(Reuters and AFP via Channel NewsAsia) – Houston: Catastrophic flooding triggered by Tropical Storm Harvey inundated Houston yesterday (August 27), forcing residents of the fourth most populous US city to flee their homes in boats or hunker down in anticipation of more days of “unprecedented” rainfall.
Harvey came ashore late Friday as the most powerful Category 4 hurricane to hit Texas in more than 50 years and has killed at least three people.
The death toll is expected to rise as the storm triggers additional tidal surges and tornadoes, with parts of the region expected to see a year’s worth of rainfall in the space of a week.
The city’s two main airports, George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Hobby International, suspended all commercial flights and two hospitals were forced to evacuate patients. A local television station also was knocked off the air.
The National Weather Service said more than 60cm of rain fell in Houston and nearby Galveston in a 24-hour period. Another 50cm was expected.
Harvey ripped off roofs, flipped mobile homes and left hundreds of thousands of people in the dark on the Gulf Coast, home to some of the country’s most important oil refineries.
Tornado warnings were in effect in several parts of the area.
“The breadth and intensity of this rainfall are beyond anything experienced before. Catastrophic flooding is now underway and expected to continue for days,” the National Weather Service said on Twitter.
Rising waters from Harvey inundated roads throughout the Houston area, affecting every major freeway and hamstringing efforts to move people to safety.
“It’s crazy to see the roads you’re driving on every day just completely under water,” Houston resident John Travis told AFP.
Another city resident, Brit Dreger, said: “It doesn’t look like we’re going anywhere for a while.”
Overwhelmed emergency services warned residents to head for high ground or climb onto rooftops – not into attics – so they could be seen by rescue helicopters. More than 1,500 rescues had been made so far.
Houston opened community centers to shelter people forced out of their homes, but Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner appealed to residents to stay put and not call the 911 emergency line unless they faced a life-threatening situation.
Flood-stranded residents took to social media with desperate pleas to be rescued from their homes. The Twitter account of the sheriff of Harris County, which includes most of Houston, was inundated with rescue requests.
Kathaleen Hervey was among many who turned to Twitter for help, saying a resident she knew needed to be rescued.
“He is trapped and can’t get through 911 or any of the emergency numbers, send a boat!!!” she tweeted to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.
Top: A stranded motorist escapes floodwaters on Interstate 225 after Tropical Storm Harvey inundated the Texas Gulf coast with rain causing mass flooding, in Houston, Texas yesterday. Photo: Reuters / Nick Oxford via Channel NewsAsia
First inset: Jesus Rodriguez rescues Gloria Garcia after rain from Tropical Storm Harvey flooded Pearland, in the outskirts of Houston, Texas, yesterday. Photo: Reuters / Adrees Latif via Channel NewsAsia
Second inset: People are rescued from floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey on an air boat in Dickinson, Texas yesterday. Photo: Reuters / Rick Wilking via Channel NewsAsia
Third inset: Texas National Guard soldiers aid stranded residents in heavily flooded areas in Houston, Texas, yesterday. Photo: Lt. Zachary West, 100th MPAD/Texas Military Department/Handout via Reuters published by Channel NewsAsia
SOURCE: Source: Reuters and AFP via Channel NewsAsia