- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall topped 50 inches in some spots, setting a record for the continental U.S., as flooding reached more neighborhoods in Texas on Tuesday, forced further evacuations, spurred thousands of heroic rescues and stranded many more people.

President Trump flew to Texas to get a firsthand update on the relief efforts, saying the cleanup would be a “costly proposition.”

One congresswoman from Texas floated a $150 billion price tag — as much as the 2005 relief effort for Hurricane Katrina and the 2012 Superstorm Sandy repairs cost the federal government combined.

Local media reported the death total at 15. One of those confirmed was a Houston police sergeant who drowned while trying to find a path to work Sunday morning to help with the rescue efforts.

“Probably there’s never been anything so expensive in our country’s history,” Mr. Trump said at one of several briefings. “There’s never been anything so historic in terms of damage and in terms of ferocity as what we’ve witnessed with Harvey.”

Harvey had been downgraded to a tropical storm but was still doing damage, with forecasters saying Louisiana was in the path. Evacuations were beginning Tuesday in that state’s southwest, as well as in parts of east Texas and in the still-swamped communities around Houston, with at least 1.7 million people ordered to leave their homes.

On Tuesday evening, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner imposed a midnight to 5 a.m. curfew in his city after scattered reports of looting.

Officials said more than 13,000 people all over Southeast Texas had been rescued, and Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said his team was continuing to work around the clock to find those still stranded.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been closely coordinating with state and local officials.

“Recovery is a slow process, but rest assured we’re doing everything we can,” FEMA Administrator Brock Long said at a roundtable discussion with Mr. Trump and officials in Annaville.

“All eyes are on Houston, and so are mine. We’ve got a long time to go. We’re still in a life-saving, life-sustaining mission,” Mr. Long said.

Vice President Mike Pence said in an interview with WOAI radio that more than 8,600 officials through FEMA were on the ground and that the agency had shipped more than 2.5 million meals and more than 2 million liters of water to the area.

The rainfall count from the storm also topped 51 inches in Cedar Bayou, setting a preliminary record for a tropical storm in the continental United States.

The National Hurricane Center was forecasting an additional 6 to 12 inches of rain through Friday over parts of the upper Texas coast into southwestern Louisiana.

The rain created additional headaches for responders Tuesday when a pair of dams that protect downtown Houston started to overflow, even after officials began releasing water from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs on Monday in anticipation of the flooding.

The American Red Cross said Tuesday that at least 17,000 people sought refuge in Texas shelters Monday night.

As the George R. Brown Convention Center approached double its capacity of 5,000 people Tuesday evening, Mr. Turner said the Toyota Center — home of the NBA’s Rockets — also will be used to house refugees.

Some officials said it was too early to provide damage estimates, but Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas Democrat, said on CNN that she would be seeking a $150 billion aid package — the approximate amount the federal government provided for relief for Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012 combined.

“We don’t know where else Hurricane Harvey will come, and we understand it may turn back to Houston tomorrow and the next day,” Ms. Jackson Lee said.

The National Hurricane Center also warned that tornadoes were possible from southeast Texas along parts of southern Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Residents did what they could to escape the overflowing water in their homes, and many heeded the call of local officials to assist others where they could.

Barrett Zuskind of Houston said he and a few friends carried their boats away from Matagorda Bay last week in case the hurricane hit but ended up coordinating with local officials to pick up people stranded in their homes.

He marveled at how many people came to help from all corners, including average citizens risking damage to their personal vehicles and boats. He said they worked with people and responders from Denton, San Antonio, Bellville, Beaumont and Louisiana.

“The hardest part for them was we would knock on the doors … we had to tell them, ‘Look, we are going to put 18 people on this boat — just try to grab one bag of clothes,’” he said.

“Prioritize in five minutes — I mean, it was hard to just be a part of it … seeing people decide what they could live with for the rest of their lives,” he said.

Jamie Grissom, who lives in the Grand Mission neighborhood in Katy, west of Houston, said she and her fiance, Austin Walker, threw as many belongings as they could into their attic before leaving.

A volunteer game warden they saw outside advised them to seek help from friends, since they were prioritizing the old, sick and young at that point. So they waded and swam to a CVS parking lot about a half mile away to meet up with a friend who had a massive monster truck.

“The only way we could get on the Westpark Tollway was to go the wrong way,” she said. “People at that point were in survival mode. … Everybody just respectfully drove in their lanes and were careful.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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