Harvey’s death toll climbs to 6 in Texas amid ‘epic and catastrophic’ flooding
USCG Heartland(HOUSTON) — The death toll has climbed to six in Texas amid the “epic and catastrophic” flooding left behind in the southeast part of the state from Hurricane Harvey.
On Monday evening, Houston’s Mayor Sylvester Turner confirmed three deaths in Houston.
Three other storm-related deaths occurred in La Marque, East Montgomery County and the coastal city of Rockport.
Houston, the country’s fourth largest city, has been inundated with flooding as result of Harvey, which made landfall late Friday as a Category 4 hurricane and lingered as a tropical storm over the weekend.
The National Weather Service deemed the deadly flooding, which forced evacuations and wiped out homes, “epic and catastrophic.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has activated the entire Texas National Guard. The total number of guardsmen available to the state is roughly 12,000, and all of them will be used in support of recovery efforts in southeast Texas, according to Abbott.
“These guys have saved our lives,” one woman rescued by Texas National Guard soldiers said in a video by Staff Sgt. Tim Pruitt. Her husband and dogs were also rescued. “We’ve been in water all day, actually since last night, and we didn’t think help was coming. … Thank you so much.”
Abbott told ABC News’ “Good Morning America” on Monday that he expects the aftermath of Harvey to be “horrific,” leaving a mess that will “take years” to rebuild.
50 inches of rain may fall
ABC News meteorologists anticipate that more rain will fall this week, potentially worsening the already dangerous situation.
As of mid-Monday, ABC News meteorologists said radar shows heavy rain bands moving across southern Louisiana with areas of heavy rain remaining near Houston. A tornado watch is in effect this afternoon from east of Houston to New Orleans.
ABC News meteorologists say about 20 to 40 inches of rain has already fallen in the Houston area. As of mid-Monday, the highest rain was 39.72 inches near Dayton, Texas. Rainfall totals could reach 50 inches by the end of the week.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Monday that rescues were officials’ No. 1 priority.
As of mid-Monday, Harris County Sheriff’s deputies have conducted more than 2,000 high-water rescues.
The city’s police chief, Art Acevedo, said 2,000 residents of Houston have been rescued so far and that 185 “critical” rescue requests were still pending as of Monday morning.
Acevedo said on “GMA” on Monday that those in distress should exercise patience as they wait for help.
“Just hunker down, hold tight — we hear you, we feel you. Believe me,” Acevedo told “GMA.” “But when you think about just the numbers that we’ve been dealing with, we have to do it safely. We want to make sure that when we get you, we get you out safely and we don’t hurt you or you get hurt during the rescue operation.”
Capt. Kevin Oditt of the Coast Guard, which has performed 1,500 rescues by air and water, said, “Our crews have been operating non-stop.”
“This is an all-hands-on-deck event bringing crews from all over the nation to help with our response,” Oditt said.
Besides the professionals, amateur rescuers have snatched up people from submerged streets and flooded homes, using motorboats, kayaks and canoes.
Abe Minor, a UPS worker, told “GMA” that he used his nephew’s boat to help rescue some of his wife’s friends on Sunday. After he went to get them, he realized that other people needed assistance and got to work helping others.
“People were screaming out, ‘Help, help, help,’ and you know, ‘We’ll come back for you. We’ll come back for you,’” Minor said. “One turned to two, two turned to three, three turned to four, next thing you know there’s 20 different people you’ve rescued, along with their animals.”
About 50 to 75 people appear to be sheltering inside one Houston church, ABC Houston station KTRK-TV reported, including one evacuee who escaped from her flooded home with her paralyzed brother broke into the church Friday, KTRK-TV reported.
Evacuees told KTRK-TV they tried to call a number listed on the church’s sign but they have not been able to reach those who run the church.
“We weren’t trying to break or steal nothing like that. We were just trying to get shelter,” one woman said, according to KTRK-TV.
Floods pressure Houston area dams
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it began to release water from the Addicks and Barker dams early Monday morning to prevent uncontrollable flooding of the Houston metropolitan area as water levels continued to rise rapidly beneath torrential rains being released by the tropical storm.
Engineers were forced to start the process earlier than previously announced because water levels in the reservoirs had “increased dramatically in the last few hours,” officials said early Monday, adding that the release would likely cause additional street flooding that could potentially spill into homes.
“If we don’t begin releasing now, the volume of uncontrolled water around the dams will be higher and have a greater impact on the surrounding communities,” Col. Lars Zetterstrom, Galveston District commander, said in a statement Monday.
Meanwhile, officials in Fort Bend County, located about 45 minutes southwest of Houston, issued mandatory evacuation orders for residents near the Brazos River levee districts as the river reached major flood stages late Sunday.
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