BuzzFeed Quizzes Trending

Harvey Kills Dozens Of People In Texas, Leaving The Coast To Rebuild

These were live updates from Harvey's aftermath on the Texas coast. Go here for previous coverage of the storm and its aftermath.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

Relief efforts in Orange, Texas

Here's What We Know:

  • At least 50 people have died in connection to Harvey, which has battered Gulf Coast of Texas. Authorities expect the death toll to rise as officials assess the full extent of the storm's damage.
  • The storm has officially passed, and now Houstonians are facing the aftermath — returning to destroyed homes and cars, dealing with insurance companies, and trying to rebuild every day lives.
  • President Trump visited Texas on Saturday. He was in Corpus Christi and Austin on Tuesday.
  • Harvey, which began as a powerful Category 4 hurricane, set a new continental US record for single-storm rainfall in Cedar Bayou, Texas, which saw 51.88 inches of rain, the National Weather Service said. The previous record was 48 inches.
  • BuzzFeed News is reporting from the region. See all our work here.
  • If you've been impacted by the storm in Texas or have a tip about rescue, relief, government, or aid efforts, call the BuzzFeed News tipline at (646) 589-8598. You can also find us on Signal, email, and SecureDrop here.
Peter Aldhous/BuzzFeed News

Circles show calls for help compiled by volunteer groups. Income data from the 2015 American Community Survey, 5-year estimates. Gray indicates areas close to the national median; green areas have higher income, pink areas less.

Updates

Posted at

Thank you for following our live coverage of Harvey and its impact on the Texas coast.

BuzzFeed News reporters are still in the region, and you can read all their work here. Information on the victims can be found here.

Posted at

Texas officials now say 60 people have died as a result of Harvey

The Associated Press reports that 60 people died as a result of Harvey, most drowning and succumbing to flash floods or inundated roads. The count includes those who died as a result of "indirect complications" cased by Harvey, such as fallen trees and malfunctioning medical equipment.

BuzzFeed News has confirmed more than 50 deaths. Read about them here.

—Tom Namako

Posted at

Officials say all of the fires at the Arkema plant are now out

Adrees Latif / Reuters

The flooded plant of French chemical maker Arkema SA, which produces organic peroxides, is seen after fires were reported at the facility on Aug. 31.

All of the fires at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, are now out, after authorities set off a series of controlled burns Sunday, officials said in a statement.

All nine trailers at the Harvey-wrecked chemical site, which were filled with highly flammable organic peroxides that require refrigeration, have now burned, the Harris County Fire Marshal's office said Sunday night. This will allow crews to assess the flooded facility.

The statement said that officials continue to monitor air quality in the area, but that so far, the data has showed no impact on the air from the burns. Still, it will likely take years to know the true health risks from this chemical site and others after Harvey's destruction.

An evacuation zone of 1.5 miles around the plant is still in place.

– Michelle Broder Van Dyke

Posted at

EPA to intentionally set fires to trailers at flooded chemical plant outside Houston

Adrees Latif / Reuters

A fire burns at the flooded Arkema chemical plant on August 31.

The US Environmental Protection Agency and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality have decided to intentionally set fire to trailers at a flooded chemical plant near Houston. The decision comes days after a fire broke out at the plant on Thursday morning, resulting in an evacuation of a 1.5-mile area around the plant.

The agencies decided to begin a controlled burn, the statement said, "Rather than risk additional damage to the facility or spreading into the surrounding area."

First responders will remain outside of the facility to ensure a quick reaction for any possible adverse effects from the fire.

"We continue to monitor smoke and air quality, the potential for additional fires in the area, and have aerial assets ready to be deployed, as needed," the statement also said. Late last week, the EPA conducted aerial flights to test the air around the plant, concluding that toxic levels of chemicals were not found outside of the evacuation radius.

—Talal Ansari

Posted at

Harvey Damages Now Estimated At A Record $180 Billion

Texas governor Greg Abbott raised the damage estimates from Hurricane Harvey for his state to $150 to $180 billion, a record for US storm costs.

"When you look at the number of homes and business affected by this I think this will cost well over $120 billion, probably $150 to $180 billion,” Abbott told Fox News on Sunday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) puts the record US storm costs at $160 billion for 2005's Hurricane Katrina, which decimated New Orleans. Next comes the costs of 2012's Superstorm Sandy, at $70 billion in damages.

Harvey's numbers could get even worse. The private weather firm Accuweather has estimated the costs of Hurricane Harvey even higher than Abbott, at $190 billion.

The Trump Administration has asked Congress for $7.85 billion in initial relief funds for victims of Harvey, which Abbott called, "a down payment," in his comments.

—Dan Vergano

Posted at

Texas Governor Calls Rebuilding Flood-Prone Houston Homes "Insane"

As Houston's recovery begins, talk has turned to how the massive flooding will reshape the nation's fourth-largest city.

Flood waters are receding and only 5% of the city is now still underwater, according to Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, speaking on CBS’ Face the Nation. Survey teams are reportedly looking for victims and recording damage on a block-by-block basis.

Turner estimates clean-up efforts will take 10 days, with rebuilding efforts a long-term problem for the city. How that rebuilding will take place is now becoming a question for public officials:

"It would be insane for us to rebuild on property that has been flooded multiple times," Texas governor Greg Abbott told ABC News on Sunday morning. Abbott suggested that Houston's famous lenience toward building housing on flood plains should end.

Meanwhile, more than 10,000 Houston school students will report for classes in temporary buildings on September 11.

Dan Vergano

Posted at

Houston placing mandatory evacuation, shutting off power, in area where residents refused to leave inundated homes

KTRK-TV via AP

Firefighters battle a blaze at a building still surrounded by Harvey's floodwaters in Houston on Saturday.

Houston is placing a mandatory evacuation and shutting down power in an inundated community where roughly 300 people have refused to leave, the mayor announced Saturday.

"I understand people trying to protect their private property," Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a press conference. "This is a situation when you have to put your own personal safety as a priority."

The decision was prompted after city firefighters had to trudge through a flooded community to reach a building that caught fire Saturday morning. Electricity, Turner said, is increasing the danger of fires and electrocution for first responders who might have to traverse through hazardous waters to reach the area.

"Think of our first responders," Turner said. "They too, have families."

The evacuation order will be placed for flooded homes only that are south of the I-10, north of Briarforest, east of reservoirs, and west of Gessner, Turner said, where about 300 people have refused to leave.

Though officials can't forcefully remove someone from their home, the city by 7 am Sunday will be shutting off electricity, gas and water to reduce the risk to first responders.

"It's something I'd hate to do," the mayor said. "I would have preferred if people chose to leave."

Though rain has stopped pouring on the Texas city, several more days of flooding are expected as officials release water from nearby reservoirs.

Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said he supported the mayor's decision. Not only is fire and electrocution possible in such areas, he said, but hazards under the water such as debris and open manhole covers pose a danger for first responders, he said.

Houston fire and police officials will likely be seeing a reduction in FEMA and federal personnel, meaning less resources to respond to inundated areas, Peña said.

Salvador Hernandez

Posted at

This family has the craziest story of evacuating to escape Harvey three times

Ben King / BuzzFeed News

BEAUMONT, Texas — Over the past week the Dahab family has crossed Texas trying to escape Storm Harvey – fleeing their flooded home, a trapped car, and an evacuation center with no running water.

Four-year-old Zeina Dahab acted pretty nonchalant about her first helicopter ride, even though just hours earlier the Coast Guard had saved her and her family after a night spent in their stranded minivan, trapped by floodwaters, near Beaumont.

“It was loud,” she told BuzzFeed News on Thursday, sitting in the dark at the Beaumont evacuation center, because the electricity had just gone out.

For her mother Mariam, 32, the arrival of the Coast Guard chopper was pure relief.

“I felt finally safe,” she said. “The last days, I was fighting all the time to save my kids’ lives.”

Read more here.

-- Amber Jameison

Posted at

"As tough as this was, it's been a wonderful thing," Trump says, while visiting Houston residents at a shelter

President Trump returned to Houston and visited a shelter at the NRG Stadium Saturday, following criticism of his first trip Tuesday, during which he failed to meet with any people affected or visit flooded areas.

“They were just happy. We saw a lot of happiness," Trump told reporters, who asked what families had said to him in the shelter. "It’s been really nice. It’s been a wonderful thing. As tough as this was, it’s been a wonderful thing, I think even for the country to watch it and for the world to watch. It’s been beautiful.”

Trump then excused himself, saying, "I’m going to be doing a little help over here.”

The president tweeted footage of his takeoff and landing prior to the visit, along with messages of support for the city.

-- Cora Lewis

Posted at

A paramedic with DACA status rescues Harvey victims as Trump decides his fate

NBC

Houston-area paramedic Jesus Contreras worked six days straight after Hurricane Harvey hammered through southeast Texas, rescuing people from flood waters and taking some of them to local hospitals.

“It was emotional because you’re seeing people go through some of the hardest moments of your life,” Contreras told BuzzFeed News. “It shook up our entire community.”

In between rescuing people and helping people who needed dialysis, insulin, or reach life-saving medical machines, Contreras didn’t have a lot of time to think about himself. That changed when he came home on Thursday to shower and saw the news that President Trump may end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

The Obama-era program protects undocumented immigrants who, like Contreras, were brought to the US as children from deportation, while also granting them permits to legally work.

“Hearing that my future in the United States is being threatened and possibly taken away was disheartening, it was disappointing,” the 23-year-old said. “It was like getting an extra kick to the face when you’re already down.”

Read more here.

—Adolfo Flores

Posted at

Trump asks Congress for $7.9 billion for initial hurricane relief

Mpi122 / MPI122 / MediaPunch/MediaPunch/IPx

President Trump on Friday requested that Congress approve $7.9 billion in aid for initial Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts.

The president's request to lawmakers was reported by the Associated Press.

In Trump's letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, he asked for $7.4 billion to go to FEMA's disaster relief fund and $450 million to the Small Business Administration's post-disaster loan program.

Moody's Analytics on Friday estimated the hurricane's total damages at between $86 billion and $108 billion. Passing an aid bill will be part of Congress' busy fall, during which deadlines are coming on government spending and debt. But House Republicans who spoke with BuzzFeed News were confident they could navigate a disaster relief bill without political divisiveness.

In a tweet, Ryan responded that the House would act quickly on the president's request.

"As families & communities begin long recovery from Hurricane Harvey, House will act quickly on @POTUS request for emergency relief funding," he said.

—Claudia Koerner

Posted at

President prepares for Saturday trip to Texas and Louisiana, citing "great progress"

President Trump on Friday tweeted about his preparations to go to Texas and Louisiana over the weekend, where White House staff said he would meet with the survivors of Hurricane Harvey.

The president earlier this week visited Texas amid the storm, but he spent his time in briefings with state officials and emergency responders. He did not travel to Houston or surrounding areas, where flood waters had left devastating destruction.

Following his trip on Saturday, Trump was expected to return to Washington DC. Though his schedule for Sunday and Monday had not yet been publicized, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said he would be working on whether to roll back DACA, the Obama-era program that protects undocumented residents who were brought to the US illegally as children from deportation.

—Claudia Koerner

Posted at

Smoke is again seen coming from flooded chemical plant near Houston

KHOU

Another fire broke out at the flooded Arkema chemical plant near Houston Friday afternoon.

News stations flying helicopters near the scene, including Houston's KHOU, reported seeing smoke and fire near the plant's trailers, the second time fires have been sparked at the plant.

Fires broke out Thursday morning after what the company said was a reaction by chemicals stored there sparked a fire. That fire eventually burned itself out, the company said.

Still, Arkema Inc. President and CEO Richard Rowe said Thursday fires were still possible at the plant after they lost power and were unable to keep certain chemicals properly refrigerated.

