Harvey storms Texas
Published by The Mail on Sunday (27th August, 2017)
America was last night braced for ‘catastrophic’ flooding after being hit by its most powerful storm since Katrina.
Hurricane Harvey left a trail of chaos and destruction as it made its way across Texas, with winds of up to 132mph causing buildings to collapse, widespread power cuts and at least one death.
Amid warnings of floods in the coming days, officials reported heavy damage across worst-hit coastal areas.
Houston, America’s fourth-biggest city and one of its most flood-prone urban areas, saw five inches of rain in some places while other parts of the state had 20 inches in less than one day.
Flood and tornado alerts were issued and the banks of several bayous broke, spilling water on to roads. There were claims of people trapped in destroyed buildings.
About 4,500 inmates at three Texas prisons south of the city began being evacuated shortly before noon after a nearby river rose ominously high.
Judge Ed Emmett, the top elected official for the county that includes Houston, said his city’s primary concern was heavy flooding. ‘We are not having a hurricane,’ he said. ‘We are having a rain event.’
The Category 4 hurricane slammed ashore by the town of Corpus Christi shortly before 10pm on Friday night.
In the town of Rockport, many homes and buildings were destroyed. ‘We took a Category 4 storm right on the nose,’ said mayor Charles Wax. He told a news conference that one person had died in a house fire overnight. The victim was found after the storm passed inland.
President Donald Trump signed a disaster proclamation from his Camp David retreat, freeing up federal funds for relief efforts. Later he tweeted the government was ‘leaving nothing to chance’ and praised emergency services.
He received a briefing from his new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) boss Brock Long, a former director of the Alabama state agency.
President George W Bush suffered irreparable harm to his reputation over the poor response to Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in 2005 and left 1,500 people dead.
In Rockport yesterday, local officials urged people who had refused to evacuate to write names and social security numbers on their arms to allow for quick identification if killed.
Ten people were taken to the county’s jail for assessment and treatment after the roof of a housing complex for older people collapsed. Emergency services said a high school, hotel and many other buildings suffered structural damage.
Almost 300,000 people were left without power along the coast. Winds dropped to 90mph as the hurricane weakened over land but they are expected to batter Texas for four days.
The National Weather Service warned this was the ‘start of many difficult days to come’ with potentially ‘record-setting rainfall’ of up to 40 inches. ‘Rainfall of this magnitude will cause catastrophic and life-threatening flooding,’ said the National Hurricane Center.
Seven Texas coastal counties ordered mandatory evacuations from low-lying areas, with four of them demanding everyone leave and warning there was no guarantee of rescue for anyone staying behind.
Texas governor Gregg Abbott warned: ‘Our greatest concern right now is the ongoing flooding that will take place.’