Houston Area Paralyzed as Harvey Rainfall Obliterates Records

HOUSTON (CN) – Rain from former Hurricane Harvey continued to drench the Houston region Monday night, bringing the storm’s death toll to 10 people and forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents in boats and helicopters as water topped levees and breached river banks.

On Monday evening, the National Weather Service predicted another 2 to 12 inches of rain will fall in the nine-county Houston region over the next 24 hours, bringing the total to more than 40 inches in some cities since Harvey deteriorated to a tropical storm and stalled over the area on Saturday.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said on Monday night that around 8,000 residents have taken refuge in shelters, with 5,000 expected to hunker down at a downtown convention center.

Local media outlets reported Monday that a family of six – four children and their great-grandparents – drowned when their van was swept into the current of a swollen bayou while they tried to escape to higher ground on Sunday.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has announced it is evacuating 4,500 prisoners from four prisons in Rosharon, 40 miles south of Houston, to avoid flooding from the Brazos River. The river was near its record level of 54 feet on Monday night, 9 feet above flood stage, according to the National Weather Service.

The Brazos River flooding has prompted officials in Fort Bend and Waller Counties, west and southwest of Houston, to evacuate their homes near the rivers. Forecasters say the river could reach 59 feet.

Access roads to freeways in Houston have been turned into boat launches as relatives, police and fire crews and Good Samaritans scramble to rescue people trapped in homes as the rain continued to pound the city Monday night. Officials have also ordered people to evacuate cities in Galveston County and a neighborhood in northwest Houston inundated by flood waters that breached a levee.

“Texas has never seen an event like this,” Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long said at a news conference on Monday morning in Houston. He said FEMA will likely be in Texas for years helping people recover from the storm that forecasters say could persist through Thursday.

Long said on Monday that more than 450,000 people in the region will likely seek federal aid for the disaster, and that Harvey has forced 30,000 Texans to seek temporary shelter.

The U.S. Air Force evacuated 70 people in an C-130 transport plane to an airport in Dallas on Monday night, the first of possibly eight planeloads of evacuees, Dallas County CEO Clay Jenkins told the Associated Press.

The arrivals will be put in small temporary shelters in Dallas until they can be moved to a large convention center in downtown Dallas, the AP reported.

The storm has forced the closure of Houston’s two biggest airports. It has also closed schools and courthouses in the city, the nation’s fourth-largest with a population of more than 2.3 million people.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said on Monday that he has deployed the state’s entire 12,000-member National Guard to the Houston area.

The storm’s devastation has drawn comparisons to Hurricane Katrina, which killed 1,836 people and turned New Orleans into a disaster zone with cadavers floating in the streets and helicopter crews rescuing people off rooftops. Similar rooftop rescues are playing out across Houston.

At a Monday news conference, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo advised people who have had to abandon their cars in floodwaters to check the website findmytowedcar.com to find out where their vehicles have been towed to.

The Texas Trial Lawyers Associations and several lawmakers encouraged people who have property damage from Harvey to make claims as soon as possible before a new law goes into effect Sept. 1 that will reduce the penalty fees that insurers have to pay out if homeowners are forced to sue them for delaying claim payments.

A National Weather Service official told the AP on Monday that flooding in Houston will peak on Wednesday and Thursday, but flood waters will be slow to recede.

CenterPoint Energy reported Monday night the power is out for more than 100,000 customers in Greater Houston.

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