Tropical storm Harvey: Trump lands in Texas as rainfall hits record high – live

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Tropical storm Harvey: Trump lands in Texas as rainfall hits record high – live” was written by Jamiles Lartey (now) Nadia Khomami (then), for theguardian.com on Tuesday 29th August 2017 18.03 UTC

Harvey now officially holds the US record for most total rainfall from a tropical system, and it hasn’t left the area yet.

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CNN reporters in Houston have spoken with multiple residents in evacuation zones who said they were avoiding shelters for exactly this reason.

People rest at the George R Brown Convention Center that has been set up as a shelter for evacuees escaping the floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston.
People rest at the George R Brown Convention Center that has been set up as a shelter for evacuees escaping the floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston.
Photograph: LM Otero/AP

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The US National Weather Service tracks the heights of rivers and designates the point at which they are considered to be flooding. Measurements for Texas on Tuesday morning showed levels in some areas around Houston to be 25ft above “flood” level.

Texas river height above flood levels.
Texas river height above flood levels.

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Trump: ‘We want to do it better than ever before’

Trump keeps it brief and general in first remarks to press and Texas officials in Corpus Christi.

Trump receives briefing on Tropical storm Harvey relief efforts in Corpus Christi.
Trump receives briefing on Tropical storm Harvey relief efforts in Corpus Christi.
Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters

He said: “We want to do it better than ever before. We want to be looked at in five years and in ten years from now as this is the way to do it. This was of epic proportion, no one has ever seen anything like this and I just want to say that working with the governor [Abbott] and his entire team has been an honor for us.”

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We want him to see and understand the enormous challenges that Texans have faced, and the need for the aid that he is providing. He’s a champion of Texas and champion of helping us rebuild and I think we’ll hear that commitment.”

Donald Trump waves next to first lady Melania Trump upon arrival in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Donald Trump waves next to first lady Melania Trump upon arrival in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters

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Donald and Melania Trump land in Texas

Donald and Melania Trump just touched down moments ago in Corpus Christi. He’s expected to address the press shortly.

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We expect everyone to be orderly and well behaved. We are not going to tolerate any activity that’s criminal in nature or that is disruptive.

If there’s anything that makes it even uncomfortable in terms of any sort criminal activity or bad behavior… those people will not be welcome at the shelters.”

An evacuee is patted down as he is processed into the George R. Brown Convention Center where people have taken refuge, in Houston, Texas.
An evacuee is patted down as he is processed into the George R. Brown Convention Center where people have taken refuge, in Houston, Texas.
Photograph: Nick Oxford/Reuters

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Addicks dam is beginning to overflow, officials confirm

More from the Houston presser:

The city’s north-east water plant continues to operate despite being inundated yesterday and the water “is safe” according to officials.

Officials confirmed that the Addicks dam has reached its capacity and is seeing overflow, and that Barker dam will likely begin to overflow today, though not as severely.

100,000 customers remain without electric service in the city. “Over the last 24 hours our crews restored service to over 240,000 customers but… as fast as we get them on, we’re losing customers,” officials said.

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Houston police chief Art Acevedo now addressing reporters and focuses in on handful of looters and armed robbers taking advantage of the chaos. “This is Texas” he said, promising no leniency for criminal behavior.

Acevedo said his officer are sleeping in their stations and “will not be going home” until they are out of response mode, likely for another few days.

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Houston mayor: ‘Today the focus will continue to be about rescue’

Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, is now giving a morning update.

“Yesterday the focus was on rescue and today the focus will continue to be about rescue,” he said.

Some of Turner’s first remarks:

  • The city has requested food, supplies, cots, etc from Fema for an additional 10,000 individuals.
  • The city will hold its city council meeting scheduled for Wednesday.
  • The city has identified additional “megashelter” location sites that will be announced soon.

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In a press conference from Washington DC, Maj Gen James Witham, director of domestic operations for the National Guard bureau said the unusually long duration of Harvey’s direct impact is changing the way his team approaches their efforts.

Normally we plan response for that first 72 hours, 96 hours, weather passes and then we’re really into a recovery mode. We will be doing live saving and life sustaining efforts for a much longer period due to the nature of this storm.”

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It’s the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall on the Gulf Coast, and as Harvey tracks back north-east, southern Louisiana is at risk once again.

Much of the state’s southern territory is at or below sea level and riddled with swamps, bayous and wetlands, meaning that even if Harvey doesn’t drop the same kind of unprecedented torrential rainfall here as it did in Houston, it could still cause catastrophic damage.

Tensions are extra high in New Orleans, given not only the anniversary of Katrina, but the fact that the city, which relies on pumps to remove excess rainwater from its streets, has been facing chronic mechanical failures of that system all summer. 16 of 121 pumps were down as of Monday and city workers are working frantically to restore service yesterday in preparation for Harvey’s impact, officials said

Local schools and other city facilities are closed as officials advise residents to make preparations.

