Five people have been confirmed dead in Texas as now Tropical Storm Harvey sits nearly stationery over southeastern Texas.
Rockport city officials said a man was killed there Friday night when his house burned down as Harvey made landfall. Rescue personnel could not reach the victim because of the storm conditions.
Saturday night the Houston Police Department announced the death of a woman who drove into flood waters on the city’s west side. “It appeared that her vehicle went into high water and she drowned as a result,” Sergeant Colin Howard said.
Three additional deaths occurred in the Houston area overnight and are believed to be flood related although no details have been released.
Harvey Continues To Pack A Punch
Harvey was downgraded to tropical storm status Saturday afternoon but the system continues to pack a punch as it pounds coastal Texas with torrential flooding rains, wind gusts of 50 MPH and tornadoes.
At 11 p.m. CDT Saturday, the center of Tropical Storm Harvey was located near Victoria, 75 miles east of San Antonio. The storm has moved very little since making landfall late Friday night.
More than 300,000 people remain without power early Sunday morning and the numbers could increase as Harvey is expected to linger until the middle of next week, according the the National Weather Service.
Water treatment plants are offline because of flooding and power outages. Corpus Christi and other cities are under a water boil advisory and residents are asked to use as little wastewater as possible until the advisory can be lifted. Water must be boiled for at least two minutes to be safe for drinking, bathing and brushing teeth.
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Texas Governor Greg Abbott has declared 50 Texas counties disaster areas. Abbott said in a press conference Saturday afternoon that close to two feet of rain has already fallen in the area between Corpus Christi and Houston with the possibility of 20-30 more inches in coming days.
“Our primary concern remains dramatic flooding, Abbott said. He then repeated the familiar phrase “Turn around, don’t drown,” to remind people that it is never safe to drive into flood waters.
Abbott said he was activating 1,800 members of the Texas National Guard to help with cleanup and another 1,000 people will help with search and rescue.
Flash Flood Emergency In Houston
A Flash Flood Emergency was declared for the Houston Metro area Saturday after more than a foot of rain fell in just over twenty four hours. In the southwest part of the city, Brays Bayou was overflowing with debris-filled brown water after a tornado touched down in the neighborhood.
By Saturday night people had to be rescued from their homes as the water continued to rise. Emergency personnel had performed about 1,000 high water rescues by early Sunday morning.
People trapped in their cars because of rising water called 911 through the night but rescuers were having trouble reaching some of the victims.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner took to Twitter Sunday morning to ask people to stay off the streets.
Francisco Sanchez of the Harris County Emergency Management Office asked Houston area residents to move to a higher area if water begins to flood their houses. He said people should not go to their attics unless they also have a way to get to the roof of their homes as being trapped in an attic during a flooding event can be deadly.
— NWS Houston (@NWSHouston) August 27, 2017
Most interstate highways around Houston are now flooded and William P. Hobby Airport reported flooded runways.
Although Houston is one of the most flood prone cities in the United States with a population of over 2 million, Houston officials did not issue evacuation orders ahead of Harvey’s arrival.
River Flooding Begins In Low Lying Areas
Inland rivers and bayous are rising as Harvey continues to dump massive amounts of rain on coastal Texas. The National Weather Service predicts “major flood” conditions at 49 river locations across coastal Texas.
The Tres Palacios River has risen more than 20 feet near Midfield, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.
Fort Bend County has issued a mandatory evacuation for residents in low-lying areas near the Brazos and San Bernard Rivers. This same region also experienced damaging floods in 2016.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice evacuated about 4,500 inmates from prisons near the Brazos River Saturday. The inmates were moved to locations in East Texas.
By Sunday afternoon, many areas will be accessible only by boat because of rising flood waters.
Tornado Threat Continues
Harvey spawned at least 15 tornadoes Friday and Saturday including one that caused extensive damage in the Houston suburb of Cypress. Meteorologist Wendy Wong of the National Weather Service said homes, vehicles and buildings were damaged.
A confirmed tornado also touched down in the Cameron Parish, Louisiana town of Hackberg about noon Saturday. No injuries were reported but the National Weather Service says “extensive property damage” occurred.
The tornado threat will continue and most of the area between Houston and Corpus Christi remains under Tornado Watches.
Harvey Is The First Category 4 Hurricane To Hit Texas Since 1961
When Harvey came ashore as a Category 4 Hurricane Friday night it was the first tornado to hit Texas since Category 2 Hurricane Ike struck Galveston in 2008. The last Category 4 storm to hit Texas was Carla in 1961. Until Harvey, Hurricane Charley in 2004 was the last Category 4 Hurricane to strike the United States.
Harvey will remain over southeastern Texas until at least mid week. The storm may be downgraded to a tropical depression on Sunday but catastrophic life threatening flooding and tornadoes will continue to be a risk.