Rescue workers and volunteers are braced for a busy night with more rain predicted as “catastrophic and life-threatening flooding” continues in southeastern Texas.
The remnants of former Hurricane Harvey continue to menace the drenched state with bands of storm repeatedly pummeling the same areas as it moves slowly towards Louisiana.
Tropical Storm Harvey was forecast to head back into the Gulf of Mexico, where it would pick up moisture before moving back over Galveston and into Houston again, CNN meteorologist Karen Maginnis said, meaning at least four more days of rain.
The National Weather Service (NWS) warns that flash flood emergencies are in effect for some areas and the rain is not letting up.
It says that up to 25 inches of rain could fall through Friday over the upper Texas coast, while “isolated storm totals may reach 50 inches over the upper Texas coast, including the Houston Galveston metropolitan area.”
Five to 10 inches of that rain could fall in the Houston area overnight, NWS says, prompting mandatory evacuation orders and curfews are in effect in some areas.
One thousand additional National Guard members are being called in to help Houston flood victims affected by flooding, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced via Twitter Sunday evening.
The governor is expected to tour the Texas Coastal Bend region Monday with Senator John Cornyn.
— 11 p.m curfews were introduced Sunday in the City of Alvin, City of Friendswood, League City, City of Pasadena, City of Pearland, City of Seabrook and City of Webster.
— A mandatory evacuation order was issued for areas along the Brazos River in Fort Bend County.
— Several states and the US military are sending emergency workers and equipment to Texas.
— Dallas is opening a “mega-shelter” capable of accommodating 5,000 evacuees at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center by Tuesday morning.
— The Houston Independent School District has canceled school for the week.
— President Donald Trump will travel to Texas on Tuesday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
— 316,000 customers had lost electricity across the state.
Flooding continued in and around Houston on Sunday night as citizens with boats assisted authorities in search and rescue efforts.
A CNN crew was with one such volunteer when he used his vessel to rescue an elderly couple, their daughter and two dogs in Dickinson, Texas.
The family became trapped upstairs when flood waters came through the garage, filling the house with about three feet of water.
“It was shocking,” Pam Jones said. “It just creeped up.”
Houston resident Louise Walker told CNN she was trapped in her neighbor’s apartment.
“Our bottom level is waist-deep in water. We have helicopters that are flying over us rescuing people, we have people who are living in these first-floor apartments like I have. They have been breaking into empty second level apartments just to have somewhere to go because we can’t get out. We’re simply completely surrounded with water,” she said, adding that the helicopters were only rescuing people who were in immediate danger.
“My only plan at this point is to stay out of the water. I’ve been keeping in contact with family and friends, but other than that we can’t do anything. We are literally stuck here,” Walker said.
Officials say they have executed over 250 water rescues and rescued over 1,000 people from floods. The US Coast Guard’s Captain Kevin Odditt says 19 Coast Guard helicopters are also involved in relief efforts.
As of Sunday evening, between 800 and 1,200 people had been rescued from their homes in Galveston County, County Judge Mark Henry said.
The US Army Corps of Engineers began the controlled release of water from the Addicks and Barker Dams in Galveston early Monday, after water levels began rising quickly, according to Harris County Flood Control District Meteorologist Jeff Linder.
This is ahead of schedule because the water levels at the dam began to rise quickly, Linder says. The engineers are expecting spillways and roads in the area to be impacted, according to a release from the agency.
“Residents adjacent to the reservoirs need to be vigilant because the water in the reservoirs is rising rapidly,” said Col. Lars Zetterstrom, Galveston District commander. “Both reservoirs are rising more than half a foot per hour.”
The rainfall threatens to exacerbate an already dangerous situation, as Harvey’s rains have left many east Texas rivers and bayous swollen to their banks or beyond.
“The breadth and intensity of this rainfall are beyond anything experienced before,” the NWS said. “Catastrophic flooding is now underway and expected to continue for days.”
In Fort Bend County, a voluntary evacuation order was made mandatory for areas along the Brazos River, with the NWS predicting river levels of 56.1 feet — nearly two feet above the record during flooding last year.
“Harvey continues to batter Fort Bend County,” said County Judge Robert Hebert. “Residents who flooded last year know how serious this situation is.”
Fort Bend had worked with the Red Cross to establish shelters for residents, Herbert said.
The storm killed two people in Texas, authorities said, and the death toll will likely rise. A woman who drove her vehicle into high water in Houston was killed, and fire killed a man in Rockport.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner warned that some 911 calls are going unanswered as operators “give preference to life-threatening calls.”
The 911 dispatchers in the nation’s fourth-most populous city have received 2,000 requests for rescue, Mayor Turner said. Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said his department had responded to 2,500 calls and have about 1,000 more waiting to be serviced.
People are also taking to social media to announce their locations and ask for help.
Many roads impassable
In a Sunday news conference, Gov. Abbott said, “We want to stress when there is heavy rainfall and flooding, the importance of staying off the road. If you drive into water, you’re taking your life into your own hands.”
Portions of major highways, including Interstates 10, 45 and 610, were submerged and unnavigable. Houston resident Dion Laurent said the White Oak Bayou flooded I-10 and I-45.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said he understands the compulsion to find safer ground, but urged people to think twice before venturing out into high water and to consider unforeseen dangers, such as manhole covers being lifted from their holes.
In Brazoria County, south of Houston, officials set up an evacuation route for all residents living west of State Highway 288 and south of State Highway 6, ordering them to “LEAVE NOW!” under a mandatory evacuation order. Those in need of shelter can take refuge in the Bell County Expo Center in Belton, officials said.
Louisiana in Harvey’s sights
Meantime, Louisiana Gov John Bel Edwards wrote to President Trump requesting that he declare an Emergency Disaster for the state.
“The National Weather Service forecasts that remnants of Hurricane Harvey will bring heavy rainfall to Louisiana posing serious danger to life and property of the citizens of our state. Significant lifesaving efforts such as search and rescue, transportation to shelters, logistical support, and shelter operations are particularly needed in Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jefferson Davis, and Vermillion parishes,” Edwards wrote. The NWS predicted 10 to 20 inches of rain between Sunday night and Monday, he said, with “major river flooding” anticipated.
Harvey blasted ashore as a Category 4 hurricane on Friday night, making landfall just north of Corpus Christi before quickly being downgraded to a tropical storm.
“What is unique in Harvey is that as the storm moved inland, a large high pressure built in to the north and, basically, the steering currents, which guide Harvey, collapsed,” said CNN senior meterologist Dave Hennen. “This has caused the extremely slow movement of the storm, moving only around 60 miles, less than 2 miles per hour. This has allowed the bands of storms to move over the same areas over and over.”