The plant and a 1.5-mile area around it has been evacuated.

On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it sent aerial surveillance aircraft to the plant after the second fire broke out to check the smoke. The agency also conducted ground-level air quality tests.

In a statement, the agency said it did not find toxic concentrations of chemicals in the air in either of the tests outside of the 1.5 evacuation area.

The statement did not say what the results were within the evacuation zone.

A total of nine trailers with organic peroxide are expected to eventually catch fire because of lack of refrigeration, the agency said.

"Local, state and federal response managers concluded that the safest course of action was to allow the remaining containers to catch fire, rather than try to send people to move them or put firefighters and first responders in harm's way," the statement read.

—Salvador Hernandez

Posted at

Things get worse in Beaumont, where evacuees are flown to Dallas

With no running water since Thursday morning, intermittent electricity, few medical facilities, little food, and rising floodwaters, the situation in Beaumont, Texas, became increasingly dire for its trapped residents, forcing the evacuation of the city's two relief shelters to Dallas.

More than 120 evacuees from Harvey relief shelters in Beaumont slept on buses overnight outside the Jack Brooks regional airport as they waited to be flown to the mega-shelter evacuation center in Dallas on Friday.

"It looks like a war zone," said Beaumont resident Shayla Harris, 50, as rescue helicopters buzzed overheard outside the Beaumont Civic Center Shelter on Thursday afternoon.

By late Thursday, the aftermath of Harvey was squeezing Beaumont, a city of 120,000 people, on multiple fronts.

The Neches River, which flows through the middle of the city and alongside the Beaumont Civic Center, was rising rapidly as officials upstream released water from a dam, Beaumont Officer Haley Morrow told BuzzFeed News. The rising water raised concerns that additional neighborhoods might be flooded.

Read more here.

—Amber Jamieson and Jim Dalrymple II

Posted at

New estimates put Harvey damage at up to $108 billion

Scott Olson / Getty Images

Moody’s Analytics on Friday increased its estimate of damages from Harvey to between $86 billion and $108 billion after the storm’s second landfall battered Jefferson County, Texas. The new estimate makes the storm the second-worst in recent history, the company said in a release.

Moody’s Analytics said the biggest hit was inflicted upon the area's homes, which suffered $45 billion to $55 billion in damages. The property analytics company CoreLogic said in a release on residential damage in Texas and Louisiana on Thursday night, "an estimated 70% of flood damage from Hurricane Harvey is not covered by any insurance."

"The damage and disruption faced by Southeast Texas is clearly worse than most believed earlier this week," the report by Moody’s Analytics said. "Although the full extent of the damage in Houston remains uncertain, it is clear that flooding damage is widespread, leaving a sizable trail of destroyed homes, buildings and cars in its wake."

Read the full story here.

–Venessa Wong

Posted at

Trump tweeted Friday that there is "still, so much to do" in Texas

Friday, after a visit to Texas that did not include visiting affected areas, Trump tweeted that the state is "healing fast" but that there is still "so much to do."

"Will be back tomorrow!" he tweeted.

An initial tweet had referred to the state as "heeling," but he corrected it later in the morning.

-- Cora Lewis

Posted at

Full measure of Harvey's destruction starts to reveal itself in East Texas

Amy K. Nelson for BuzzFeed News

For the army of flood rescuers that have descended on east Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, plenty of work remains.

Although most rescue operations have halted in Orange, which on Wednesday had become a focal point of volunteer efforts, constant pleas for help from small towns along the I-10 corridor between Orange and Beaumont were still coming in to dispatchers for the volunteer Cajun Navy.

A young woman was stranded with three others in 3 feet of water in West Orange. An elderly man with emphysema had run out of medicine and was in dire condition in Mauriceville. Thirty people were stuck on a roof in Vidor.

The problem was getting there. Between Orange and Beaumont, the surface roads were almost entirely impassable, turning the rural enclaves into literal islands in a sea of fast moving, polluted waters.

Read more here.

—John Stanton

Posted at

Fire at chemical plant is out, but company says more fires and explosions still possible

Gregory Bull / AP

Richard Rennard, president of acrylic monomers America for Arkema Inc., speaks during a news conference Thursday.

Fires that broke out at a chemical manufacturing plant near Houston are out, the company said Thursday, but more fires at the flooded facility are still possible.

Explosions were reported at the plant early Thursday morning, after trailers containing organic peroxides caught fire, the company said.

Two "explosions" were reported, but officials said they were in fact chemical reactions.

"Some of the area surrounding the trailer was burned or charred, but any adjacent fires burned themselves out," the company said. "We continue to monitor the temperature in the remaining trailers and there is evidence suggesting that other trailers will soon burn, but there have been no reports of any fires or smoke."

Richard Rowe, president and CEO of Arkema Inc., said at a news conference that the plant was still under about 6 feet of water, and that the power necessary for safe refrigeration of the stored chemicals was still out.

The 1.5-mile evacuation area surrounding the Crosby plant, he said, remains in effect.

—Salvador Hernandez

Posted at

Before and after satellite photos show Harvey's devastation

For more before and after images of the flooding caused by Harvey, go here.

—Michelle Broder Van Dyke

Posted at

Houston residents return home to ruin as floodwaters recede

Gregory Bull / AP

HOUSTON — The last time Dora Yudelevich saw her home, before she and her family were forced to flee on Sunday, water was up to her waist, her neighborhood looked like a raging river, and Tropical Storm Harvey continued its unprecedented downpour. When she returned three days later, the streets were dry, the sun was out, and the house she’d lived in for 25 years was ravaged.

By Thursday morning, furniture, mattresses, and garbage bags filled with ruined possessions were piled five-feet high on the curb, beside the car that had been drowned beyond repair. Inside the house, Yudelevich sorted through cabinets and closets, pushing through the long process of deciding what to keep and what to toss. In one room, relatives placed water-damaged photos on a table to dry.

“I’m devastated,” said Yudelevich, who arrived in the US from Chile in the ‘80s, later opened a clothing store, and worked seven days a week into her sixties. “You feel like at this age you're ready to retire, then you lose everything. We had no savings other than this house.”

It was a sentiment felt across the city Thursday as residents returned to the homes they fled amid rapidly rising floodwaters caused by the most intense rainfall in US history.

Read more here.

—Albert Samaha

Posted at

Feds have already approved $50 million in aid to people affected by hurricane

Eric Gay / AP

Vice President Mike Pence, center, with his wife Karen, left, greet residents effected by Hurricane Harvey.

The federal government has already approved about $50 million in individual aid, Elaine Duke, acting Homeland Security secretary, told reporters Thursday.

The aid was issued for roughly 100,000 requests that have already been approved for people affected by the storm, making it the first batch of approved requests by the federal government to help the region rebuild after Hurricane Harvey.

Duke was there along with Vice President Mike Pence, Gov. Greg Abbott, and Secretary Elaine Chao to talk about reconstruction efforts in the region.

More than 10,000 people have been rescued in Texas, Duke said, and officials were beginning to refocus their efforts toward rebuilding.

Chao said there was roughly $350 million in pending Department of Transportation funds available for Texas. The department had also already identified about 200 engineers who would be available within 48 hours to inspect roads and bridges as portions of the state begin to reopen.

Chao said she has also signed an executive order waving requirements and easing the transportation of fuel into Texas to help with the shortage.

"Governor, we waived that requirement, and you got it," she said.

— Salvador Hernandez

Posted at

Houston hospitals brace for surge in patients after Harvey

Gerald Herbert / AP

As the floodwaters clear and the roads dry out, Houston hospitals that spent the week keeping tropical storm Harvey at bay are bracing for a massive surge of patients.

In the wake of what was essentially a disruption in healthcare as usual as Harvey loomed over the Texas coast, hospitals are re-opening urgent care facilities. Several are beefing up their staffs in anticipation of big crowds.

Medical facilities will be tending to this extra patient load while finding and repairing damages at sites hit by the storm. As of Wednesday, more than 27 hospitals in Harvey’s path had evacuated and closed. By Thursday, state personnel had evacuated 1,086 patients on 165 missions, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Read more here.

—Nidhi Subbaraman

Posted at

After Harvey, small social networks prove their might

Gerald Herbert / AP

Flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey can be seen in this aerial photo over Port Arthur, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017.

On Wednesday morning, with flood waters still rising in Houston, voices bubbled inside the relatively obscure walkie-talkie app Zello, coordinating a volunteer effort to get help to those in need.

“I have an 18-foot flat bottom aluminum boat, I need to know where to go this morning," one member of the app’s 500-plus person North Houston Rescue channel told the group.

”Is there any need for a couple of jet skis and four guys?” another asked. Almost instantly and with calm precision, group administrators directed them to areas that could use their help.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey — which has left thousands seeking shelter — small, locally oriented social networks like Zello are showing their strength as organizing tools. Though social networks are an imperfect substitute for rescue infrastructure, a listen into Zello, or a peek into Nextdoor (where neighbors are working to inform and help each other), or even a visit to Harvey-related Facebook groups shows why people are relying on these networks. They are focused, intensely local, and put critical information in front of the right audiences quickly with little distraction or noise.

“It’s not 911, but it’s pretty effective,” Zello CEO Bill Moore told BuzzFeed News.

Read more here.

—Alex Kantrowitz

Posted at

Tropical storm Harvey is officially dead

Mark Ralston / AFP / Getty Images

After nearly a week of monitoring one of the worst storms in US history, the National Hurricane Center has issued its final advisory on Harvey.

The powerful storm has continued to weaken, though still drenching parts of Texas and Louisiana with rain and causing deadly, widespread flooding. The center warned that "ongoing, catastrophic and life-threatening flooding will continue across southeastern Texas," specifically around Houston, Beaumont, and Port Arthur.

Harvey, which began as a powerful Category 4 hurricane, appears to have set a new continental US record for single-storm rainfall in Cedar Bayou, Texas, which saw 51.88 inches of rain, the National Weather Service announced Tuesday. The previous record was 48 inches.

"The National Hurricane Center would like to thank all the men and women that have worked countless hours at local National Weather Service Forecast offices along the Gulf coast providing life-saving warnings and information during the past week, on top of preparing their family and homes for the storm," the center said in its 46th advisory.

Brianna Sacks

Posted at

President Trump pledges to donate $1 million of his own money for hurricane relief

Alex Brandon / AP

President Trump is pledging to donate $1 million of his personal money to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday.

"He would like to join in the efforts that a lot of the people that we've seen across this country do and he's pledging $1 million of personal money," Sanders told reporters at a press briefing.

Sanders said Trump had not yet decided what organization he would be donating the money to, and said the president wanted the White House press pool to suggest what organizations are "best and most effective in helping."

Asked whether the donation would be coming personally from the president, or from the president's foundation, Sanders said she was not sure about "the legal part of exactly that."

"He said his personal money, so I would assume that comes directly from him," she said.

— Salvador Hernandez

Posted at

Shelters and hospital are forced to evacuate as flooding cripples Beaumont and Port Arthur

Gerald Herbert / AP

A boat sits near flooded homes in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey can be seen in Beaumont, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017.

The city of Beaumont in eastern Texas lost its water supply Thursday as a result of flooding from Tropical Depression Harvey, forcing evacuations of shelters and a local hospital, officials said.

Beaumont's primary and secondary water supply pumps were submerged by floodwaters from the overflowing Neches River nearby, city officials said, adding that they're not sure when they'll be able to begin repairs.

Beaumont police told BuzzFeed News on Thursday that the city will have to evacuate 1,400 people currently taking refuge in its two main storm shelters — Beaumont Civic Center and the Montagne Center at Lamar University — because they don't know when they'll be able to restore running water. Baptist Hospital Beaumont is closing down entirely, including its emergency department, spokeswoman Mary Poole said.

