Houston Endures Record Rain; Curfew Declared to Prevent Looting

The sun came out in Houston late Tuesday for the first time since Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas last Friday, but the problems in the rain-soaked city, the fourth largest in the United States, are not going away. A citywide curfew was declared after several incidents of looting and armed robbery.

Since the hurricane hit, more than 124 centimeters (49 inches) of rain has fallen on Houston and surrounding area of southeastern Texas — the most rain from a single storm ever seen in the continental U.S. The storm is believed responsible for the deaths of at least nine people, and preliminary damage estimates have ranged up as high as $100 billion.

And Harvey, now downgraded from hurricane to tropical storm, is not finished. The swirling storm moved offshore into the Gulf of Mexico but is forecast to make landfall again late Tuesday night or Wednesday along the Texas-Louisiana border, bringing as much as 30 centimeters (12 inches) of additional rain.

WATCH: Texans on Evacuations, Snakes, ‘Too Much Water’

A day to remember

In an ironic convergence of hurricane history, Tuesday was the 12th anniversary of the day Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana and caused catastrophic damage in New Orleans.

Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, imposed a curfew from midnight until 5 a.m. after a number of crimes and several arrests were reported. It was not immediately clear whether the curfew would affect rescue efforts that have been continuing around the clock.

About 10,000 flood victims have been packed into Houston’s convention center, far exceeding its capacity, so city officials began moving some families to an arena that is home to the Houston Rockets professional basketball team.

Sunshine brings a warning

The break in the weather that brought the sun out prompted authorities to warn residents not to try to return to their flooded homes. Many streets and highways are still impassable, and water levels continued to rise in reservoirs that already were overflowing. Still, a flood-control officer in Harris County, which includes Houston, said, “For the first time since Saturday night we’re seeing a glimmer of hope.”

The flood-control officer, Jeff Lindner, added quickly, though: “It is going to take time for all of this water to get out of here.”

Cabinet members join Trump

President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, inspected the indescribable damage and rescue work in southeastern Texas Tuesday. The president said the storm recovery will probably be one of the most expensive efforts the U.S. has ever undertaken.

Visiting an emergency operations center in the Texas capital, Austin, Trump said his administration and Congress are going to come up with the “right solution” to help storm victims.

Four members of Trump’s Cabinet accompanied him. Health and Human Services chief Tom Price said his department was trying to make sure storm victims get the medical care they need, especially chronic-disease sufferers who may be unable to reach their regular physicians.

Housing secretary Ben Carson said his department was reallocating assets from routine spending to disaster relief.

‘Historic … epic’ storm

In Corpus Christi, where the hurricane hit the Texas Gulf Coast, Trump said he wants his administration’s storm recovery effort to be “better than ever before.”

Trump said Harvey was a “historic … epic” storm. Waving a Texas state flag as he spoke to cheering supporters in Corpus Christi, he added: “But it happened in Texas, and Texas can handle anything.”

Total damage estimates from Harvey range between $30 billion and $100 billion. But the immediate job for emergency workers, including firefighters, doctors, and the Texas National Guard, is rescuing thousands of people still trapped by floods inside or on top of their homes.

More than 3,500 people in the Houston area already have been rescued in around-the-clock efforts by emergency personnel and volunteers pushing boats, rafts, inflatable dinghies and even floating plastic furniture through streets and highways that now resemble brown, debris-filled rivers.

Police officer a storm victim

As many as nine storm-related deaths have been reported. They include Houston police sergeant Steve Perez, who drowned in a highway underpass Saturday when his car was overwhelmed by floodwaters as he tried to get to his post.

Police chief Art Acevedo could barely hold back his tears when he talked about Perez, saying the 59-year-old veteran officer will get a proper tribute from the city as soon as possible.

Even as Harvey prepares to move north over land and start to dissipate, it will still bring lots and lots of rain inland. Forecasters are already posting flash flood watches for Arkansas, Tennessee, and parts of Missouri and southern Illinois.

Harvey is expected to die out as a low pressure system over the U.S. east coast by the end of the week.

FEMA boss offers warning

But the worst may not be over for storm survivors. Bock Long, chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said difficult times lie ahead ahead even after the rain stops.

“This recovery is going to be frustrating,” Long said in a message of assurance to Texas residents, adding, “We’re going to be here with you.”

Trump did not visit Houston, where flood recovery and relocation efforts are currently concentrated, in order to avoid disrupting rescue efforts.

But White House officials said the president plans to return to Texas and possibly Louisiana  as soon as Saturday to see how the recovery effort is going.

 

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