As the sun emerged and water began to recede in parts of flood-ravaged Houston, Tropical Storm Harvey shifted its wrath to the Beaumont-Port Arthur area of Texas, hitting the region Tuesday and Wednesday with record-breaking rainfall and devastating floods.
“Our whole city is underwater right now but we are coming!” Port Arthur’s mayor, Derrick Freeman, said in a Facebook message overnight, as desperate residents sent out calls for help on social media.
Water filled homes and submerged roads, evacuees crowded shelters, local officials urged people who needed rescue to hang sheets or towels from windows, forecasters warned that the storm could spawn tornadoes, and the Louisiana State Police closed Interstate 10 heading toward Beaumont, just a few miles from the state line. The rain was expected to continue until Friday.
In Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a midday news conference that he was pressing for the city to return to normal as quickly as possible. He said the city’s airports would reopen at 4 p.m. local time with a limited number of flights, and schools will start Sept. 5.
Here is the latest:
• Local officials have reported at least 31 deaths that were related or suspected to be related to the storm. The victims include a police officer who died on his way to work; a mother who was swept into a canal while her child survived by clinging to her; a woman who died when a tree fell on her mobile home; and a family that is believed to have drowned while trying to escape floodwaters in a van.
• More than 32,000 people were in shelters in Texas, and 30,000 shelter beds were available, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas said at a news conference on Wednesday. Federal Emergency Management Agency officials said 230 shelters were operating in the state, and that 1,800 people had been moved from shelters to hotels and motels.
• FEMA has supplied five million meals so far to evacuees, and 210,000 people have registered with the agency for assistance, the governor said.
• The National Guard has conducted 8,500 rescues since the storm began, Governor Abbott said, and the police and firefighters in the Houston area have done a similar number. About 24,000 National Guard troops will soon be deployed for disaster recovery in Texas, he said.
• The storm made its second landfall at 4 a.m. Wednesday just west of Cameron, La., near the Texas border, the National Hurricane Center said. Harvey was expected to move northeast, gradually weakening and becoming a tropical depression by Wednesday night.
• Parts of the Houston area set a record for rainfall from a single storm anywhere in the continental United States, with a top reading on Wednesday morning of 51.88 inches since the storm began, though the threat of heavy rainfall has passed for the Houston and Galveston areas. Flooding remains a concern in Houston, Beaumont, Port Arthur and southwest Louisiana, the center said.
• Times journalists are chronicling the storm and its aftermath. Here is a collection of the most powerful photographs, and a guide to our coverage.
• Follow Times correspondents covering the storm on Twitter: Manny Fernandez, Alan Blinder, Julie Turkewitz, Jack Healy, Dave Philipps, Annie Correal, Rick Rojas, Monica Davey, Richard Fausset, Richard Pérez-Peña and Audra Burch. A collection of their tweets is here.
• Are you in an affected area? If you are safe, and are able to, share your story by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. And here are ways you can contribute to relief efforts.
Port Arthur and Beaumont in Texas were hit hard overnight.
Those cities and other places in Jefferson County, Tex., east of Houston, were desperate for help after heavy rain there overnight caused floodwaters to rise precipitously.
In Beaumont, emergency workers rescued a young girl who was floating in the floodwaters, suffering from hypothermia and clinging to her mother’s body. The mother died, but the girl was in stable condition, the police said in a statement.
The mother, identified by the police as Colette Sulcer, 41, had been driving down a service road when she pulled into a parking lot and got stuck. Ms. Sulcer and her daughter left the car, but were swept away by the water, floating about half a mile, the police said. A group of emergency officials found the pair just before they were swept under a trestle. Had they floated under it, the workers would not have been able to save the child, the police said.
Local news reports from Port Arthur showed that shelters and homes were flooded, and residents and reporters said that there were not enough people answering emergency calls.
Rain fell with astonishing intensity in the county, which is home to about 254,000 people. Between 2 p.m. Tuesday and 1 a.m. Wednesday local time, almost 19 inches of rain hit Jack Brooks Regional Airport, between Beaumont and Port Arthur.
The rainfall total since the storm began reached more than 45 inches on Wednesday, and will climb. Rain was forecast to continue steadily through Wednesday and Thursday, before easing off on Friday.
‘I’ve never seen this much rain in my entire life,’ said a Texas resident.
Meagan Johnson, a resident of Orange, east of Beaumont, said parts of the city that she does not remember ever flooding were now overflowing. Her home did not have water in it but it was blocking her street, and she was staying in her house without power. Her husband was out helping with rescues, and her father, an electrician for the city of Beaumont, was stuck at work, making sure that city’s water pumps were working.
“I can’t even wrap my mind around how much rain this storm brought,” Ms. Johnson said in a telephone interview. “It’s not comparable. I’ve never seen this much rain in my entire life.”
Houston’s mayor pushes for a return to normalcy.
At a midday news conference, Mr. Turner, the mayor, said he wanted people to be able to return to their homes as soon as they was safe. Courts, City Hall and other city offices will reopen next week, and regular trash collection will resume. “The sooner we get back into our routine, the better,” he said.