In Port Arthur, officials were forced to close a shelter in the Bob Bower Civic Center on Wednesday after flood waters entered the venue.

Read more here.

—Nidhi Prakash

Posted at

Undocumented immigrants affected by hurricane likely not eligible for long-term benefits, White House says

Carolyn Kaster / AP

Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert.

Undocumented immigrants affected by the devastation of Hurricane Harvey won't likely be eligible to receive long-term benefits, Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert told reporters during a White House press briefing.

Bossert stressed no one, including undocumented immigrants, would be turned away from life-saving measures, food and water. But when it comes to housing relief or other benefits the federal government was working on for those impacted by the storm, Bossert suggested the undocumented population would not receive any of it.

"No individual human being should worry about their immigration status unless they've committed a crime atop of coming here illegally," he said. "I don't think there's going to be a lot of benefits going out to illegal immigrants in terms of the American taxpayer."

Many of the undocumented population in Texas have been reticent about seeking help for fear of being deported. Those fears have been augmented by the administration's effort to ramp up deportations and expand those targeted by immigration officials.

Bossert said the administration would still be working on who specifically would be eligible for certain benefits. But when pressed on whether those who have been living in Texas' affected areas, and were undocumented, Bossert reiterated the White House's priority to deport those with a criminal record.

"There's a lot of 'if's' and I'll figure that out as I deal with them, but the priority couldn't be any clearer," he told reporters. "Those who have come to the country illegally and then commit crimes constitute the priority we need to focus on, and that's not a victimless crime."

— Salvador Hernandez

Posted at

Damage from Harvey has caused millions of pounds of toxic pollutants to be released into the air

David J. Phillip / AP

This aerial photo shows the Flint Hills Resources oil refinery near downtown Houston on Aug. 29, 2017.

A wave of refinery, petrochemical plant, and other industrial facility damages and shutdowns along the Texas coast in response to Harvey’s wrath has led to the release of millions of pounds of pollutants into the air, according to company filings analyzed by BuzzFeed News.

One of the nation’s hot spots for refining and other chemical processing, Houston is especially vulnerable to hurricanes and other flooding. Early Thursday morning — after Harvey had hit the city with more than 49 inches of rain in some places — the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, about 30 miles northeast of downtown Houston, exploded twice due to flooding. The ongoing fire has released black smoke, raising questions about whether large amounts of dangerous materials are being emitted.

Although Arkema has not yet filed a report estimating the air pollution triggered by this explosion, dozens of other industrial facilities already have.

Chevron Phillips, for example, moved to shut down its chemical manufacturing plant outside of Houston. In the process of halting production, however, various pieces of plant equipment spewed an estimated 754,000 pounds of air pollution. This was a noxious mix of cancer-causing chemicals, smog-forming pollutants, and other pollutants, according to the company’s recent report to Texas environmental regulators.

Read more here.

—Zahra Hirji and Jeremy Singer-Vine

Posted at

The Houston Fire Department is going door to door in neighborhoods that were severely flooded

Jon Passantino

Fire fighters in Houston are beginning to go door-to-door in neighborhoods where waters have receded after heavy flooding, as people begin to trickle back to survey the damage to their homes.

"A few days ago it looked like we were living on a lake," one resident, Susan Reeves, told BuzzFeed News. "Today you wouldn't even know it."

Houston's Assistant Fire Chief Richard Mann told reporters the searches were to ensure "no people were left behind" as recovery efforts get underway.

- Albert Samaha, Jon Passantino and Nidhi Prakash

Posted at

Explosions have taken place at a flooded chemical plant in the Houston area

Two explosions took place at the flooded Arkema chemical plant in the Houston suburb of Crosby in the early hours of Thursday morning, although the county sheriff said later clarified that they were not technically explosions but "releases" or "chemical reactions."

"This event had been expected and planned," Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said.

The plant housed extremely flammable organic peroxides that required refrigeration, as once they heat up, they ignite. The sheriff said that what appeared to be an explosion was the containers popping.

In a statement, Arkema said that the company had been alerted to the explosions by the Harris County Emergency Operations Center at around 2 a.m. on Thursday, and that black smoke had been seen. The plant lost power yesterday when flooding overtook it's primary source of power in addition to its two backup sources.

The statement said that the company had agreed with local authorities to let the fire burn itself out because of the volatile chemicals involved and that a 1.5 mile area surrounding the plant had been evacuated.

"It is not anything toxic, it's not that we feel is a danger to the community at all," Gonzalez said.

The sheriff's office tweeted that 10 deputies, who were near the plant maintaining a perimeter, had inhaled smoke near the plant, but that the company believed it to be a non-toxic irritant. One deputy has been hospitalized.

On its website Thursday, Akema listed possible harmful chemicals in the smoke.

"We are assuming exposure to smoke from a fire containing organic peroxides and/or degradation products of hydrocarbons and alcohols," the company wrote. "The smoke may also contain organic peroxide degradation products, including hydocarbons and alcohols."

Side effects of inhalation could include eye, skin and/or respiratory irritation, skin sensitization, nausea, drowsiness, or dizziness, according to the company.

Thursday afternoon, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt put out a statement saying that data from an aircraft that surveyed the scene "indicates that there are no concentrations of concern for toxic materials reported at this time."

"EPA’s focus is on the safety of those around the facility and we urge those in the area to follow the safety instructions of local authorities," Pruitt said. "We will consider using any authority we have to further address the situation to protect human health and the environment."

The EPA is providing assistance and resources to the first responders in Harris County and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), according to the statement. There is currently a 1.5-mile radius exclusion area around the explosion site, beyond which EPA employees cannot go, as well as a zone set by the local fire marshal to protect the area from potential additional explosions.

— Francis Whittaker and Cora Lewis

Posted at

Meet the veterans who built a volunteer rescue army in Houston

Jim Dalrymple/BuzzFeed News

Buck Buchanan was at home in San Antonio watching the news when Harvey, then a tropical storm, slammed into Houston. As the former US Marine — who served from 1999 to 2006 — watched the scene unfold, he realized two things: first, that the situation looked really bad; and second, that he might be able to do something.

"I called a couple of guys and said, 'We should go help. It doesn’t look like they were ready for this,'" Buchanan told BuzzFeed News.

By Wednesday, Buchanan's idea had grown into a small army of more than 200 mostly former US service members who had shown up to traverse the city in boats and truck convoys, looking for people to pull from their homes and carry to safety.

Read more here.
— Jim Dalrymple II

Posted at

Small Texas border town bands together while waiting for help to arrive

Amy K. Nelson for BuzzFeed News

ORANGE, Texas — None of the volunteers awaiting orders in the American Airboat parking lot seemed to know her name, not that any of them had time to find out, or even needed to. If you had a question, you simply talked to the “woman in the neon yellow shirt.”

Even without the shirt, Amanda Labove’s calm confidence made it clear she was in charge of the makeshift command center.

“I need a boat, it’s an emergency,” Labove said, turning to a group of five men. “There’s a mother and infant stuck on a car and the infant is turning blue.”

Two men quickly volunteered and, with address in hand, they climbed into their pickup and sped off west with their flat bottom fishing boat in tow.

It was just one of dozens, maybe even hundreds, of rescue missions Labove would dispatch complete strangers on throughout Wednesday to Orange and other small communities along the Texas-Louisiana border.

Read more here.

—John Stanton

Posted at

Officials attempt to consolidate shelters as storm subsides

David J. Phillip / AP

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett announced on Wednesday that the NRG Center in Houston would take on the role of a consolidated, regional shelter.

The NRG Center opened as overflow after beds filled up at the George R. Brown Convention Center. But it was never close to its capacity of 10,000, and going forward, Emmett said it would open its services to people from neighboring counties.

"It's got medical facilities, a grocery store, a childcare area," he said. "It's a place that frankly can't be duplicated in small settings all around the region."

Emmett said he had talked with the Red Cross about closing small shelters in the region and transporting people to the NRG Center. Metro buses were expected to start moving people on a voluntary basis Thursday morning.

"We've got it set up. There's no sense to let it go to waste," he said. "Let's make it available to others."

—Claudia Koerner

Posted at

Harvey has been downgraded to a tropical depression

The National Hurricane Center downgraded Harvey to a tropical depression on Wednesday as it continues to move over land.

Harvey made landfall in Texas on Friday night as a Category 4 hurricane, wreaking havoc along the coast of the state and killing at least 35 people.

The tropical depression is predicted now to cross from the northern part of Louisiana through Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky and into Ohio and West Virginia by Saturday.

— Michelle Broder Van Dyke

Posted at

Retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who led response to Hurricane Katrina, warned many more trained people would be necessary as waters recede and Harvey relief efforts move into their next phase.

Coroners and medical staff would be necessary to handle remains uncovered by receding flood waters, plus police and members of the National Guard to methodically search homes, he told CNN.

Honoré said it didn't appear Texas officials were prepared for that, and it could mean delays in getting residents back to their homes.

"So the second phase of this, going into homes and doing a recon, is going to be a lot more complex and I don't think they've scaled up enough to be able to do this in a timely manner," he said. "Because until you search everything, you can't let people back in."

Hurricane Katrina, which struck Louisiana in 2005, was one of the costliest natural disasters to hit the US, causing billions of dollars in damage and killing more than 1,800 people.

Honoré on Wednesday added he was impressed by the work of volunteers in Harvey search and rescue efforts, and believed applying technology to their work could make it more efficient.

"There's a lot of wasted hours and time, and it's hard to get from point A to point B, but I couldn't be prouder of what's happening," he said.

—Claudia Koerner

Posted at

Tim Cook says Apple is committed to Harvey recovery efforts

Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

Apple CEO TIm Cook addressed the effects of Hurricane Harvey in an email to employees on Wednesday afternoon and said that the company had helped raise more than $3 million for relief efforts.

"Because Texas is home to more than 8,700 of our coworkers, the storm’s impact is felt by all of us," he wrote in a message obtained by BuzzFeed News, adding that the iPhone maker has a global crisis management team on the ground that is helping to move some employees and their families.

Cook noted that he was in Austin last week, a day before Harvey hit the Texas shore, and asked the employees donate food and supplies at Apple's Austin campus. Apple also allowed customers to donate to the American Red Cross through its App Store, with the company matching employee donations two-for-one. So far Apple users have raised more than $1 million dollars, while the company has pledged $2 million.

Another technology leader, Facebook, took a different approach in soliciting donations from users for Hurricane Harvey, routing donations made through the social networking platform to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, a lesser-known organization that BuzzFeed News examined on Tuesday. Facebook had previously partnered with the American Red Cross for disaster fundraising efforts.

Read more here.

—Ryan Mac

Posted at

Some flood victims are losing or abandoning their dogs and the photos are heartbreaking

The victims of Tropical Storm Harvey's deadly floodwaters this week are not only human. Many animals, from dogs and cats to livestock, have had to flee their homes as well.

Many pet owners were able to grab their furry family members to evacuate in time. However, some pet owners were forced to leave their pets behind, or lost them along the way.

Read more here.

—Stephanie McNeal

Posted at

Demand for shelter in Houston subsides, so residents won't be sent to other cities, officials say

David J. Phillip / AP

Despite Texas cities like Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin building emergency shelters to house thousands of Tropical Storm Harvey evacuees, Houston on Wednesday assured residents there are no plans to send those in need out of the city.

“We greatly appreciate all the offers of shelter assistance from other cities, but currently we have no plans from the city or the main partner, the American Red Cross, to transition individuals into other outlying areas,” Houston city spokesman Marc Eichenbaum told BuzzFeed News.

The need for shelter assistance "crested" in Houston as Harvey moved away from the city Wednesday morning and some waters began to recede, Eichenbaum said.

