Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune
Tropical Storm Harvey may be on its way out of Texas, but the state – particularly Houston – has a long road to recovery ahead.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced Tuesday evening that he was issuing a mandatory midnight to 5 a.m. curfew on the city “to prevent potential criminal acts.” But many Texans are still worried about what lies ahead.
Gov. Greg Abbott was briefed on the latest Harvey news at the Texas Department of Public Safety’s State Operations Center on Wednesday and held a press conference afterward. He said that while Harris County – one of the hardest hit areas of the storm – was dealing with receding waters and ongoing evacuations, the State was also handling “catastrophic conditions in Southeast Texas.”
Some takeaways from the presser:
The number of activated National Guard members for Harvey relief efforts has increased from 12,000 to 14,000. Abbott also mentioned Texas is expecting up to 10,000 more members from other states.
More than 32,000 people in the state are in shelters, and around 5,000 evacuees are currently residing in state parks.
Texas DPS has deployed more than 2,000 workers to targeted regions in the state so far.
Around 210,000 in the state have registered for federal assistance.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has already provided more than $5 million meals.
Asked about the state’s “sanctuary cities” law that’s set to take effect Friday, Abbott said people at evacuation shelters and those seeking other help won’t be asked about their immigration status. “We’re here for one purpose – to save people and help the people who are here,” he said.
According to a preliminary estimate from AccuWeather, experts predict Harvey may be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, with a price tag of roughly $160 billion.
“This will be the worst natural disaster in American history. The economy’s impact, by the time its total destruction is completed, will approach $160 billion, which is similar to the combined effect of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy,” Joel N. Myers, founder, president, and chairman of AccuWeather, said in a statement.
Here’s where things stand:
The death toll continues to rise and conditions still aren’t safe
In the days following the storm, multiple deaths have been confirmed. According to the New York Times, since Friday, 30 people have been killed as a result of the storm.
This morning, the Associated Press reported that authorities had found a shivering 18-month-old toddler clinging to the body of her drowned mother in Southeast Texas. Officials say the woman was trying to carry her daughter to safety when flood waters swept them both away. The toddler is now in stable condition at a Houston hospital.
The Texas Department of Transportation is updating its website daily on driving conditions throughout the Houston area. According to its most recent update, “some previously flooded roadways in Southeast Texas have reopened [but] additional ones are currently experiencing flood conditions and there remain over 500 Texas roadways experiencing flooding.” The agency added that travel is not advised in the affected areas due to rapidly changing water levels and unsafe driving conditions. These are the roads closed in Houston today, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Rainfall may be coming to a halt, but recovery efforts will be ongoing
There have been more than 50 inches of rain recorded over the past few days – but that may be stopping soon. Even if the rain does stop, the storm isn’t over. Rivers and bayous are continuing to rise and levees are at risk for breaches and failures.
“Parts of Houston, the United States’ fourth-largest city, will be uninhabitable for weeks and possibly months due to water damage, mold, disease-ridden water, and all that will follow this 1,000-year flood,” Myers said.
Hurricane Harvey was previously described by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as “one of the worst disasters in Texas history.” Now, Harvey is showing signs of leaving the Texas coast and made landfall earlier Wednesday morning in southwest Louisiana. Even after the storm leaves Texas, however, Houston will have ways to go before its returns back to its normal state.
Up to 30% of Harris County – which is home to 4.5 million people – is underwater, ABC News tweeted this morning. They added that this is the equivalent of New York City and Chicago combined.
Storm Front Weather tweeted this morning that Port Arthur and Beaumont are both facing catastrophic flooding. The National Weather Service has also issued flash flood warnings for Southeast Texas, Harris County, Jefferson County, and Galveston County, among others. The NWS is keeping an updated list of counties under flash flood warning on its website.
Homes worst hit by Harvey may wait months for power to come back, Bloomberg notes. Even after the city has finished repairing damaged power lines, electricians have to certify flooded homes before they’re able to reinstate service.
It’s also likely that Houstonians will see their property values drop – by as much as 60% – over the next few years.
- The Texas Department of Public Safety has received reports about initial damage from Harvey from 66 cities and counties. In Harris County alone, more than 40,000 homes were affected by the storm and roughly 750 were destroyed.
Help is on the way
Several Texas officials have made statements letting Houstonians know that despite the heavy rains and severe casualties, there are several resources available to storm victims.
On Tuesday evening, the Texas Supreme Court issued an order allowing out-of-state lawyers to assist Harvey victims.
- This morning, the City of Houston Office of Emergency Management tweeted that it had received an overwhelming amount of support from people offering their boats for rescue. “Thx to them, we have all the assets we need,” the tweet read.
- The Houston Independent School district announced Wednesday it had received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Texas Department of Agriculture to give all HISD students free school meals during the 2017-18 school year. “The flooding that is affecting the city of Houston has been devastating for many. Some of the areas that are the hardest hit are filled with working parents whose limited funds will need to go toward recovery efforts,” Houston ISD Superintendent Richard Carranza said in a statement. “This waiver will give our families one less concern as they begin the process of restoring their lives.”
- In a press release Wednesday, FEMA said that more than 12,400 employees from more than 17 federal departments and agencies are working together to support the ongoing response to damages resulting from Harvey. More than 63,000 individuals and households had been approved for FEMA assistance, the release said.