Tropical Storm Harvey has dropped more than 15 trillion gallons of water on Texas, triggering catastrophic, unprecedented flooding in the Houston area. The rains have broken all-time records, exceeding the rainfall totals seen during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.
There may be no parallel available to any other rainstorm in U.S. history, based on the number of people affected, amount of water involved, and other factors, meteorologists have warned.
Due to its wide geographic scope across America’s 4th-largest city, the ensuing flood disaster may rank as one of the most, if not the most, expensive natural disaster in U.S. history.
According to Ryan Maue, a meteorologist at WeatherBell, a private forecasting firm, there is still up to 6 trillion gallons more rain likely to fall in the state, based on forecasts from the National Weather Service (NWS).
The Weather Service office in Houston reported just over 2 feet of rain in 24 hours between 7 a.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. Sunday morning, causing August to become the wettest month on record there. Forecast totals call for isolated rainfall amounts of up to 50 inches before Harvey finally releases its grip on the Lone Star state late this week. If this comes to fruition, it would be the greatest rainfall totals from a tropical storm or hurricane in U.S. history.
Rain pelted this battered city anew Monday as emergency teams — aided by a growing contingent of citizen-rescuers — plunged into waist-deep water seeking people stranded by devastating, historic flooding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
Officials in Texas said Monday afternoon that at least nine people appear to have died as a result of the storm battering the state. That toll includes six people in Harris County, home to Houston; one person in Rockport, near where Harvey made landfall; and another person in La Marque, near Galveston.
Authorities expect the toll to rise as rescue efforts continue and more rain, rising rivers and surging floodwaters pummel the Gulf Coast. Forecasters say up to 20 inches of additional rain could fall on parts of Texas and Louisiana by Thursday.
About 2,000 people had been brought to safety with more still in need of help. Yet even with several deaths attributed to the storm, the full toll of Harvey’s destruction remained unclear in Houston and across Texas and Louisiana, with officials warning that the flooding would linger and saying more than 30,000 people would be forced from their homes.
“We are not out of the woods yet,” Elaine Duke, the acting Homeland Security secretary, said during a Monday morning briefing in Washington. “Harvey is still a dangerous and historic storm.”
The Army Corps of Engineers on Monday began releasing water from flood-control reservoirs, which is likely to worsen flooding in parts of Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner said.
The Buffalo Bayou, the major waterway flowing west to east through the heart of the city, is already at record-high flood levels, and was projected to remain that way for days, even without the release from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs at the western edge of Houston.
As they increase the water and it comes down, the water level along Buffalo Bayou, in all probability, it will increase,” Mr. Turner said at a news conference. People who were not in a crisis state yesterday may find themselves in a crisis state today,” he added.
With the reservoirs at capacity, the Army Corps began releasing water from them before dawn. Mr. Turner said the release was 5,000 cubic feet per second, and would increase to 8,000.
President Donald Trump on Monday pledged quick action by the federal government to authorize disaster relief for the areas pounded by Hurricane Harvey.
“I think that you’re going to see very rapid action from Congress, certainly from the president … you’re going to get your funding,” he said at a joint press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.
“We think that Congress will feel very much the way I feel … I think you’ll be up and running very, very quickly,” Trump added.
Trump, who will travel to Texas on Tuesday, said he may also visit Louisiana this weekend.
He praised the response of local, state and federal response teams, as well as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.