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In Montgomery County, which is north of Houston, officials there are warning residents that they don’t have enough barricades to block off all the roads that are impassible.

We are out of high water barricades. Do not take it for granted that if there isn’t a barricade that the road is safe to drive over. Motorists should use extreme caution when driving as some flooded or damaged roads may not be barricaded until we can secure more barricades. Flowing water on roadways can easily sweep a vehicle off the road. If you can stay at home, please do, do not drive unless you absolutely must. Please do not go out sightseeing. Turn around Don’t Drown.”

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A troubling update from Brazoria County which sits due south of Houston. Most of the area has been under a mandatory evacuation order since Sunday.

Texas Army National Guard members Sergio Esquivel, left, and Ernest Barmore carry 81-year-old Ramona Bennett after she and other residents were rescued from their Pine Forest Village neighborhood due to high water from Hurricane Harvey.
Texas Army National Guard members Sergio Esquivel, left, and Ernest Barmore carry 81-year-old Ramona Bennett after she and other residents were rescued from their Pine Forest Village neighborhood due to high water from Hurricane Harvey.
Photograph: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

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Photo taken by a deputy of the Williamson County, Texas Sheriff’s office who traveled to Houston to assist local efforts.

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Jamiles Lartey here, taking over from Nadia.

Flood control officials in Houston are reporting that water levels behind the Addicks dam have reached the edge of the wall, and floodwater is beginning to spill over. Addicks is one of two dammed Houston reservoirs that officials have feared could begin spilling into Buffalo Bayou, the river that runs through the city, further inundating the surrounding areas.

Spillover doesn’t necessarily mean that the dam will be compromised, however, officials began releasing water from behind the dam yesterday to ease pressure. The more water that sits behind a dam, the more likely the chance of a catastrophic breach.

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Trump: ‘Leaving now for Texas!’

Donald Trump has tweeted that he is on his way to Texas. The president is due to visit Corpus Christi and Austin.

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Disney has announced a day of programming on Thursday in support of the Red Cross’s Harvey relief efforts.

With reports indicating that more than 9,000 people sheltered at Houston convention center last night, many without beds, more areas of shelter have become a necessity.

Televangelist Joel Osteen faced criticism for not opening his massive Lakewood Church as a storm shelter, but he has now said the megachurch has “never” closed its doors to people seeking shelter.

In a statement to ABC News, Osteen said the church “will continue to be a distribution center for those in need” and is “prepared to house people once shelters reach capacity.” His comments stand in contrast to a church Facebook post and a since-deleted Instagram remark by Lakewood associate pastor John Gray, who said flooded highways had made the church inaccessible.

The 16,000-seat former arena served as the home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets from 1975 to 2003.

If you live near a creek or bayou, you can keep tabs on water levels through a series of online tools.

The Harris County Flood Control District helps you monitor the situation near you in real-time.

Rainfall Total Map allows you to check the rainfall totals for varying amounts of time, from 15 minutes to two days.

And the Bayou Flood Gauge can be used to track water levels in creeks and bayous around the greater Houston area.

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The Guardian’s Rory Carroll has met some of the volunteers helping flooded Houston communities.

John Brown on his way to pick up evacuees in Woodlands.
John Brown on his way to pick up evacuees in Woodlands.
Photograph: Rory Carroll for the Guardian

John Brown brought his fishing boat, a battered 16ft skiff, and piloted it around submerged streets and avenues, seeking strangers to rescue.

Dale Montalban brought his wetsuit and waded into the churning murk, escorting people to the boats and hauling their bags.

Cassandra Luna bought a $9.95 life vest from Walmart and brought it in case someone, anyone, might need it.

Read about them here.

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We’ve been hearing from readers in affected areas about the impact of tropical storm Harvey. If it’s safe for you to do so, share your story, including pictures and video if you have them, by clicking on the GuardianWitness contribute buttons above, or via the form here. This helps us build a better picture of the full impact of the storm.

Your safety is most important. Do not take any risks when recording or sharing your story

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Experts say it could take Houston years to fully recover from Harvey. Read our news story here:

As Hurricane Harvey spins slowly over the Gulf coast, catastrophic flooding has forced tens of thousands from their homes in and near Houston. And with the storm moving into Louisiana, officials only expect the number of people whose lives are upended by it to increase.

An executive order issued by Trump earlier this month revoked an Obama-era directive that had established flood-risk standards for federally funded infrastructure projects built in areas prone to flooding or subject to the effects of sea-level rise – like many of those now sinking in Texas.

Houston already has some of the laxest building regulations for structures in potential flood zones and the president wants to spread that policy across the US.

