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Massive flooding in Houston expected to continue for days

Residents have been urged to call 911 only for 'imminent danger.'

The roof of a gas station sits in flood waters in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Eric Gay
The roof of a gas station sits in flood waters in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Eric Gay

There have been five deaths reported as large portions of southeastern Texas, including Houston, flooded Sunday. Tropical storm Harvey is expected to hover in place over the next two days, bringing more heavy rain to the region, and flooding is expected to increase. More than a thousand people were rescued overnight, and operations are ongoing.

“This rain will continue to come down which will make this flooding worse than tropical storm Allison,” Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said on CNN on Sunday morning, referring to a 2001 storm that dumped as much as 40 inches of rain in southeastern Texas. Flooding from Alison destroyed 2,744 homes and damaged more than 65,000 other buildings. In Texas, 23 people died.

In Houston, where two feet of rain has fallen in the past 24 hours, the water level is rising rapidly. Prior to the storm, water temperatures in the Gulf were five degrees higher than normal, which allowed Harvey to pick up intensity and hold more water.

According to the National Hurricane Service, 15 to 25 more inches of rain is expected. “These rains are currently producing catastrophic and life-threatening flooding, and flash flood emergencies are in effect for portions of southeastern Texas,” said an advisory Sunday morning. Flooding from storm surge along the coast is also expected.

Images from Twitter showed Houston under extreme flooding. Houston’s oil and gas infrastructure was a point of concern prior to the storm. The region is home to a number of oil refineries. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, said Sunday on Fox News that the oil and gas industry was well prepared.

Officials from FEMA and the state urged residents to move to safety when possible.  Emergency lines are already at capacity.

Authorities also warned residents not to venture into the flooding. “Do not get out onto the road. Make a plan where you can elevate in your own home,” Abbott told viewers. One of the reported deaths was a woman who attempted to drive through flood waters. 

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Helicopters, boats, and military vehicles have been deployed in the rescue operations, and officials said federal, state, and local forces are working together.

In the meantime, search and rescue work is ongoing in Corpus Christi and Rockport, where Harvey touched down as a Category 4 hurricane, leveling houses and causing massive destruction. A thousand rescue workers from the state have been activated, as well as local and federal resources, Abbott said.

According to Abbott, he has spoken with President Donald Trump several times and the White House and FEMA have been helpful and responsive. “We are getting everything that we need,” Abbott said. 

FEMA director Brock Long has a long history of emergency management.

But Trump has been castigated for tweeting out an endorsement of Sheriff David Clarke’s book on Sunday morning, before he addressed the issues in Texas, and on Friday, Trump told the people of Texas, “Good luck,” when asked about the storm.