehicle, according to the Jasper County Sheriff.

Galveston County Coroner Erin Barnhart confirmed five deaths.

A Rockport man was killed when his house caught fire at the height of the storm, according to media reports.

Houston Slowly Trying to Return to Normal

Houston’s bus service and light rail system were scheduled to resume on a limited basis Thursday, according to AP. Trash collection services resumed Wednesday with heavy trash pickup and regular trash pickup was scheduled to begin Thursday. Mayor Sylvester Turner said he wanted to ensure trash removal resumed as soon as possible because “there will be a lot of debris.”

Operations at both Houston’s Hobby Airport and the George Bush International Airport had been closed for days, but Wednesday officials at both terminals announced they would be resuming flights, ABC13.com reports.

The airports announced via Facebook that limited domestic airline passenger service has been resumed and they expect to have full service by the weekend.

Even as Houston began to pick up the pieces left behind by the storm, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that “the worst is not yet over” for the southeastern part of the state, where widespread flooding continues.

Chemical Plant Explodes

Two explosions rocked a chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, on Thursday morning, the AP reports.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office said in a tweet that a deputy was taken to the hospital after inhaling non-toxic fumes. Nine other deputies drove themselves to the hospital as a precaution, the paper reported.

On Wednesday, the owner of a chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, said there was no way to prevent an explosion or fire from happening at the facility, which was evacuated Tuesday due to the threat.

Arkema’s North America CEO Richard Rowe told reporters that the company expects chemicals at the building to catch fire or explode within the next six days, Reuters reports.

“The fire will happen,” company spokeswoman Janet Hill told the AP. “It will resemble a gasoline fire. It will be explosive and intense in nature.”

Workers and nearby residents were forced to evacuate after flooding brought on by Harvey submerged backup generators and created the risk of a fire or chemical explosion.

Officials with Arkema described the situation as serious in a release. The facility has been closed since Friday, but a small crew of 11 had been riding out the storm over the past few days. The plant has been without electricity since Sunday.

The company manufactures organic peroxides that need to be stored at low temperatures, which has been a challenge due to the lack of power, states the release. The products have been moved to diesel-powered refrigerated containers that are being monitored by officials.

U.S. Military Sends in the Troops 

The U.S. military has begun mobilizing resources from across the nation to help law enforcement and volunteers in Texas with rescue efforts amid deadly flooding from Harvey.

Two of the Navy’s warships, the USS Kearsarge and the USS Oak Hill, are being deployed to Texas and Air Force and Navy helicopters have been performing rescue missions since Monday night, CNN reports. The use of the aircraft marks the first use of active duty military assets in the hurricane rescue efforts.

The Marine Corps is deploying 690 marines aboard the two Navy warships, according to CNN. The US Northern Command has dispatched nine search-and-rescue helicopters, two fixed-wing aircraft and pararescue teams to Fort Worth. The military has over three dozen additional aircraft on standby in case Texas needs additional help.

Earlier during the storm, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott activated all 12,000 Texas National Guard members.

Rescues Ongoing  

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo told the AP Tuesday that his agency has rescued roughly 4,100 people, and Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said his agency has saved more than 3,000.

Harris County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Parisa Safarzadeh said her agency has rescued more than 3,000 people, and U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Mike Hart says they have also rescued more than 3,000, both in Houston and in outlying cities and subdivisions.

Overall, more than 13,000 people have been rescued in the Houston area, and roughly 18,000 people have been rescued in southeast Texas.


Shelters Overflowing

Texas Gov. Greg Abbot said Wednesday that more than 32,000 people are in shelters across Texas, adding that there are another 30,000 beds “available as needed.”

Evacuees in a Port Arthur shelter awoke Wednesday to several feet of water. Pictures posted to social media show flood waters surrounding cots once occupied by evacuees at the Bob Bower Civic Center. According to 12 News, officials opened bleachers in to get the evacuees above the water and plan to transport them evacuees to the Carl Parker Center about five miles south of the civic center.

Officials noted, however, that the Carl Parker Center is not ready to receive the influx of refugees because there are no supplies yet available, the Port Arthur Police said.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced Tuesday that the Toyota Center is open as an additional shelter for evacuees. The facility was opened to alleviate crowding at the George R. Brown Convention Center, which has doubled its capacity of 5,000.

American Red Cross spokesman Lloyd Ziel told AP that 10,000 evacuees have entered the George R. Brown Convention Center as of Monday and more are still arriving. Unless volunteers can find more cots, some people will have to sleep in chairs or on the floor. The Red Cross said on Tuesday that there are more than 17,000 people in Texas seeking refuge in shelters.

Officials in Dallas opened the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center Tuesday as a mega shelter for 5,000 Hurricane Harvey evacuees, WFAA.com reports. Mayor Mike Rawlings says the center will operate as a “mini city,” with a pharmacy area provided by Walmart and amenities such as phone charging stations.

They [evacuees] can’t get out of town… all the major arteries going in and out are flooding,” Rawlings said in a statement obtained by CBS DFW. “We want them to be safe. They’re safe in that convention center. It will be better when they can get up here and there will be more space and we can help them.”

“We are not turning anyone away,” Turner said. “But it does mean we need to expand our capabilities and our capacity,” Turner said. “Relief is coming.”

Wind and Rain Forecast

Wind and Rain Forecast

City officials have made a formal request with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for more supplies, including cots and food, for additional 10,000 people, which he hopes arrive no later than Wednesday, the mayor said.

After facing criticism for not acting to help families displaced by the storm, televangelist Joel Osteen opened his 16,000-seat megachurch in Houston Tuesday to evacuees.

There are 230 shelters open in the state of Texas.

Watching Two Key Reservoirs 

County emergency management officials changed a voluntary evacuation to a mandatory evacuation order for several subdivisions in the Barker reservoir area as officials continue with controlled releases of water. Officials say they want to keep people from returning home to the area until it is safe to do so.

“It’s just not safe to go back there yet,” emergency management spokesperson Alan Spears told KHOU.

People in the mandatory evacuation zone were warned to wait until daybreak before leaving their homes and those not at home can check an interactive map on the Fort Bend County OEM website to see if their address is listed in the mandatory evacuation area.

Two flood control reservoirs have overtopped their banks in Houston, sending floodwaters over spillways, despite Army Corps of Engineers officials releasing water from both. Elsewhere in the city, a bridge over Greens Bayou has collapsed near the Cloverleaf area, according to emergency management officials.

Jeff Lindner, with the Harris County Flood Control District, said Tuesday that he’s certain that more homes and streets will flood as a result of the reservoirs filling. Lindner says the county is trying to determine where the water will go, specifically from the north end of the Addicks reservoir, but that some homes will be inundated for up to a month.

Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a press conference Tuesday that there would be uncontrolled releases from Addicks for at least that long.

Brazoria County emergency management officials are reporting that the Brazos levee near Columbia Lakes has breached. Flash flooding is already occurring, and all residents have been urged to evacuate now.

The reservoir flooding is just adding to the misery in Houston, where more than 13,000 people have been rescued since flooding from Harvey began, officials said Tuesday.​​​


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