With at least two more days of rain to come, areas of southeast Texas are experiencing the worst flooding and devastation in decades after Hurricane Harvey, a category four storm, struck the coast. Volunteers have poured into the area from other parts of the state, Louisiana, and from across the country. In the aftermath of what the National Weather Service described as “beyond anything experienced,” the financial cost will be enormous – and the human cost even worse, despite relatively few fatalities so far. Homes and lives have been swept away by the most devastating hurricane to hit the United States mainland since Katrina. President Donald Trump arrived in Texas Tuesday to meet with the local agencies coordinating rescue and relief operations.
Almost 50 inches of rain has fallen in some areas, and forecasts predict that the final totals will exceed that mark. Many parts of Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city, are under several feet of water. According to a report in USA Today, first responders have, so far, carried out over 3,500 rescue operations using aircraft and boats. That figure may not include rescues performed by civilian volunteers, who have been searching their neighborhoods in personal watercraft and pickup trucks. The American Red Cross said that more than 17,000 people in Texas took refuge in shelters Monday night.
In Houston, it is feared that even more catastrophic flooding may be in store as levees strain and reservoirs begin to overflow.
State and federal agencies started preparing for Hurricane Harvey before it made landfall just east of Corpus Christi. The strength of the storm increased faster than most had predicted, however. In contrast to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, emergency management agencies, with the assistance of federal assets, have coped as well as could be expected. The resiliency of Texans has been nothing less than admirable. As the president spoke to the press in Corpus Christi alongside Texas Governor Greg Abbott, he reminded everyone that this disaster was far from over. “We won’t say congratulations,” he said, “we don’t want to do that…We’ll congratulate each other when it’s all finished.” Following his visit to Corpus Christi, the president traveled to the state capitol, Austin, to consult with emergency management personnel, Texas congressmen, and members of his cabinet.
The center of the storm moved back out to the Gulf of Mexico early Tuesday but is lingering just off the coast. It is predicted to come aground once again, northeast of its original landfall. This brings additional challenges for Houston, as well as southwest Louisiana and as far as New Orleans, which has, itself, struggled with recent flooding. The recovery efforts in Texas will take not just months, but years.