Tropical storm Harvey brings record flooding to Texas

The desperate calls for help in Texas continued Sunday, as the remnants of Hurricane Harvey caused catastrophic record flooding. Meteorologists said some parts of Houston were going to receive as much as 50 inches of rain

Areas of the nation's fourth largest city were accessible only by boat. Maria Barlett waited in her bedroom upstairs. Her home in west Houston was flooded.

Authorities were too overwhelmed to rescue her, so her son, Tom Bartlett, and Steven Craig pulled a rowboat on a rope through chest-deep water for a mile to save her. 

"When I was younger, I used to wish I had a daughter, but I have the best son in the world," Barlett, 88, said. "In my 40 years here, I have never seen the water this high."

At least two deaths and at least 14 injuries were blamed on the Friday and Saturday hit of the Category 4 storm, which slowly downgraded into a tropical storm Saturday.

Aside from the torrential rain submerging entire neighborhoods, the storm was also prompting meteorologists to activate tornado warnings. 

In some neighborhoods in Houston, the water was gushing into second-floor apartments. Residents were forced to put their valuables in plastic containers and bags. Rescuers were using helicopters, boats and "high water rescue" vehicles to access inundated neighborhoods in treacherous conditions. 

"It is what its, so you just gotta deal with it. When the waters come in, you just wait for the waters to go down and when they go down you rebuild," Greg White said before leaving his recently remodeled home. "That's all you can do. The neighbors have been great. People will ask, 'Hey, is everything OK. Can we help?'"

Darakniqueca La'Shay Burns, a mother in Houston, used social media to show her belongings piled up on furniture and counters as her home flooded. Her daughter was playing on the couch. 

"I am trying to laugh to keep from crying," Burns said before fleeing her home and wading through the water for safety. "I don't even know if we can get out the door. It's so high. We laughing and playing, but for real: It's getting too high and I am scared."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who is a wheel-chair user, said the best way for the public to help those in need was to contact the Red Cross and said authorities were doing everything they could to help the vulnerable in need. He also said the U.S. Coast Guard's helicopters and boats were part of the rescue effort. 

"We are still moving hundreds of evacuees to safe locations," Abbott said. 

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner didn't order evacuations, because he said the risk of sending the city's 2.3 million residents onto the highways was too high. With the heavy rain, the search and rescue efforts were prioritizing life-and-death situations.

"I don't need to tell anyone this is a very, very serious and unprecedented storm," Turner said. "We have several hundred structural flooding reports. We expect that number to rise pretty dramatically."

Residents were using everything from inflatable beach toys and air mattresses to get to safety and there were a lot of untold stories of heroism, panic and total loss. The turbid, gray-green water was swallowing pets, homes and cars.

As the flooding continued, there were residents who drove their cars close to their home to use them to climb up to the roof to wait for help there. 

Jesse Gonzalez said he and his son used their boat to rescue residents and dogs swimming in southeast Houston. A CNN reporter and a photojournalist stopped to help rescue a pair of grandparents trapped in waist-high flooding, two dogs and a woman. 

Firefighters, police officers and volunteers scanned coastal towns' debris looking for bodies. Rescuers risked facing frightened pets left behind, displaced alligators and snakes, dangerous electrical issues and blocked roads. 

About four dozen members of a specialized team from Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue left Sunday and they were set to start working Monday. 

A City of Miami team and other specialized teams from other departments in Florida and around the nation left Sunday afternoon with boats, fuel and equipment designed to help out families and animals who were still stranded in Texas. 

Authorities were asking Houston residents to avoid driving or seeking shelter in their attics to prevent deaths, as residents were getting trapped. Some roads had three to five feet of water, so drivers were going back the wrong way or abandoning their cars on the side of the road.

Local authorities were also asking volunteers with flat-bottom boats to help them rescue stranded Texans. 

Meteorologists were keeping track of the rainfall totals, which were climbing by the hour since Thursday. When Harvey made landfall northeast of Corpus Christi Friday night, they considered it the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in more than a decade. 

Harvey -- the strongest hurricane to strike Texas since 1961's Hurricane Carla -- weakened to a tropical storm Saturday, but meteorologists warned the storm's bands were feeding off the warmth of the Gulf Coast. The system was hurting Texas most vulnerable residents

Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long, said the aftermath of the storm would require federal involvement in Texas for years. On Friday night, most of the property damage was in the coastal city of Rockport, where a fire during the storm killed  a woman.

A woman drowned Saturday night when she tried to get out of her vehicle in high water, according to the Houston emergency operations center. Authorities were expecting the situation to worsen this week with four to five more days of rain left from Harvey. 

"The disaster is going to be a landmark event," Long said. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Tom Price declared a public health emergency Sunday. Price also put additional medical personnel on alert to deal with the mental and physical health issues that will rise after the storm. 

President Donald Trump, who was at Camp David during the storm and is expected to visit Texas Tuesday, said there was "great coordination" between local, state and federal agencies. 

Trump tweeted Sunday that he would go to Texas "as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption. The focus must be life and safety."

CoreLogic estimated Friday the storm will leave behind about $40 billion in damages with some 232,721 homes on the Texas coast.

Corporate America responded with contributions to the Red Cross. Western Union donated $30K. The Caterpillar Foundation donated $300K. Exxon Mobil and Lowe's donated $500K each. Google and Humana, donated $250K each.  

The storm was also likely to prompt a price rise at the gas pump for consumers in South Florida. Exxon Mobil was among the companies to order evacuations and close refineries. Their Baytown refinery, about 25 miles east of Houston, can process up to 587,000 barrels of crude oil per day. 

S&P estimated Sunday that Harvey forced roughly 2.2 million barrels per day of the area's refining capacity offline. The sector's hourly employees were also bound to suffer. Exxon Mobil employs about 7,000 at their Baytown refinery alone. 

 

Photos of the storm and its aftermath

 

 

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Local 10 News' partners ABC News , CNN, Getty Images and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

This BBSNews article was syndicated from News | WPLG, and written by News | WPLG. Read the original article here.