Tropical storm Harvey has hit Texas south-east Texas hard, with Houston, the fourth largest city in the country, receiving over 20 inches of rain in 24 hours. Many roadways are several feet underwater and buildings are being inundated devastatingly quickly. Although there has been a lull in the rain at the moment, ABC News meteorologists have predicted rainfall may reach up to 50 inches by Wednesday and flooding is still a major concern for the city.
At least five people have died and dozens of more injuries have been reported. Rescue efforts from the authorities as well as a “citizen Navy” are underway; thousands are stranded in their homes awaiting help. Many neighborhoods are without power and hospitals have evacuated patients.
Those most vulnerable are the elderly. The mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner, has said that over one thousand 9-1-1 calls have been received and that the system is so full that many calls are not going through. He stressed to have patience and that the most life-threatening cases would be attended to first; moving those who are stranded to shelters set up around the city is the first priority.
The flooding apparently came in quickly, with water levels rising several feet in a matter of hours. The League City Police Department, located about 30 miles south of Houston, posted on Facebook a call for help from "people with flat bottom or low water boats to assist with rescue and evacuation."
"Please send LCPD a Facebook message with name, phone number, location of boat, length and style of boat if you can be mobile with your boat and are experienced in operation of the boat," the League City police wrote.
As of late last night, the U.S. Coast Guard said it had performed over air 200 rescues and 1,000 water rescues. Three thousand national and state guard service members have been deployed with 500 vehicles and 14 aircraft, authorities report. The U.S. Department of Transportation has deployed an additional 400 people and 250 highway closures have been declared statewide.
“A flood of this magnitude is an 800-year event and it exceeds the design specifications of our levees, and is potentially dangerous for a good portion of Fort Bend County. A fifty-nine foot river level threatens to overtop many of the levees in our area,” Robert Hebert, the county judge, said in a statement early on Monday. “As a result, I am ordering both voluntary and mandatory evacuations for many of the levee improvement districts along the Brazos River.”
Although it is too soon to know if the tropical storm is climate-change related, once the state is clear of the disaster scientists will likely begin investigations.