“This is natural as you have individuals in shelters who are there because their houses are uninhabitable,” he said. ”And you have other people whose houses were threatened and they needed to escape the elements and now, as the storm has passed, some are finding that their houses are safe to return to, or the need to be sheltered from the elements is no longer an issue.”

Read more here.

— Nidhi Prakash, Amber Jamieson, and Lam Thuy Vo

Posted at

CEO says there's no way to stop explosion or fire while chemical plant is flooded

Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images

Trucks make their way through flood waters on a main road leading to the Arkema Inc.

A chemical plant abandoned because of heavy flooding will likely explode or catch fire within the next six days, and there's nothing workers can do to stop it if waters don't subside, the company's CEO told reporters Wednesday.

Arkema North America, which owns the chemical plant in Crosby, Texas — about 25 miles northeast of Houston — evacuated all of its workers Tuesday as the plant was overcome by roughly 6 feet of water.

Harris County also evacuated all residences within a 1.5-mile radius of the facility.

All operations in the plant were shut down Friday just before Hurricane Harvey made landfall, but the company said in a statement that the plant has seen about 40 inches of rain since Monday, flooding backup generators and leaving many of the chemicals stored there without the refrigeration required to keep them stable.

The plant has been without electricity since Sunday.

"The site lost refrigeration to all of its cold-storage warehouses when electrical power was lost and back-up generators were flooded," the company said in a statement. "Arkema is limited in what it can do to address the site conditions until the storm abates."

In a press call with reporters Wednesday, Arkema North America CEO Richard Rowe said the chemicals there could now catch fire or even explode as a result.

The company said it is working with local officials and the Department of Homeland Security to continue monitoring the situation.

—Salvador Hernandez

Posted at

Houston officers say they were ill-equipped to deal with Harvey's epic flooding

David J. Phillip / AP

HOUSTON — Despite Houston's history of flooding, the police department lacked the training and equipment to respond to the disaster amid record rainfall from Tropical Storm Harvey, several officers told BuzzFeed News.

Most officers had not gone through flood training, had no access to boats, and were unable to respond to an untold number of emergency calls because the department had only a limited fleet of high-water vehicles, they said.

“I can’t tell you off the top of my head how many we have, but I can tell you that it wasn’t enough,” said Joe Gamaldi, vice-president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union. “The unexpected challenge we had was that this ended up being one of the most epic storms in history.”

The torrential rain that pounded Houston nonstop from Friday through Monday left the city’s more than 5,000 officers — all on-duty, most working 16-hour shifts — scrambling to find ways to reach residents stranded in homes surrounded by rising floodwaters.

Read more here.

—Albert Samaha

Posted at

Death toll continues to rise as Harvey drenches Texas

At least 35 people have now died in connection to Tropical Storm Harvey, which has battered southeastern Texas for days and left entire communities underwater. The death toll is expected to rise as officials begin to assess the catastrophic damage caused by the storm.

On Wednesday, Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences told BuzzFeed News that they had 28 suspected and confirmed storm-related deaths, including a veteran Houston police officer, a family of six, and a retired high school football coach.

Read more here.

—Brianna Sacks and Cora Lewis

Posted at

15 stories of people who have gone above and beyond to help others during the Texas flooding

Amid the devastation wrought on the city of Houston by flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey, people are stepping to the plate to help others in incredible ways.

Here are just a few of the everyday people who did heroic things in the face of danger and tragedy, like one mom who was described as "just boating around Houston picking people up like it ain't no thang."

Read more here.

—Stephanie McNeal

Posted at

Bodies of six family members found inside van that was swept away in Houston floodwaters

Houston-area authorities on Wednesday confirmed that they had found the van with the bodies of six family members inside after it was swept away days earlier by rising flood waters.

The four children and their great-grandparents were trying to make the journey from their home to another family member's home on Sunday when they were caught in floodwaters at the intersection of Green River Drive and John Ralston Road.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez told reporters Wednesday they located the white van in the embankment near 11400 Ley Road in Greens Bayou as water receded.

At least two bodies could be seen in the front seat, but based on the angle and the type of van with no windows in the back, officials had to wait for confirmation from a police dive team.

"Family is devastated, as we all are," Gonzalez said. "Our worst fears have been realized."

The four children were identified by Ashley Hiser-Jackson, a California-based relative, as Devy Saldivar, 16; Dominic Saldivar, 14; Daisy Saldivar, 6; and Xavier Saldivar, 8. Their great-grandparents were identified as Manuel and Belia Saldivar, 84 and 81, respectively.

Read more here.

—Nidhi Prakash and Claudia Rosenbaum

Posted at

Southeast Texas and Western Louisiana are now "under the gun," according to officials

Though floodwaters were receding in Harris county Wednesday as evacuations continued, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the state was now dealing with "catastrophic conditions" in southeast Texas.

Abbott said another 2,000 National Guard members had been deployed, bringing the total to 14,000, some of whom were headed to southeast Texas to deal with the emergency conditions there. An additional 200 boats and 200 vehicles were also being assigned, many to the greater Beaumont and Southeast part of the state, which he called "the most urgent location."

The governor said the Texas National Guard had already conducted more than 8,500 rescues, more than 26,000 evacuations and more than 1,400 shelter in place and welfare checks in the Beaumont region.

"Those conditions are a threat to life and property," he said, adding that major flooding was expected to continue in the area.

Approximately 15 inches of rain have already fallen there, according to Abbott, with "more to come."

"The worst is not yet over for southeast Texas as far as the rain is concerned," he said.

Flooding conditions near the Sabine and Natchez rivers could last as long as a week, according to the authorities.

Meteorologist Dennis Feltgen with the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday that Beaumont, Texas, and Cameron, Louisiana, are "still under the gun" for heavy rain and bad conditions from Harvey through Wednesday. Port Arthur, Texas is also experiencing heavy flooding.

Local media station KJAC reported that the Robert A. Bowers Civic Center in Port Arthur was inundated Wednesday, with evacuees shown on cots above several inches of water on the ground. The station reported many of those evacuees were being transported to other cities.

Motiva Enterprises also temporarily closed and ceased operations at its refinery in Port Arthur, Texas — the biggest in the nation — due to floodwaters in the area, the Associated Press reported Wednesday morning.

The storm is later expected to move from Louisiana into northwestern Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky, according to Feltgen.

-- Cora Lewis

Posted at

People are slowly trickling into Dallas' new mega-shelter for Harvey survivors

Twitter: @ambiej

DALLAS – Dallas is ready and waiting to welcome those displaced by Storm Harvey – but the roads are too flooded to get most of them here yet.

On Tuesday in Houston, 10,000 people had fled the floods to hunker down in the city’s overcrowded convention center, half of them needing to sleep on the floor because of a lack of beds.

Just 240 miles away in Dallas, mayor Mike Rawlings stood under bright blue skies and announced the opening of the Harvey “mega-shelter” at Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.

It has the potential to hold 5,000 evacuees – with a 10,000 square foot medical center, a Walmart pharmacy, rows upon rows of cots and dozens of volunteers – but on Tuesday night, only 227 people had checked in. A planned evacuation flight from Galveston on Tuesday was cancelled due to the flooding.

Read the full story here.

–Amber Jamieson

Posted at

Harvey returns to land just west of Cameron in Louisiana

Tropical Storm Harvey made landfall in Louisiana early Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center has said.

The storm returned to land just west of the city of Cameron and is expected to weaken and continue to the north.

Harvey returned to land about 5 miles (8 kilometers) west of Cameron with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (72 kph).

Harvey is forecast to drop large amounts of rain on Louisiana before moving on to Arkansas, Tennessee, and parts of Missouri. Flooding is also possible in those areas.

—Alicia Melville-Smith

Posted at

Supermarkets in Houston are running out of food and people are getting worried

Jim Dalrymple for BuzzFeed News

The line just to get into the Mi Tienda grocery store snaked across the soggy parking lot, past a nearby alley, and down a row of neighboring shops. Shoppers waited for nearly an hour to get inside, even as the store rationed essential items like bread and milk to one per customer.

"Yeah, there's limits," Luis Castillo, a store employee who was working crowd control Tuesday, told BuzzFeed News. "But we already ran out of bread. There's no more bread."

Similar scenes have been playing out across Houston, where catastrophic flooding caused by Tropical Storm Harvey have effectively cut of supply lines to the outside world. Grocery stores across the city shuttered during the storm; those that have remained opened are besieged long lines and increasingly empty shelves.

Food is still available—many stores still had plenty of canned goods and other nonperishable items Tuesday. But supplies are dwindling, and trapped residents are getting increasingly anxious as the storm stretches into its sixth day

Read the full story about fears of a food shortage in Houston here.

—Jim Dalrymple and Talal Ansari

Posted at

A second massive shelter has been opened for displaced Houston residents

A second massive shelter has been opened at the NRG Center in Houston to house the growing number of displaced residents.

The huge convention center is being run by local nonprofit group Baker Ripley and staffed by volunteers.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett announced the opening late on Tuesday. The center can hold 10,000 people and will allow pets. Up to 2,000 people are expected to arrive at the center Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, the George R. Brown Convention Center downtown has filled to nearly double its capacity of 5,000 in the five days since the storm first made landfall. The nearby Toyota Center is being opened to alleviate crowding at the George R. Brown center.

The city is working with FEMA to locate longer-term housing for the evacuees.

—Alicia Melville-Smith

Posted at

Five more people confirmed dead Tuesday night, bringing the death total to 16 as Harvey enters its sixth day

An additional five people were confirmed to have died in connection to Harvey Tuesday night, as the tropical storm continues to batter the southeast coast of Texas. The new reports bring the storm's confirmed death toll to 16.

In Jefferson County, a woman died after being swept into a canal with her young daughter, the Beaumont Police Department said Tuesday night.

Officers in a boat were able to grab the girl and her unresponsive mother before they floated underneath a trestle. The child, who is now in stable condition, was hypothermic, and first responders took turns performing CPR until they could get her to an ambulance, police said. Her mother died in the floods.

In Montgomery County, the sheriff's office confirmed that a 60-year-old woman died Monday, after a large tree fell on her trailer during the storm. Three deaths were also confirmed in Galveston County, along the Gulf Coast.

"More deaths are expected but not confirmed at this time," Brittany Viegas, a spokesperson for the Galveston County Office of Emergency Management, told BuzzFeed News.

Ten people, including a veteran Houston police officer, a family of six, and a retired high school football coach, died in floods in Harris County. And in Rockport, officials confirmed that at least one person died after the storm made landfall Friday night.

The death toll is expected to rise across the region in the coming days and weeks, as government agencies and volunteers begin to grasp the extent of the storm's damage.

Read more about the victims here.

Brianna Sacks

Posted at

Houston imposes overnight curfew Tuesday night to address crime at evacuated properties

David J. Phillip / AP

Residents evacuate near the Addicks Reservoir as floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey rise Tuesday.

A midnight curfew will be imposed across Houston starting Tuesday, Mayor Sylvester Turner told reporters, citing reports of looting and people impersonating law enforcement officers.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said there have been some reports of looting and armed robberies across the city, as well people people impersonating federal officers, prompting the department to recommend the curfew, which lifts at 5 a.m. Wednesday.

"We're coming after you," Acevedo said in directing his comment to criminals. "We're not a city that is going to tolerate people who are victimizing people who are in the lowest point of their life."

At a press conference, Turner had said the curfew would be at 10 pm, but later announced via Twitter would instead be set at midnight.

Police have received reports of people in uniform and wearing Homeland Security Investigation patches in the Kingwood and West University area, Acevedo said. The impersonators told residents they were under a mandatory evacuation, trying to get people to leave their homes.

Acevedo said there are no HSI agents deployed in the Houston area.

The curfew, he added, would help to prevent any future looting, burglaries or robberies that have taken place since flood waters crippled the nation's fourth-largest city.

