‘Catastrophic’ flooding traps Houston residents

HOUSTON — Rescue workers in Houston renewed search efforts Sunday morning for residents trapped in their homes by tropical storm Harvey’s rising floodwaters.

More than 1,000 people were rescued overnight from record flooding in the area, authorities said. The storm so far has killed two people in Texas, said authorities, who added they expect the death toll to rise.

Law enforcement agencies advised people trapped in their houses not to take shelter in their attics unless they carried axes so they could break through to their roofs and within sight of rescue workers.

People said they were stranded in houses and hotels and hoped for help now that morning has come to Texas.

“We are still stranded in our home with little kids and the water keeps rising,” Houston resident Janet Castillo said. “We have called already to several numbers but no luck. We have (tried) but their lines are all busy or they don’t answer.”

Jake Lewis said he woke up to ankle-deep water in the Houston hotel where he was staying.

“We have nowhere to go,” said Lewis, of New Braunfels, Texas. “If you go out and look at the service road it’s flooded. I have a 2016 Chevy Silverado and the water is up to the door panels. The water keeps rising.”

One of two confirmed fatalities in the ferocious storm happened in Houston when a woman drove her vehicle into high water, city police said.

Police said they believe the car became inoperable or the water was too high to pass through. The victim got out of her vehicle, was overtaken by floodwaters and drowned.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez urged people to think twice before they leave their house and wade through water.

“The instinct is to want to exit out and just try to go find safer ground somewhere, but sometimes the water could be more treacherous,” he said, noting that manhole covers may have lifted.

High-water rescues

Gonzalez said many rescues were taking place overnight in the Houston area and requests were coming in for high-water rescues.

“Some involve children, others with medical issues. Trying to get to as many as possible,” Gonzalez said.

One rescue involved a hospital transport for a person who had suffered a cardiac arrest. Several people were rescued from a vehicle on a highway.

“Our units are trying to get to everyone as soon as possible,” he said.

People are tweeting their locations and asking for help.

Harvey blasted ashore as a Category 4 hurricane around 9 p.m. MDT Friday just north of Corpus Christi. Once ashore, it lost wind speed and was downgraded to a tropical storm.

Still, Harvey spawned tornadoes and lightning, with extensive damage reported. A flash flood emergency was declared for sections of Houston.

The National Weather Service said maximum sustained winds Sunday would be near 45 mph, with higher gusts.

Some weakening is forecast over the next few days, and forecasters in the latest advisory say the storm is likely to become a tropical depression by tonight.

But authorities say now is not the time to relax.

The slow-moving storm is expected to drop 15 to 25 inches of rain over the middle and upper Texas coast through Thursday.

There could be isolated storms that reach 40 inches of rain.

“Rainfall of this magnitude will cause catastrophic and life-threatening flooding,” the weather service said.