Floodwaters reached the roof lines of single-story homes Monday, and people could be heard pleading for help from inside as Harvey kept pouring rain on the Houston area after a chaotic weekend of rising water and rescues.
The nation’s fourth-largest city was still largely paralyzed, and there was no relief in sight from the storm that spun into Texas as a Category 4 hurricane, then parked itself over the Gulf Coast. Floodwaters are likely to rise as more torrential rain pounds the coast, where at least eight people have already been killed in Texas and tens of thousands driven from their homes, officials said on Monday.
The flooding was so widespread that the levels of city waterways have either equaled or surpassed those of Tropical Storm Allison from 2001. The storm was the most powerful hurricane to strike Texas in more than 50 years when it hit land on Friday near Corpus Christi, 354 km (220 miles) southwest of Houston.
The worst is far from over because the slow-moving storm will continue to dump rain over the next few days in an area hit by “unprecedented” flooding, the National Weather Service said.
Forecasts show that some spots in and around Houston could see an additional 30 cm (12 inches) of rain on Tuesday, bringing the total rainfall from Harvey to about 127 cm (50 inches) in parts of the city’s metro area.
Elsewhere, water gushed from two reservoirs overwhelmed by Harvey as officials sought to release pressure on a pair of dams where floodwaters were at risk of spilling uncontrolled from around the sides of the barriers. The move aimed at protecting the downtown business district risked flooding even more homes.
Thousands of National Guard troops, police officers, rescue workers and civilians raced in in helicopters, boats and special high-water trucks to rescue the hundreds stranded by the storm.
U.S. President Donald Trump plans to go to Texas on Tuesday to survey the damage and may also visit Louisiana, where the storm is now dumping rain.
Both of Houston’s major airports were shut, along with most major highways, rail lines, and several hospitals, where patients were evacuated over the weekend. More than a quarter of a million customers in the region were without power by Monday evening, utilities said.
Rising river and reservoir levels also forced evacuations in the counties of Brazoria and Galveston, near Houston.
As stunned families surveyed destroyed homes and roads flooded or clogged with debris, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott warned Houstonians to brace for a long recovery.
Volunteers joined emergency teams in pulling people from their homes or from the water. Rescuers were giving priority to life-and-death situations, leaving many affected families to fend for themselves.
Some people used inflatable beach toys, rubber rafts, and even air mattresses to get through the water to safety. Others waded while carrying trash bags stuffed with their belongings and small animals in picnic coolers.
The floods could destroy as much as $20 billion in insured property, making the storm one of the costliest in history for U.S. insurers, Wall Street analysts say.