Details of how the curfew would be implemented were not immediately released, but Turner said it would not apply to reporters.

Police will be using discretion on whether to make an arrest, but police stressed there were few reasons for people to be out after dark with the streets flooded.

"If you are out there and you think it's a good enough reason to be out there, there's still a high probability that the Houston Police Department will be stopping you," Acevedo said. "Like we always do, we use a lot of common sense and discretion, but discretion will only be used when necessary."

— Salvador Hernandez

Posted at

Facebook is steering Harvey relief to a small organization no one has heard of

Facebook

Facebook is steering donations for Hurricane Harvey relief to a tiny, little-known charity called the Center for Disaster Philanthropy — and bypassing the Red Cross, its longtime partner in the midst of disasters.

During Typhoon Haiyan, in 2013, and the Ebola outbreak of 2015, a button on Facebook news feeds prompted users to send money to the Red Cross. And as floodwaters have inundated Houston, Donald Trump and Barack Obama have both publicly donated to the Red Cross, as have dozens of major corporations.

Now, Facebook is routing its millions of users, and $1 million of its own money, to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, which in 2015 had just $3 million in revenue. A message on Facebook feeds with a donate button said, "Show your support. Facebook has matched $1 million in donations to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy."

Read more here.

—Molly Hensley-Clancy and Matthew Zeitlin

Posted at

First lady says she's praying for people of Texas, Louisiana

Evan Vucci / AP

After accompanying the president to Corpus Christi and Austin on Tuesday, first lady Melania Trump released a statement to the people of Texas and Louisiana.

"The effects of Hurricane Harvey will be felt in Texas, Louisiana, and other parts of the country for many months and years to come. So far, 1.7 million people are under orders to evacuate their homes, and, as the floodwater in Houston rises, sadly, so will the number of evacuees," the statement said.

"I want to be able to offer my help and support in the most productive way possible, not through just words, but also action. What I found to be the most profound during the visit was not only the strength and resilience of the people of Texas, but the compassion and sense of community that has taken over the State. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with the people of Texas and Louisiana."
—Claudia Koerner

Posted at

Harvey has officially dumped more than 50 inches of rain on parts of Texas

National Weather Service / Via Twitter: @NWSHouston

Harvey has already dropped more than 50 inches of rain in parts of Texas, according to new rainfall observations from federal weather officials released on Tuesday.

Nearly 52 inches of rain was recorded at the Cedar Bayou station just outside of Houston, possibly setting a new single-storm record for the continental US, according to the National Weather Service. More than a dozen locations, many of them in and around Houston, have recorded more than 40 inches.

An additional 6 to 12 inches of rain is still expected in the coming days along the northern Texas coast, and across southwestern Louisiana.

—Zahra Hirji

Posted at

Millions of dollars donated for Harvey victims

Millions of dollars of donations were recorded by fundraisers on Tuesday, with local athletes taking a lead.

The owner of the Houston Rockets Les Alexander has promised $10 million, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said. An online fundraiser started by the NFL's JJ Watt raised close to $4 million by Monday evening and continued to grow.

The Houston Texans player was receiving so much attention on his YouCaring fundraiser that the site's CEO posted a message urging patience for any lag time due to immense traffic. Almost 30,000 people had donated as of Tuesday afternoon.

The largest came from one of the Texans' rivals, the Tennesee Titans, which Watt said donated $1 million.

"I cannot thank you enough. I'm going to do everything to make sure that that money goes directly to the people, just as I've said all along," he said in a video on Twitter.

He thanked everyone who had contributed and added he would continue to raise the fundraiser's goal accordingly.

"From donations of a million dollars to donations of $5, it's truly unbelievable," he said.

Meanwhile, locals were also dropping off mountains of clothing, blankets, pet food, school supplies, diapers, and other items at local schools and churches.

Other volunteers were then transporting donations to local shelters.

The Red Cross has sheltered more than 9,000 people, ABC 13 reported, and officials have said no one will be turned away.


—Claudia Koerner

Posted at

Congress puts fixing federal flood insurance program on “backburner” as Harvey drenches Texas

Gerald Herbert / AP

As Texas faces its fifth day of the worst floods in its history, the National Flood Insurance Program is set to expire on September 30th. While Congress is likely to reauthorize the program, major reforms to the debt-laden program are, for now, being put aside.

The NFIP has over 5 million policyholders insured for flooding damage and is already burdened with $24.6 billion in debt, largely from the damaging and expensive aftermath of major natural disasters like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. That number is sure to rise dramatically due to the mass flooding in Texas, where some places have already seen 42 inches of rain. Meanwhile, there are complaints that policies are unaffordable as a tiny number of homes rack up huge bills from repeat claims.

Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress agree the insurance program needs major reforms, and several competing proposals have been floated across the House and Senate. But Senate Banking Committee staff told BuzzFeed News that dealing with the fallout from Harvey is pushing back those discussions.

“There really isn’t any path that’s ahead of the other right now. There’s a lot of discussion right now, but they’ve been kind of put on the backburner,” a Republican staffer said.

Read more here.

—Paul McLeod and Zahra Hirji

Posted at

House Republicans say they can avoid a fight over Harvey relief funding

Lm Otero / AP

Volunteers sign up to help with the shelter for victims of the flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey.

House Republicans are facing a fall full of drama, with contentious deadlines coming up on government spending and debt. But the conference, at least for this week, appears to have found a rare point of consensus: They think passing relief funding for victims of Hurricane Harvey will be relatively painless.

Several Republicans who spoke with BuzzFeed News say it’s too early to know how drastically the storm will limit their ability to focus on any of the number of initiatives they’re hoping to take up this fall. But they expect that a disaster relief bill for Harvey will not suffer from the same internal political dramas that hamstrung efforts to pass relief funding after Hurricane Sandy devastated New York and New Jersey in 2012.

The Republican- controlled House struggled to get a Sandy aid bill passed when conservatives dug their heels in against the $50 billion in funding unless it was offset elsewhere. Sixty-seven House Republicans ultimately opposed the funding bill. The fight leading up to the vote left Republican politicos from New Jersey and New York fuming at their colleagues. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said the struggle to pass the funding exemplified “why the American people hate Congress.”

But this time around, conservatives appear to have little appetite for a fight over offsets for disaster relief funding.

Read more here.

—Lissandra Villa, Alexis Levinson, and Emma Loop

Posted at

Houston’s floodwater is gathering harmful chemicals and bacteria, officials warn

David J. Phillip / AP

Water from Addicks Reservoir flows into neighborhoods as floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey rise on Aug. 29, 2017, in Houston.

Public health experts in Texas are warning Houston residents to be wary of floodwater, which carries harmful chemicals and bacteria that could spread infections.

This is only the first of a multitude of public health concerns following a disaster of this scale.

On Tuesday, the storm slammed Texas for the fourth day running, with the National Weather Service predicting ten more inches of rainfall for Houston areas already underwater. Homeowners are estimated to face up to $30 billion in property damage, and 30,000 residents are expected to be displaced to shelters. With the human toll of the event only just coming into view, local authorities have so far confirmed at least two deaths.

As the storm rages on, state and federal agencies are bracing for a public health fallout that will last months, carried by the floodwater currently submerging the city.

With roads still waterlogged, preventing drowning deaths is a first priority, Tegan Boehmer, acting chief of the Health Studies Branch at CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health, told BuzzFeed News. The agency is supporting state and federal first-responders, and has sent 24 staff to Texas so far.

Read more here.

—Nidhi Subbaraman

Posted at

Houston police officer confirmed drowned in Harvey flooding

A veteran Houston police officer drowned Sunday after he became trapped in floodwaters, officials confirmed Tuesday at an emotional news conference.

Houston Police Sergeant Steve Perez died when he drove his patrol car "in the darkness" under an underpass into deep water, police chief Art Acevedo said. When Perez got out his car, he was swept away, Fox 26 Houston reported.

The 60-year-old officer's wife had asked him not to go to work, but Acevedo said he went anyway.

"This is an individual who was with HPD, Houston's finest, men and women in blue, for 34 years,” Mayor Sylvester Turner told reporters. “In fact, he was two days shy of his 61st birthday. And he lost his life on Sunday morning on his way to work.

Read more here.

—Mike Hayes

Posted at

Trump praises turnout outside Corpus Christi fire station

After receiving a briefing on storm damage in Texas, President Trump took to a makeshift stage and praised people gathering outside a Corpus Christi fire station.

"Thank you everybody," Trump said, as people cheered. "What a crowd, what a turnout."

Trump also highlighted Gov. Greg Abbott and other local officials for their response to the historic storm. And he offered a message of support to Texas residents.

"We love you, you're special, we're here to take care and it's going well," Trump said.

He added that the federal government would help Texans get back on their feet and operating "immediately" in spite of the scope of damage.

"This is historic, it's epic what happened," he said. "But you know what, it happened in Texas, and Texas can handle anything."

Watch more of his remarks here.

—Claudia Koerner

Posted at

These are the people scraping Twitter and crowdsourcing rescue requests from Harvey victims

David J. Phillip / AP

Jessica Decker woke up Friday morning at her San Francisco home, having the day off from work, and began reading the news about the hurricane set to make landfall in Texas that night.

Decker, who has a background in science visualization, saw several tweets regarding relief efforts including where shelters will be located and information about food drives.

She put a call out on Twitter, tagging people she has worked with previously, asking if they’d want to map resource information. She was involved in involved in open-mapping projects in the past and wanted to see how it could help with what promised to be — and became — a historic, devastating, and deadly storm.

Danny McGlashing, a coder, responded and the two paired up to create a map of resources. They called their project Harvey Relief.

Read more here.

—Mary Ann Georgantopoulos

Posted at

Some undocumented residents fear asking for help

Lm Otero / AP

People line up at a shelter for evacuees escaping the floodwaters in Houston, Texas.

Despite assurances from officials in Texas, undocumented residents in flood-ravaged Houston say they fear putting themselves at risk of deportation if they seek help.

State and local officials have said repeatedly that they will not ask people about their immigration status if they seek help from rising storm waters, but rumors to the contrary are still causing anxiety.

"There's definitely concern from our communities about whether or not they should go out and get help," said Oscar Hernandez, an organizer with United We Dream in Houston.

The Trump administration's focus on deporting nearly all undocumented people, a new Texas law that allows authorities to ask suspects for immigration papers, and the possible repeal of DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, haven't eased those concerns, he added.

There were at least 575,000 undocumented people living in Houston in 2014, according to an estimate from the PEW Research Center.

Read more here.

—Nidhi Prakash

Posted at

Trump thanks officials for their handling of storm disaster "of epic proportion"

CNN

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrived in Corpus Christi on Tuesday to meet with local and state officials who are engaged in a massive rescue operation.

At a briefing, Trump thanked William "Brock" Long, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), saying he was "a man who really has become very famous on television in the last couple of days."

He also thanked Gov. Greg Abbott.

"This was of epic proportion," Trump said. "Nobody's ever seen anything like this and I just want to say that working with the governor and his entire team has been an honor for us."

Still, Trump added, it was too soon congratulate the governor on the recovery efforts just yet.

"We won't say congratulations. We don't want to do that," Trump said. "We don't want to congratulate. We'll congratulate each other when it's all finished, but you have been terrific."

Earlier, Abbott told reporters that the president and his cabinet have been in constant contact with him, since before Hurricane Harvey struck and after flooding began.

"What I've learned is, we can count on the president of the United States and his staff for helping Texas," Abbott said.

—Tasneem Nashrulla

Posted at

Harris County officials say 1 person has died from the storm, and 7 more likely have

Tricia Bentley, spokeswoman for the Institute of Forensic Sciences — the medical examiner in Harris County, which includes Houston — told BuzzFeed News that one person is confirmed dead from the storm and there are seven deaths "we highly suspect are related to the hurricane, but not yet confirmed."