But thousands of people remained in shelters, still seeking information about their families and friends, and about the state of their homes and their city. The city’s largest shelter at the George R. Brown Convention Center had 8,000 people Tuesday night — down from a high of 10,000.
And though the inundation from days of record rainfall has begun to recede, swollen rivers still have not crested in some places as water makes its way downstream. Art Acevedo, the police chief, said that 20 people who had been reported missing since the start of the storm remained unaccounted for.
Chief Acevedo added that no citations were issued overnight for violating the city’s curfew, which runs from midnight to 5 a.m. The Police Department requested the curfew in response to reports of minor looting and to allow search and rescue teams get around without interference.
A text, and then his brother was lost to the storm.
“It’s getting close,” Travis Callihan, 45, texted to his brother, Troy, as Hurricane Harvey encroached on his Houston home last weekend.
That was the last time Troy heard from his brother. On Monday, Travis died in the storm. Troy said that in the chaos of the last few days, he has still not heard firsthand how his brother died. A neighbor told the family that Travis had sought refuge in his pickup truck. Harris County officials say that he left his vehicle, fell into floodwaters and drowned.
Travis lived alone, his brother said, and kept to himself and quit working after he broke his back a few years ago in a boating accident. Before his injury, he was a different man. He spent his weekends hunting, fishing and scuba diving. He worked in information technology and pored over computers in his spare time.
“He changed dramatically after he hurt himself,” Mr. Callihan said. “But he’d still come over and visit my kids. We helped him recuperate. And even if we couldn’t see each other, we’d talk.”
Louisiana officials report minimal damage so far.
Along Bayou Barataria south of New Orleans, the sun shone in between bouts of rainfall, with clouds looming in the distance. Despite the lack of rain, the storm surge and a south wind caused water to spill over the banks of the bayou and into the small fishing communities of Jean Lafitte and Barataria on either side.
The area sits outside the New Orleans levee system, so every storm brings a degree of fretting. Along Privateer Boulevard, a raised graveyard was swamped and stretches of roadway were covered in water.
Tim Kerner, the Jean Lafitte mayor, surveyed the scene grimly from behind the wheel of his truck. “We’re going to be sandbagging,” he said. Still, he noted, it was high tide, and — barring the unexpected — his town would come through without major damage.
There were around two dozen rescues in southwest Louisiana overnight, said Mike Steele, spokesman for the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, and around 200 people staying in shelters. Some of those in the shelter in Lake Charles were evacuees from Texas. “I guess we’re really fortunate,” he said.
Doctors were forced to improvise when there was no brain surgeon around.
After working for days on end during the storm at Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital in northeast Houston, Dr. Vladimir Melnikov finally got out on his bicycle on a windy, dry Wednesday afternoon. The memories of the preceding days were fresh on his mind.
“We were on this island, a hospital surrounded by water everywhere,” he said.
A patient injured in a motorcycle accident was bleeding into his brain on Sunday night. He needed urgent brain surgery, but there was no neurosurgeon to do it, and no way to transfer the patient.
After consulting with the patient’s family, and speaking with neurosurgeons by phone, Dr. Erik P. Askenasy, a colon and rectal surgeon, opened the man’s skull to relieve the pressure and remove a blood clot.
Dr. Melnikov, an anesthesiologist, monitored the patient and watched as the surgeon “did it so elegantly” that no blood transfusion was required. When the wind died down, the patient was transferred to another hospital for continuing care.
Dr. Askenasy “was trapped with us in this small hospital, and he was an ortho surgeon, a neurosurgeon and a general surgeon, because we didn’t have relief,” Dr. Melkinov said.
“We just worked nonstop,” he added. “Very skillful and really dedicated and courageous people were in the right positions.”
A man goes back into the water to search for his dog.
Jose Machado, 37, an auto mechanic, hiked a child’s flotation ring up around his chest and entered the dark water on Tuesday.
He had come with his wife and her cousins to east Houston, an industrial part of the city filled with mechanic shops and dumpsites, as well as the homes of many working-class immigrants. “We’re here for his dog,” his wife, Marisela Arevalo, 25, said.
They were among a crowd of people that formed by a flooded stretch of highway. Some of them were residents who had come to see if they could reach flooded homes to recover a few belongings. The place reeked of gasoline, and a crossing train alarm refused to cease, clanging for hours.
Ms. Arevalo said their house had been flooded up to their knees, and they had to leave without their dog, Camilo. “He left him over there,” she said, pointing to Mr. Machado’s mechanic shop, “on top of a trailer.”
Mr. Machado trudged through the water, and nearly disappeared at the horizon. An hour later, he returned, shivering, his lips blue. “The current was too strong,” he said, head bowed. He couldn’t reach the shop. Camilo, it seemed, would not be rescued.
An earlier version of this article misstated the given name of a man in east Houston who was looking for his dog. His name is Jose Machado, not Juan. The error was repeated in a photo caption.
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