Levee breached in Texas amid ‘epic and catastrophic’ Hurricane Harvey flooding
USCG Heartland(HOUSTON) — In an urgent message, officials announced that a levee in a county south of Houston was breached, after days of torrential rain from Hurricane Harvey.
“NOTICE: The levee at Columbia Lakes has been breached!! GET OUT NOW!!!” Brazoria County said on Twitter on Tuesday morning.
— Brazoria County (@BrazoriaCounty) August 29, 2017
The National Weather Service announced Tuesday afternoon that preliminary data indicates the all-time record for total rainfall from a tropical system in the continental U.S. was broken in Cedar Bayou, Texas — about 30 miles from downtown Houston — at 51.88 inches.
If confirmed, the record is .12 inches shy of the record for total rainfall from a tropical storm in the entire U.S., including Hawaii and Alaska.
The death toll has climbed to at least eight in the Lone Star State, amid “epic and catastrophic” flooding since Harvey made landfall on Friday, according to the NWS.
Houston police Sgt. Steve Perez drowned in floodwaters while driving to work early Sunday, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said at a press conference Tuesday.
Four other storm-related deaths occurred in La Marque, Montgomery County, East Montgomery County and the coastal city of Rockport.
The storm, which dropped a foot of rain from Galveston to Beaumont overnight, according to ABC News’ meteorologists, is not expected to relent until Wednesday afternoon.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has activated the entire Texas National Guard to address the disaster.
The total number of guards available to the state is roughly 12,000, and all of them will be used in recovery efforts in southeastern Texas, according to Abbott.
“These guys have saved our lives,” one woman rescued by Texas National Guard members 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” — a mess that will “take years” to rebuild.
Crews and good Samaritans conduct rescues
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 some 3,000 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” 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 more than 3,000 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.”
ABC Houston station KTRK-TV interviewed a father and two sons who took a tractor that was pulling kayaks through high waters to look for people who need to be rescued.
“We’re just trying to save people and get them to land,” 11-year-old Damien told KTRK-TV.
One man named Chuck Clark, who was helping with rescues, told KTRK-TV, “Having lived here a long time, being a local, it’s just heartbreaking.”
“Several folks that I’m friends with and that I work with had their homes flooded,” he said. “We’re just out here looking for people to help.”
When a KTRK-TV reporter asked why he’s volunteering, Clark responded, “Because it’s the right thing to do. Because that’s what we do. This is Texas. We take care of each other. We love each other. And if our neighbor needs help, that’s what we’re going to do and we’re going to do it every time.”
A man named Butch came to Houston with a group of veterans to help conduct rescues. He told KTRK-TV, “Us being vets, we’re built to help somebody, and go in and do what we can do. And that’s what we’re here to do. … Anybody that needs help, we’re here to try.”
Thousands of evacuees shelter at convention center
Thousands of evacuees have streamed in by the busload to Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center, the largest shelter serving victims of Harvey. The shelter originally said it could take 5,000 but is currently over capacity at 6,000.
The center is looking for more volunteers, especially mental health specialists, nurses and social workers. One volunteer told ABC News he has been working since the shelter opened. He said he hasn’t stopped to sleep, and instead keeps checking people in and offering them towels.
A long line of cars has formed outside the convention center, where people are coming to deliver supplies and cheer the evacuees.
One man delivered supplies dressed up in full costume as “Batman,” and his 4-year old son joined him, dressed up as “Little Batman.” The young and old stopped and smiled at the duo, who brought clothes and activity packs to the children at the convention center.
“The people of Houston need a hero,” Batman told ABC News. “It was my idea!” Little Batman said.
Trump to visit Texas
President Donald Trump is set to visit Texas on Tuesday and said he may return to Texas on Saturday and also visit Louisiana, where floodwaters are growing and may get worse later this week.
Trump said Monday at a joint news conference with the president of Finland, “To the people of Texas and Louisiana, we are 100 percent with you. We’re praying for you, we’re working closely with your leaders and officials, and I will be visiting the impact zone tomorrow to ensure that you’re receiving full support and cooperation from the federal government.
“My administration is coordinating closely with state and local authorities in Texas and Louisiana to save lives, and we thank our first responders and all of those involved in their efforts,” Trump added. “We’ve pledged our full support as Texas and Louisiana battle and recover from this very devastating and historic storm.
“Recovery will be a long and difficult road, and the federal government stands ready, willing and able to support that effort. Right now the single most important thing is the safety and security of those still in harm’s way, including the first responders who have been so terrific and brave,” Trump continued.
“Tragic times such as these bring out the best in America’s character; strength, charity and resilience are those characters,” the president added. “We see neighbor helping neighbor, friend helping friend and stranger helping stranger. … We are one American family. We hurt together, we struggle together, and believe me, we endure together.”
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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