—Brianna Sacks

Posted at

More than 3,500 people rescued in Houston; additional mega shelters will be opened, mayor says

Lm Otero / AP

More than 3,500 people have been rescued in Houston so far, authorities said Tuesday.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that the city will be opening "additional mega shelters" on Tuesday.

The capacity of the George R Brown Convention Center — that has been set up as shelter — was expanded from 5,000 to more than 9,000 people, Sylvester said at a news conference.

He said the city would be opening at least two or three additional centers to accommodate more evacuees coming from outside Houston.

Officials also warned that criminal activity at this time would not be tolerated.

Police on Monday night arrested members of a crew suspected of committing armed robbery in the city. A "handful of looters" were also arrested, Acevedo said.

He said that authorities would not tolerate people "victimizing" the community and warned "the toughest sentence" possible for criminals during this time.

"I guarantee you, when you take advantage, including our own criminal element here, take advantage of people and prey on them under these circumstances, that's despicable behavior and we're pushing hard to make sure you don't see the sunlight anytime soon," Acevedo said.

By Tuesday, the prosecutors announced that 14 people arrested for looting over the past 48 hours would face stiffer penalties allowed during a crisis. Under the law, fines and punishments increase for assault, burglary, theft, and other crimes committed in disaster zones declared by the governor.

Officials warned residents to be on alert after overflow from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs began on Tuesday.

While the power for 580,000 customers had been restored since the storm hit, 100,000 customers remained without service, authorities said.

— Tasneem Nashrulla

Posted at

National Weather Service says conditions in Texas are likely to improve late Tuesday after Trump visits the flooded region

The National Hurricane Center said "ongoing catastrophic and life-threatening flooding" would continue across southeastern Texas on Tuesday with additional rainfall accumulations of 7 to 13 inches.

However, the National Weather Service said to expect improving conditions Tuesday afternoon and evening as Harvey pushes northeastward.

Trump announced Tuesday morning that he was leaving for Texas. Accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump, the president will head for Corpus Christi where he will be briefed on relief efforts with local leaders and relief organizations, the White House said.

They will then leave for Austin where they are expected to participate in a tour of the Emergency Operations Center and will be briefed on Harvey by state leaders.

They are expected to return to Washington DC on Tuesday afternoon, the White House said.

— Tasneem Nashrulla

Posted at

Thousands rescued from Houston waters, and the storm's not over

David J. Phillip / AP

As rains continued to pummel Texas for a fourth day, Houston officials on Monday said their focus remained on rescuing residents trapped by flood waters and getting them to shelter.

The Houston Police Department had so far conducted 3,052 high-water rescues, officials said Monday night, and the firefighters had received 2,000 water-related calls for service. The Coast Guard remained on 24-hour operations and had rescued 3,000 people by air or boat.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he could confirm three people had died in the storm, and officials were still seeking more information about other potential deaths.

"We’re still rescuing people. It is my hope and my prayer that that number will not increase," he said. "What will help is if people stay off the roads."

Officials continued to evaluate conditions day by day, he added. The city's metro system remained closed, as well as its airport. Around 100,000 people were without power, and high waters had so far limited crews' ability to make repairs.

Turner said officials were hoping waters would recede by Wednesday.

The National Hurricane Center forecasted on Monday that the storm would slowly move southeast through the night. The storm was predicted to then turn away from coastal areas and move inland on Wednesday. An additional 10 to 20 inches of rain was expected in the upper Texas coast and southwest Louisiana — bringing the totals in some parts of the Houston metropolitan area to 50 inches.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo also urged residents to stay off roads if they could safely do so.

"If you’re safe in your home, it's going to be a lot better for you there than venturing out on the roadways," he said. "There's still a lot of water on the roads."

—Claudia Koerner

Posted at

Trump vows to get aid money to Texas quickly — in spite of government shutdown threats

Alex Brandon / AP

President Trump on Monday said he would work with Congress to get recovery funds to Texas quickly and brushed off questions about how disaster funding could be affected by a potential government shutdown.

"I think it will happen very quickly," he said, adding that he believed there was bipartisan support for sending funds to Texas. "It will go very fast."

At a joint press conference with Finland's president, Trump also praised Texas leaders for their response to the storm, and promised the full support of the federal government.

"To the people of Texas and Louisiana, we are 100% with you. We're praying for you, we're working closely with your leaders and officials, and I will be visiting the impact zone tomorrow to ensure you're receiving full support and cooperation from the federal government," he said.

Trump's promises come as the budget is poised to cut funds to FEMA, and after he threatened a government shutdown if Congress didn't agree to pay for a wall on the Mexican border. In response to reporters' questions, Trump didn't back down from his shutdown threat — but he said it would not impact aid for Texas and Louisiana.

"I think it has nothing to do with it, really," he said. "I think this is separate. This is going to go really very, very quickly."

As for the shutdown, Trump insisted that building the wall was necessary for US public safety and that Mexico will ultimately pay for it by reimbursement. He also stood by his previous statements on a potential government shutdown if Congress did not authorize funds for its construction.

"I hope that's not necessary," he said. "If it's necessary, we'll have to see, but I hope that's not necessary."

—Claudia Koerner

Posted at

Family of six washed away in a van while trying to escape rising flood waters

Four children and their elderly great-grandparents were swept away in a van while trying to escape rising flood waters in Houston on Sunday, a family member told BuzzFeed News.

The four children and their great-grandparents were trying to make the journey from their home to another family member's home when they were caught in flood waters at the intersection of Green River Drive and John Ralston Road, Ashley Hiser-Jackson, a California-based relative, told BuzzFeed News.

Hiser-Jackson has been in touch with her family in Houston, she said, who told her that one of the elderly couple's sons was on his way to meet them and take them to his house when they were swept away.

"They haven't located the bodies but from what my aunt has said the car is still in the water. I don't know if the uncle who went to go get them saw the van get swept away. But where the vehicle is, there’s no way to get to it unfortunately."

Read the full story here.

–Nidhi Prakash

Posted at

Harvey's winds and storm surge could cost up to $2.3 billion in insured damage, according to new estimates

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Texas officials conduct search and rescue at a destroyed apartment complex in Rockport, Texas.

As Harvey continues to drop dangerous and damaging levels of rain in Texas, a new analysis estimates the storm's winds and storm surge already caused between $1.2 billion and $2.3 billion in insured damage in Texas. The impact of Harvey's ongoing rain were not included.

When Harvey made landfall on Friday night, it brought Category 4-strength winds of up to 132 mph. A much larger area was impacted by weaker hurricane and tropical cycle-force winds, and parts of the coastline were pounded by storm surge of up to 12 feet.

For example, only a few miles from where then-Hurricane Harvey first came onshore, the town of Rockport was hit by strong winds and flooding from the storm surge. The result was widespread destruction, including damaged apartments and houses, overturned mobile homes, and uprooted trees. There's been at least one confirmed death in Rockport.

Boston-based catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide released the early estimate of insured damage to onshore residences, businesses, and industrial buildings on Monday afternoon. Not all homes or other facilities are insured, however, so Harvey's total economic impact from wind and storm surge is expected to be bigger.

“As devastating as the wind damage was in Rockport and surrounding towns, flooding from Harvey’s torrential rains has had the greatest impact,” scientist Eric Uhlhorn of AIR said in a statement.

—Zahra Hirji

Posted at

Thousands hunker down in shelters as flood waters rise

Jon Passantino / BuzzFeed News

AUSTIN — More than 170 people who fled their homes ahead of the wrath of Hurricane Harvey were taking refuge Monday at the Delco Center in Austin.

Most of the families weathering the storm at the arena were from the Coastal Bend area, where Harvey made landfall late Friday, becoming the strongest tropical cyclone to strike the US in more than a decade.

The evacuees, who have not yet been able to return to their homes as historic rainfall and flooding continues to cripple the region, brought what little they could with them, including family pets, after officials ordered mandatory evacuations.

More than a dozen cats, dogs, and birds were also hunkering down inside the arena while the disaster continued to unfold 150 miles away. Volunteers from the Austin Animal Center, the largest "no kill" animal shelter in the US, supplied crates, food, and water for the four-legged evacuees.

Jon Passantino / BuzzFeed News

About 6,000 people displaced by the storm spent Sunday night in shelters across the state, Red Cross spokeswoman Bristel Minsker said. And many more are expected in the coming days as floodwaters recede.

The scale of the disaster "is unbelievable," Minsker said. "This is a thing we train for every day of the year, but we always hope it never happens."

—Jon Passantino

Posted at

Officials say there are at least eight suspected storm-related deaths

Charlie Riedel / AP

There were at least six potential storm-related deaths in Harris County, a spokesperson for the coroner's office told BuzzFeed News.

"Before they can be confirmed as being related to the storm, the medical examiner's office has to do autopsies," the Harris County Institute of Forensic Science spokesperson said.

This brings the death toll to at least eight people.

One person in Rockport and another in La Marque, near Galveston, were among those suspected to have died because of the storm, the Washington Post reported.

The death toll is expected to rise, authorities told the Post.

—Tasneem Nashrulla

Posted at

Airports in Houston are expected to stay closed through Wednesday: FAA

The Federal Aviation Administration said that Houston airports were expected to remain closed through Wednesday.

Houston's main airport, the Houston Bush Airport, tweeted Monday that its operations had stopped until further notice. It was not expected to open until 12 pm CT on Thursday, NBC News reported, citing the FAA.

Operations at the city's second-largest airport, William P. Hobby Airport, were also stopped until further notice. "We are continuing to monitor and will resume operations as soon as it's safe," the airport said in a tweet.

The FAA said that the Jack Brooks Airport in Beaumont was closed until further notice due to flooding.
—Tasneem Nashrulla

Posted at

Gas prices set to rise as Harvey shuts down Texas oil production

Scott Olson / Getty Images

Gas prices are expected to spike across the country, especially in the Gulf region, as Hurricane Harvey shuts down oil refineries, offshore oil drilling sites, and pipelines used to transport fuel nationwide.

The biggest impact will be in the Gulf region, where prices are expected to go up 20 cents to 35 cents per gallon, or more than 10%, according to Patrick DeHaan, an analyst at GasBuddy, a site that tracks gas prices. Gas prices could spike 25 cents in the Midwest, and 15 cents in the rest of the country, DeHaan said in an interview with BuzzFeed News — although he called that a conservative estimate.

"There is more of a risk that the range will drift higher as we get new information from more shutdowns," DeHaan said. Prices could up go by five to 10 cents from his current forecast.

Read the full story here.

–Matthew Zeitlin

Posted at

Houston mayor Sylvester Turner says there are 5,500 people in city shelters

ABCnews.com

Houston mayor Sylvester Turner said that there are 5,500 people in city shelters now, but that he expects that number "will rise exponentially."

During a press conference Monday morning, the mayor gave an update on the situation, which he called "dynamic," adding that "things can change by the hour."

He added that shelters are in need of supplies including clothing for adults and children, baby formula, diapers, food, and medical supplies.

Turner said the approximately 2,000 rescues have been completed since midnight, and that there are 185 critical rescue requests pending. He said that it is the city's goal to rescue everyone Monday.

Due to weather and lighting conditions the mayor said that boats cannot be used at night because they're not equipped with proper lighting.

As of Monday morning, Houston law enforcement officials have received 75,000 911 calls, Turner said, urging everyone calling police to stay on the line and not hang up.

Four people were arrested for looting, the mayor said.
—Mary Ann Georgantopoulos

Posted at

Texas governor says "the damage will be horrific"

David J. Phillip / AP

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the damage caused by the hurricane and the subsequent flooding will be "horrific."

"This is going to take years for us to able able to build out the repairs that are going to be needed to overcome this flooding and hurricane disaster," Abbott told Good Morning America on Monday.

