The rain mercifully has stopped in southeast Texas. But a week after Hurricane Harvey, rescue helicopters still buzz in the skies as millions of people struggle with what the storm has left — tens of thousands of destroyed homes and altered lives, and grim efforts to find those who may not have survived.
Seven days after Harvey hit, at least 47 people have died from the storm. Other statistics only begin to hint at the scope of the punishing deluge and what the months of recovery will entail:
- About 27 trillion gallons of rain fell on Texas and Louisiana over six days — enough to fill the Houston Astrodome 85,000 times.
- More than 72,000 people have been rescued.
- And about 136,000 structures were flooded in Harris County, home of Houston, alone — about 10% of the structures on record there, the county says.
Danger is far from over in places like Beaumont, Texas, a city of 118,000 dealing with a cruel juxtaposition: Inundated in spots with floodwater as its residents lack flowing tap water because two pumps there failed.
“The river … on the east line of our city should crest today, and it will start falling, (but) our biggest situation is the water supply is cut off,” Capt. Brad Pennison of Beaumont’s fire department said.
The tap-water outage has forced an evacuation of patients from Beaumont’s Baptist Hospital. Patients in intensive care already have been airlifted or taken by ambulance to other facilities, but officials still plan to evacuate 85 people — including 11 babies born prematurely and three other newborns — who remained there early Friday morning.
Dr. Snehal Doshi, who runs the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, said several preemies’ parents had been prevented from visiting their infants because of flooding elsewhere.
“There are some parents who simply haven’t seen their babies for days, just because it’s not safe for them to come to the hospital,” he said.
For city residents, officials ordered bottled water and set up distribution points Friday.
Mayor to feds: We need $75 million to remove debris
Houston’s mayor, meanwhile, made a public plea to the federal government Friday: Advance money and other assistance to us quickly.
Most of Houston is drying out, and people are starting to pile debris in front of their homes, Mayor Sylvester Turner said.
“We need immediately, right now, just for debris removal alone, anywhere between $75 million to $100 million,” Harris told CNN’s “New Day” on Friday.
“We need housing assistance. We need an army of FEMA agents on the ground to be assisting people, not just in shelters, but (also) people who are in their homes, so we can get them financial assistance they need to they can start transitioning.”
The rate of rescues in Harris County has slowed, but some still were happening in high-water areas Friday morning, especially in the western part of the county, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said.
Firefighters and other emergency personnel are going door to door in Houston “to make sure we have not missed anyone … especially seniors or people who are disabled,” Turner said.
Some flooding in western Houston happened because the Army Corps of Engineers intentionally released water from two dams, Turner said.
Officials have said it was safer for nearby neighborhoods if the Corps managed the water with controlled releases instead of letting uncontrolled water flow over the edge of the dams as more rain was predicted.
Turner and other officials have pointed to small signs of recovery, such as fewer people in shelters, more bus lines resuming and the city’s shipping channel reopening on a limited basis.
The Houston Independent School District, which postponed its school-year opening Monday because of the storm, plans to start classes on September 11 for its 200,000 students.
In Crosby, Texas, two blasts rocked a flooded chemical plant, and more could come.
96,000 approved for emergency assistance
While promising federal aid, President Donald Trump’s homeland security adviser also predicted more misery.
“We will see additional losses of life, if history is any precedent here,” Tom Bossert told reporters Thursday.
“You should continue to have confidence in what we’re doing as a government,” Bossert said. “But I would be remiss if I didn’t stop and say that none of that matters if you’re an affected individual.”
Trump personally plans to donate $1 million to help storm victims, according to the White House.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Friday that more than 103,000 storm victims have been approved for emergency assistance, including financial aid for rent and lost property. More than $66.4 million has been approved for this help, FEMA said, with 264,000 additional applications pending.
In the hard-hit city of Rockport, Texas, Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday addressed residents outside a church.
“President Trump sent us here to say, ‘We are with you. The American people are with you,'” said Pence, who later announced that Trump will visit Houston and other areas on Saturday.
‘People are freaking out’ in Beaumont
Extreme flooding caused both of Beaumont’s water pumps to fail, Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick said.
“We will have to wait until the water levels from this historical flood recede before we can determine the extent of damage and make any needed repairs,” the city said. “There is no way to determine how long this will take at this time.”
Eight water pumps sent by the Army Corps were expected to arrive Friday in Beaumont, federal officials said. Residents on Thursday had lined up at stores hours even before they opened in hopes of getting whatever bottled water they could find.
“It’s crazy,” said Khayvin Williams, who started waiting in line at Market Basket at 6:50 a.m. “People are freaking out.”
At a local Walmart, Jeffrey Farley said the store was only allowing 20 people in at a time and was rationing water to three cases per customer. He got in line at 6:30 a.m. and waited two hours to get water.
“It’s an insult to injury for a lot of folks,” Farley said. “The water situation has made things dire for everyone here.”
Beaumont, along with Port Arthur, was devastated after Harvey made another landfall Wednesday.
About 20 miles southeast of Beaumont, in Port Arthur, those lucky enough to get to a shelter were deluged again, when murky brown floodwater filled an evacuation shelter.
Death toll expected to rise
Across the state, families are searching tirelessly for missing relatives six days after Harvey first pummeled the Texas coast
Among the storm-related deaths are a Houston man who was electrocuted while walking in floodwater and a mother whose body was floating about a half mile from her car. Rescuers found her daughter clinging to her body. The child is in stable condition after suffering from hypothermia.
In Victoria, Texas, about 120 miles southwest of Houston, Mary Martinez returned to her heavily damaged home Wednesday.
“I did not think it was going to be this bad,” said Martinez, who got help from volunteers with the Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse. “I was speechless.”