Almost 500 000 disaster victims are expected to file for federal financial assistance in the wake of devastating floods caused by the lingering effects of a hurricane to hit the state of Texas in the United States.
The weather system named Harvey, which made landfall as a category 4 hurricane on Friday night, has since been downgraded into a slow-moving tropical storm that has dropped almost 80 centimetres of rain in some parts of the state with large swathes, including the country’s fourth largest city of Houston, under water.
Authorities are calling Harvey a landmark event with warnings that because of its slow moving trajectory, the rains could remain in that region for the rest of the week.
Harvey is expected to track back offshore into the Gulf of Mexico where it could pick up steam and then make landfall near the Texas Louisiana border before tracking northeast across the county.
“Right now, we’re focused on rescue operations and we’ll move into recovery operations later in the week. But today, we are deeply concerned with those in Houston and surrounding areas who are stranded and in need of immediate assistance. People need help and we are working to provide it. While the hurricane force winds have diminished, I want to stress that we are not out of the woods yet not by a long shot. Harvey is still a dangerous and historic storm according to the National Weather Service, who you’ll hear from shortly, rainfall amounting as much as two feet have occurred in the Houston metro area and life threatening flooding will occur over a large portion of south-south central and south-east Texas in the coming days. Rivers won’t crest until later this week,” says Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke.
“This is still an on-going situation; we’re not at recovery yet”
The flooding has paralyzed the city of Houston, home to 2.3 million people and many other smaller surrounding towns while miraculously only two deaths have been reported thus far.
“This is still an on-going situation; we’re not at recovery yet. We’re thinking and planning for recovery. We have recovery teams down, you know down in Texas, but right now this mission is very important. This is a life-safety, life-sustaining mission. We’re trying to help bolster the efforts to do swift water rescue, search and rescue, over a huge county jurisdiction, over 30 to 50 countries possibly impacted in Texas,” says Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Brock Long.
Schools, airports and businesses remain closed, major roadways are engulfed by standing water while some 30 000 people are in need of temporary shelter with homes completely flooded.
“We’re anticipating over 30 000 people being placed in shelters temporarily, to basically stabilize the situation and provide for their care. Next, we are ready, and already, deploying essential life sustaining commodities. We have a tremendous amount of supplies in the state and the state is pulling our resources already to be able to put those out. It’s occurring all over the state of Texas. “
Almost 300 000 people are without power while Harvey’s future path is creating additional concern.
“The official track forecast has the tropical storm moving up the coast of Texas toward the Texas Louisiana area within the next five days. There is still uncertainty as we’re doing with this track-the-storm itself is creating its own circulation even aloft. So, the track forecast still represents a difficult forecast for us. So, we have to pay attention as we move forward,” says National Weather Service Director Luis Uccellini.
Harvey is the most powerful hurricane to hit the state of Texas in 50 years, but it is the lingering, meandering nature of this weather system that is complicating rescue and recovery efforts already underway.
President Donald Trump, who has approved emergency requests for both the State of Texas and neighbouring Louisiana, is expected to visit the region on Tuesday, indicating he wanted to visit the state as soon as possible without causing disruption.