"Our top priority is protecting lives and getting those people to safety," he said.

Abott said that an additional 150 boats, 300 high water vehicles and 1,000 National Guard troops will be added to the rescue missions on Monday.

"This is an historic flood and the worst we've seen in the state of Texas," Abbott said, adding that it had exceeded "even the most profound prognostications about weather."

"It is a very unprecedented storm and in that regard you have to be proud to see the way that our fellow Texans have responded whether they be the first responders or just neighbors helping neighbors deal with this overwhelming catastrophe," he said.

According to Abbott, the president was "very concerned about Texans but also very dedicated to making sure we had everything that we needed."

The governor also warned residents in east Texas to listen to local officials for evacuation warnings.

"So many people are focused on Houston while there's danger in other places," he told Morning Joe.

— Tasneem Nashrulla

Posted at

Trump approves Louisiana emergency declaration

President Trump approved a declaration for emergency in Louisiana, ordering federal assistance to the state due to "emergency conditions" resulting from Harvey, the White House announced Monday.

"The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts," the White House said in a statement.

— Tasneem Nashrulla

Posted at

"I've had officers tear up thinking about the things they've seen:" Houston police chief

Houston police chief Art Acevedo said the rescue missions had been "heart-wrenching" for his officers.

"I've had officers tear up thinking about the things they've seen with little children in the middle of the night in such fear in four to five feet of water being rescued by our police officers," Acevedo told Good Morning America on Monday.

Houston police completed 2000 rescue missions, with around 215 to 220 missions left, Acevedo said.

"We’re hopeful we'll get that done sometime today before the sun goes down," he said.

Acevedo said that they were grateful that "despite the power of the storm, we haven't had more loss of life."

He acknowledged that residents were frustrated with recovery efforts, but said that roads were impassable and police cars and stations had been damaged or destroyed by the flood waters.

"We feel their pain," he told Morning Joe. "I've had officers with tears in their eyes frustrated that they couldn't do more quickly. But we can't become part of the story by getting ourselves killed," he said.

— Tasneem Nashrulla

Posted at

FEMA racing to rescue stranded Texans as Harvey continues to dump rain

Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

FEMA is racing the rising flood waters to rescue stranded Texans while Harvey continues to dump rain in the Houston area.

Officials anticipate over 30,000 people being placed in shelters temporarily to "stabilize the situation and provide for their care" and that they expect over 450,000 people will register as disaster victims. FEMA said it has already processed nearly 15,000 calls over the last 24 hours.

FEMA Administrator Brock Long said Monday that efforts are extending and that 30 to 50 counties are possibly impacted by the storm and flooding in Texas, beyond Houston, and that Southwest Louisiana will also see "a tremendous amount of rainfall."

"We have not seen an event like this," Long said. "You could not draw this forecast up -- you could not dream this forecast up."

Long said his goal is "to unify the efforts of all agencies and the firepower of the federal government."

"What we want to be able to do is have a coordinated effort and give the state of Texas everything they need to fill gaps, bolster their operations and capability," he said.

Long called the storm an "ongoing situation" and said, "we're not at recovery yet," emphasizing that the next objective for emergency relief is to stabilize disaster survivors, calling the shelter mission "a very heavy lift."

Along with the army corps of engineers, FEMA is working to restore power by providing emergency generators for critical infrastructure to support 911 centers and provide emergency communications. Security is also a main concern, he said.

“I'm asking for all citizens to get involved here,” Long said. “Donate your money, figure out how you can get involved as we help Texas find a new normal going forward after this devastating disaster.”

Tropical storm Harvey has been drifting southeast toward the coast, and Monday morning it was located over Matagorda Bay, with the forecast showing the storm moving up the coast of Texas, towards the Texas-Louisiana border within the next five days, according to National Weather Service Director Louis W. Uccellini.

The NWS predicts very heavy rains extending north-northwest over Beaumont and Port Arthur and into southwest and western Louisiana, with reports of five to six inches of rain per hour and unofficial reports of up to eight inches.

“With respect to Houston, we're in a lull right now,” Uccellini said, citing a report of over 30 inches of rain so far near Houston. He predicted Houston will “get back into the moderate to heavy rains later today and into tomorrow” with “major” flooding peaking into Wednesday and Thursday, but that “there is still uncertainty,” as the storm itself is creating its own circulation. He called its direction a “difficult forecast.”

According to the NWS, the flooding will be very slow to recede.

“We are seeing catastrophic flooding, and this will likely expand and will likely persist,” Uccellini said.

Officials said that they have brought in over 27 fast-response teams to deal with the sick, but that flight crews are still operating in the midst of a tropical storm, and that many flight conditions are unsafe.

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke said officials "are working right now to provide assistance as quickly as we can."

Efforts are currently focused on rescue operations and will move into recovery operations later in the week, according to Duke, with an emphasis on "those in Houston and surrounding areas who are stranded and in need of immediate assistance."

While hurricane-force winds have diminished, Duke said, "We are not out of the woods yet, not by a long shot. Harvey is still a dangerous and historic storm."

Officials predicted life-threatening flooding will occur over a large portion of South Central and Southeast Texas in the coming days, with rivers cresting later this week.

"It is vitally important for those in Texas and Louisiana to monitor your local radio and TV stations for updated emergency information and, as always, listen to the direction of your local officials," said Sec. Duke.

Officials also asked that locals check on neighbors and friends, particularly the elderly who may need assistance, if local officials deem it safe.

Sec. Duke said the Defense Department, through FEMA, "has been working in close coordination with the state and local officials throughout the region," to make every resource available.

Officials said that local authorities “are having to rescue a lot of people getting in your cars and driving in flooded areas,” and encouraged people not to do that, as it pulls resources away from those who need them.

Officials recommended that locals boil water in the Corpus Christi and Victoria area before drinking, to make sure it’s safe, and said that most refineries voluntarily shut down before the storm hit, preventing extensive environmental contamination.

-- Cora Lewis

Posted at

"I feel like we’ve been forgotten": stranded residents braced themselves for another night of catastrophic flooding

Thomas B. Shea / AFP / Getty Images

It poured, it rained, and it poured again Sunday as Tropical Storm Harvey settled in over southeastern Texas for a second day, realizing the worst fears of flooding across the Houston metro area.

As the local emergency responders launched rescue efforts across the city, responding to residents' pleas for help on Twitter, some residents of smaller communities on the outskirts of Houston felt as if the roar of the storm had left them behind.

In Glen Lee, a residential neighborhood tucked between the trees that encircle Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport, resident Gerald Cross spent most of Sunday morning helping to rescue two women from a nearby home. The water was ankle-deep inside the house, he said, and rose to his chest on the path out.

The neighborhood lies to the north of Houston, in one of the many suburbs of Harris County, the country's third largest. And like most of southeastern Texas, it was hit by Harvey's torrential rains over the weekend.

As the flood waters continued to rise Sunday, Cross said he hadn't seen any official support services or emergency response teams in the area. But he hadn't really expected any either.

“We’re a lost city back here,” he told BuzzFeed News. "They don’t do anything back here for us."

Read more here.

–Talal Ansari, Jim Dalrymple II, and Charlie Warzel

Posted at

Hospitals in Houston prepare to evacuate to avoid rising floodwaters

Some hospitals in Houston were preparing to evacuate Sunday night as flood levels continue to rise; others deployed emergency measures to keep patients safe amid the deluge.

Ben Taub Hospital, part of the Texas Medical Center, has begun evacuating its critical care patients, after the hospital basement flooded, disrupting the building's power, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said at a press conference Sunday.

The Texas Medical Center said Sunday that weather conditions had resulted in several closures at its hospitals. Across the center, massive "submarine" flood gates doors were slammed shut early Sunday in an effort to seal off lower floors from flooding.

At Bayshore Medical Center, in nearby Pasadena, Texas, the hospital was preparing to move its 196 patients and to suspend its 24-hour emergency services, according to a statement.

Read more here.

—Michelle Broder Van Dyke

Posted at

Fake news and scams are going around about the deadly storm in Texas

Insurance scams, rumors of water shutoffs, and fake restrictions on when people can return are all bouncing around the internet.

For starters, people on social media are sharing a phone number and saying it can be used by Texas residents who are facing an emergency, but the 1-800 number is actually for an insurance company.

The phone number being shared above goes to Foremost Insurance Group's claim service for all products except auto insurance. It's not clear how the number started being shared.

Authorities have urged people who need assistance to call 911, and to stay on the line if they're put on hold. The Coast Guard has also set up an emergency line to help Houston.

Officials from Corpus Christi, which has a population of 325,000, sent a tweet Saturday, saying it was false that there were restrictions on returning to the city.

A note that appeared to becoming from a city official named Lisa Oliver — who is the Superintendent for the Senior Community Services at City of Corpus Christi Parks and Recreation Department, according to her Linkedin page — but did not actually come from a Corpus Christi official, is being shared online and claims that people must bring proof of residency to enter the city.

Read about other scams and fake news spreading around the deadly storm here.

— Michelle Broder Van Dyke

Posted at

Some parts of the upper Texas coast are expecting as much as 50 inches of rainfall Sunday night

The National Hurricane Center said late Sunday that an additional 15 to 25 inches of rainfall are expected across the upper Texas coast, with some isolated storm areas expected to get as much as 50 inches of rain.

The agency recommended that residents stay put, and pay attention to any additional information coming from official channels.

The flood threat was also spreading to Louisiana, The southwestern part of the state is expected to get 15 to 25 inches of rain, according to the National Hurricane Center, while south-central Louisiana will see anywhere between 5 to 15 inches.

Louisiana has obviously been no stranger to natural disasters. Just last year, the state was inundated by extreme flooding in August that submerged thousands of homes and businesses.

New Orleans experienced flooding again this year, and nearly 2,000 people lost power, when a storm hit the city and surrounding areas earlier this month.

— Michelle Broder Van Dyke

Posted at

Trump revoked Obama-era flood standards about 10 days before Hurricane Harvey

Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images

About 10 days before Hurricane Harvey hurled into southeastern Texas, President Donald Trump signed an executive order rolling back Obama-era flood standards for infrastructure projects.

Although the order, signed in 2015, had yet to take effect, it sought to make that the nation’s critical infrastructure, like roads and bridges, more resilient to rising sea levels, flooding, and other severe weather events. The regulations aimed to ensure that federally-funded projects were built with potential effects of climate change in mind.

But business leaders resisted the new rule, arguing that the standards would slow down construction and increase costs.

In rescinding the flood standards with his own executive order on August 15, Trump reiterated those arguments, declaring that the move would allow infrastructure projects to be approved more quickly, and establish “discipline and accountability in the environmental review and permitting process."

The order—signed during the Trump administration's now largely forgotten "infrastructure week"—was announced during an unruly, and now infamous, press conference in the lobby of Trump Tower, where the president promised it “get infrastructure built quickly, inexpensively, relatively speaking, and the permitting process will go very, very quickly.”

“It’s going to be a very streamlined process, and by the way, if it doesn’t meet environmental safeguards, we’re not going to approve it,” Trump said. The remarks were largely overshadowed, however, by the president's subsequent remarks defending the white supremacist protesters behind the violent rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia the previous weekend.

It drew criticism from environmentalists, a former Federal Emergency Management Agency director, and even a Republican in Congress, as floods are among the most common and expensive type of disaster in the US, and climate change is expected to make them an even bigger problem. That’s why Obama issued a flood executive order in January 2015 requiring both current and future flood risk, such as rising seas, to be accounted for in the siting, planning, and construction of new federally funded development in floodplains.

Since revoking the order, however, neither Trump nor his critics have said much about the repeal of the flood standards. And few details have emerged about the president's plans to improve US infrastructure.
—Brianna Sacks

Posted at

Controlled reservoir releases in Houston could flood homes for two months

The US Army Corps of Engineers is set to begin controlled releases of reservoirs in Houston in an effort to reduce the risk of flooding in the city's downtown, Harris County officials announced Sunday night. The releases will begin over night and again around midday Monday, officials said.

While officials said the reservoirs are performing as intended, the controlled releases will flood neighborhoods and roads between and around the Addicks and Barker reservoirs, closing down those areas for an extended period of time.

Given the record setting rain, officials suggested the controlled release will flood homes for up to two months.

In neighboring Fort Bend County, officials advised residents near the Barker Reservoir to begin voluntary evacuations Sunday, after the US Army Corps of Engineers reported that water levels were beginning to flood residential roads.

—Charlie Warzel

Posted at

A flash flood warning has been reissued for Houston, signaling another night of heavy rain for the region.

A flash flood warning has been reissued for Houston, forecasting torrential downpours in the area until early Monday morning.

The National Weather Service in Houston said Sunday that the rain was coming down at a rate of nearly 3 inches per hour at Buffalo Bayou, a slow-moving river that runs through downtown Houston.

As of Sunday evening, the Houston area had gotten more than 30 inches of rain, the NWS said, and rivers continued to rise, causing major to record-level flooding in the region.

—Michelle Broder Van Dyke

Posted at

People are still stranded and tweeting for help

As night fell on Sunday, Destini Roundtree, 17, was wondering whether help would ever arrive for her mother.

According to Roundtree, her 52-year-old mother, as well as her mother’s cousin, are homeless and stuck inside the northeast Houston warehouse where they live, completely surrounded by water. Last she heard from them, they were unable to get to the roof — and were out of food and drinking water.

Roundtree said she and her mother have been trying to call 911 for help all day, but they keep getting a busy signal or being transferred to other agencies, from FEMA to Harris County. “We’ve been calling all day and no one has picked up yet,” she said.

Like many others, she was tweeting the whereabouts of her relatives in hopes of sending rescuers their way.

Roundtree was also starting to get worried about the water sloshing up her own driveway in nearby Fresno. “Our whole neighborhood is flooded,” she said. “There’s nowhere we can go.”

Skylar Antoine, 17, was also concerned about her grandparents, who are in their 80s.

Since 7 a.m., her grandfather and step-grandmother had been stuck in a mobile home in the back of their house, unable to get to the front and wave for help, said Antoine, who also tweeted about them.

“We hope someone sees the tweet and gets them help that way,” she said.

—Stephanie M. Lee

Posted at

Coast Guard video shows the extent of the flooding in Houston

US Coast Guard / Via Twitter: @USCGHeartland

A new video taken by the US Coast Guard provides a dramatic look at the widespread flooding in Houston Sunday, as historic downpours deluged parts of the area in as much as 24 inches of rain.

Moving about 2 miles per hour, Harvey is expected to keep dumping rain in and around Houston for days. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner have urged residents to stay in place and not to attempt driving in flooding conditions.

In addition to rescues conducted by local and state officials, the Coast Guard has so far conducted more than 200 rescues by helicopter, and over 500 rescues on the ground, including by boat, in the Houston area, according to agency spokeswoman Marilyn Fajardo.

—Zahra Hirji

Posted at

Houston 911 received more than 50,000 calls in just 15 hours

The City of Houston Office of Emergency Management said that it received 56,000 calls to its 911 line between Saturday at 10 pm to Sunday at 1 pm, which is a 15 hour span. That's seven times as many 911 calls as they receive on an average day in Houston, the agency said.

—Michelle Broder Van Dyke

Posted at

This is how you can help people affected by storm Harvey

David J. Phillip / AP

Thousands of people have been affected by tropical storm Harvey. Here are a few ways to help:

1. Donate to humanitarian and relief organizations, like Save the Children or the Salvation Army.

2. Offer a room or home to those whose houses have been destroyed. AirBnB have opened a free scheme to do so, with more than a 100 people already joining the service. You can sign up here.

3. Give blood. Local hospitals are concerned about shortages in the aftermath of the storm. Find your nearest donation point.

4. Support the disabled community. Portlight is a group caring for the disabled. "We are already hearing from people being turned away from shelters, denied sign language interpreters," the the group said in a statement. You can support them here.

You can read more here.

—Rose Troup Buchanan

Posted at

Texans need to prepare for more rainfall tonight, Governor says

“This is likely going to be an historic rainfall, if not an all-time record in the amount of rain that is sustained in certain regions,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said at a press conference on Sunday afternoon. “Texans need to be prepared for more rainfall tonight, on occasion very heavy rainfall.”

Abbott also said more than 250 highways had been closed in the state of Texas, and that there have been 316,000 power outages, though that number does not include any update from Houston today.

About 3,000 total National Guard and Texas State Guard members have been activated and are serving areas from Houston to Victoria to Corpus Christi. Food delivery locations will be set up by Monday in some of the most hard-hit areas, including Rockport, Port Aransas, Aransas Pass, Ingleside, and Portland.

At least eight states have offered some sort of resources so far, Abbott said. This includes Nebraska, Tennessee, Utah, California, Missouri, Ohio, Arizona, and New York.

The Coast Guard has also been playing a big role in responding to the storm and its aftermath. “We are in the fight to support the state of Texas here with the full efforts of the entire coast guard,” Vice Admiral Karl Schultz from Coast Guard said at the press conference.

“This is a very, very dangerous storm. Catastrophic consequences. Folks need to not underestimate that. This is going to be a sustained challenge for the coming days,” Schultz added. He said the Coast Guard was involved with search and rescue efforts, though he did not report the total number of rescues.

“With it being a Category 4 Hurricane, this is strongest storm Texas has had since 1961,” Abbott said, “and when you consider the larger population now than we had back then, obviously this is a very large disaster.” Abbott said the rebuilding process for this event will last a long time.

Abbott has boosted the number of counties under a federal disaster declaration to 19 from 6. There are 50 counties under a state disaster declaration.

Zahra Hirji

Posted at

Mexico's response to Trump tweet includes offer of aid for Harvey recovery

Mexico's Foreign Ministry on Sunday offered to provide "all the help that can be provided" in response to the devastation now-Tropical Storm Harvey is unleashing on Texas.

"The government of Mexico takes this opportunity to express its full solidarity with the people and government of the United States for the damages caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and reports that we have offered the US government all the help and cooperation that can be provided by the different Mexican governmental agencies to deal with the impacts of this natural disaster, as good neighbors should always do in times of difficulty," the statement reads.

But the offer of aid only came after the original point of the statement. The majority serves as a response to President Donald Trump issuing another volley — seemingly unprompted — towards Mexico, insisting once again that it will eventually pay for the southern border wall he's long promised.

"As the government of Mexico has always maintained, our country will not pay, under any circumstances and under any circumstances, a wall or physical barrier built on US territory along the Mexican border," the foreign ministry statement said. "This determination is not part of a Mexican negotiating strategy, but a principle of national sovereignty and dignity."

Read more here.

Hayes Brown and Karla Zabludovsky

Posted at

President Trump will travel to storm-ravaged Texas on Tuesday

Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images

President Trump will travel to Houston, Texas, on Tuesday to survey the catastrophic damage from tropical storm Harvey, the White House announced Sunday.

“The President will travel to Texas on Tuesday. We are coordinating logistics with state and local officials, and once details are finalized, we will let you know," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed. "We continue to keep all of those affected in our thoughts and prayers."

Houston has been battling flooding of historic proportions for days and is preparing for even more record rainfall to hit Sunday night, Gov. Greg Abbott said.

Earlier Sunday, Trump had tweeted that he would be traveling to the state "as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption.

“The focus must be life and safety," he added after praising the coordination between government agencies and "great talent on the ground."

Brianna Sacks

Posted at

Texans are desperately tweeting for help as 911 is inundated with calls

As scores of desperate locals wait to be rescued from their flooded homes in Houston, Texas, 911 services are "at capacity" and officials have urged people not to call unless they are in life-threatening danger.

On social media, many Houstonians tweeted they were still trapped and waiting for help.

Lauren Fields, 19, who is waiting to be rescued with her 11-year-old brother and her mother, told BuzzFeed News from her home that they had been desperately trying to get through to the emergency services for hours.

"We call 911, they hang up on us. We call 911, the number’s busy. We call 911, they transferred us to flood department to transfer us back to 911 and then the phone gets disconnected,” she said.

Others reported similar experiences when contacted by BuzzFeed News. One young woman from Huntsville, Texas, was struggling to get help for her disabled parents who were home alone in the Sagemont neighborhood.

“I’m just worried because I'm not there to help,” she told BuzzFeed News.

Meanwhile, officials have urged residents and locals not to ring 911 unless the situation was life threatening. In a press conference Sunday, Houston's mayor Sylvester Turner said officials had responded to more than 2,500 calls, and 1,000 more are in the queue waiting to be serviced.

Read more here.

—Rose Troup Buchanan and Remy Smidt

Posted at

The National Weather Service says the storm slamming Texas is "beyond anything experienced" before in the US.

As local officials struggle to respond to distress calls and FEMA prepares for an anticipated years-long recovery process for southeast Texas, the National Weather Service says Hurricane Harvey is an "unprecedented" weather event, "beyond anything experienced" in the US.

"This event is unprecedented & all impacts are unknown & beyond anything experienced. Follow orders from officials to ensure safety. #Harvey," the government agency tweeted on Sunday.

Some areas in Houston and to the west of the city could receive up to 50 inches of rain, which would be a record for Texas, NWS meteorologist Patrick Burke told the Associated Press.

Burke said the average rainfall for Houston is likely to add up to roughly 40 inches.

Nidhi Prakash

Posted at

Here's what President Trump was tweeting about during Hurricane Harvey

As Hurricane Harvey caused havoc in Texas, President Trump tweeted prolifically, both about the storm and political issues such as NAFTA and a Mexican border wall.

For several hours on Saturday, Trump focused on the situation in Texas. Many of his tweets praised the first responders on the ground; others focused on the magnitude of the storm itself.

But on Sunday morning, Trump's twitter feed started to veer towards his political battles. He criticized Democrats in Missouri, discussed his proposed Mexican border wall, and then moved on to the North American Free Trade Agreement, of which he has repeatedly threatened to pull out.

Read more here.

Paul McLeod

Posted at

Houston mayor: "The flooding is occurring all over the city, all over the county."

As Harvey continues to rain down in and around Houston, the city's mayor, Sylvester Turner urged residents to stay in their homes at a press conference on Sunday.

"The flooding is occurring all over the city, all over the county," Turner said. "There are not many places for you to go. The safest place is for you to be in your home."

The rain is expected to last for several days, although there may be a brief lull Sunday afternoon. "This is pretty much like the second day. We anticipate that there will be several other days," Turned said.

When asked why Houston didn't issue a mandatory evacuation, he responded: "Please bear in mind until, really even now, no one knew where the storm was going. If you were going to San Antonio, you were going to run into water. If you were going to Austin, the same thing. So the best approach was to stay in the city, in the county, stay in your home, and stay off the streets."

Turned acknowledged that there had been a few fatalities, but that if you issue an evacuation and put everyone on the roads, "then you are really asking for a major fatalities."

Since midnight, officials have responded to more 2500 calls, and 1,000 more are in the queue waiting to be serviced. Most of these calls were for people in a vehicle on the road and struck in flooding. The mayor acknowledged that not everyone calling 911 has yet to get a response. "Let’s give a preference to the life-threatening calls," he said.

—Zahra Hirji

Share on Facebook Share on Facebook Share Share on Pinterest Share on Pinterest Pin Pinterest Pinterest Share on Twitter Share on Twitter Share Share on VK Share on VK Share Share on LINE Share on LINE Share More More