In Houston, questions remain about why the mayor did not issue an evacuation order.

Sylvester Turner has defended his decision, insisting that a mass evacuation of millions of people by car was a greater risk than enduring the storm. He said on Monday:

Both the county judge and I sat down together and decided that we were not in direct path of the storm, of the hurricane, and the safest thing to do was for people to stay put, make the necessary preparations.

I have no doubt that the decision we made was the right decision. Can you imagine if millions of people had left the city of Houston and then tried to come back in right now?

By Monday night, 7,000 people had arrived at Houston’s largest shelter set up inside the George R Brown Convention Center which originally had an estimated capacity of 5,000.

According to meteorologists, sometime Tuesday or early Wednesday, parts of the Houston region will probably break the nearly 40-year-old US record for the biggest rainfall from a tropical storm – 48 inches set by Tropical Storm Amelia in 1978 in Texas.

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Crews overwhelmed by thousands of rescue calls have had little time to search for other potential victims of Hurricane Harvey, but officials believe the number of fatalities could soar once the floodwaters recede.

“We know in these kind of events that, sadly, the death toll goes up historically,” Houston police chief Art Acevedo told the Associated Press (AP). “I’m really worried about how many bodies we’re going to find.”

One Houston woman said Monday that she presumes six members of a family, including four of her grandchildren, died after their van sank into Greens Bayou in East Houston, though Houston emergency officials couldn’t confirm the deaths.

Virginia Saldivar told AP her brother-in-law was driving the van Sunday when a strong current took the vehicle over a bridge and into the bayou. The driver was able to get out and urged the children to escape through the back door, Saldivar said, but they could not. “I’m just hoping we find the bodies,” Saldivar said.

A spokeswoman for a Houston hotel said one of its employees disappeared while helping about 100 guests and workers evacuate the building amid rising floodwaters.

The storm is generating an amount of rain that would normally be seen only once in more than 1,000 years, said Edmond Russo, a deputy district engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers, which was concerned that floodwater would spill around a pair of 70-year-old reservoir dams that protect downtown Houston.

Rescuers continue to pluck people from inundated neighbourhoods. Mayor Sylvester Turner put the number by police at more than 3,000. The Coast Guard said it also had rescued more than 3,000 by boat and air and was taking more than 1,000 calls per hour

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Summary: nine people dead with weather forecast to worsen

Welcome to our ongoing live coverage of the catastrophic floods in Texas, where nine people are confirmed dead and conditions are forecast to worsen.

Donald Trump and the first lady, Melania Trump, are due to visit Corpus Christi and Austin on Tuesday, but not the worst hit area – Houston – over fears that the trip could hamper relief efforts.

Responding to the first natural disaster to test his presidency, the US president said on Monday that the cost of recovering from tropical storm Harvey would be “very expensive”, but pledged that “the federal government stands ready, willing and able to support that effort”.

Here is a summary of all the key information so far:

  • Former hurricane-turned-tropical storm Harvey is regaining strength and continues to batter south-eastern Texas, with life-threatening floods surging through Houston.
  • Many homes have been flooded and thousands of people have sought emergency shelter from the wind and rains. Officials estimate that 30,000 residents are likely to need shelter. Houston’s George R Brown convention center has already exceeded its bed capacity of 5,000, and a location for a second major rescue hub is being sought.
  • At least nine people are reported to have been killed in the storm, including a family of six reportedly killed when their van was swept away, and a man who died on Monday night trying to swim through flooding.
  • An unknown number of people remain stranded in their homes awaiting rescue. Police, military and coast guard, along with volunteer teams, have taken to boats to try to reach those trapped, with some working through the night. Texas governor Greg Abbott has activated the entire state National Guard, tripling the number of active personnel from 4,000 to 12,000.
  • There is expected to be no let-up in the storm’s intensity throughout Tuesday, with up to 20 inches (51cm) – and in some places 50 inches – of further rain forecast for the stricken region. The storm is also due to lash southern Louisiana, where a federal state of emergency has been declared.
  • On Monday, Trump defended his decision to announce a pardon for former sheriff Joe Arpaio as the hurricane struck on Friday, saying: “I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally.”
  • The flood damage is expected to cost tens of billions and there are concerns for the longer-term health of people caught up in muddy floodwaters.

Here is our latest news wrap:

Read more

Updated

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Tropical storm Harvey: Trump lands in Texas as rainfall hits record high – live - NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE

Rajesh Ahuja

I am a veteran journalist based in Chandigarh India.I joined the profession in June 1982 and worked as a Staff Reporter with the National Herald at Delhi till June 1986. I joined The Hindu at Delhi in 1986 as a Staff Reporter and was promoted as Special Correspondent in 1993 and transferred to Chandigarh. I left The Hindu in September 2012 and launched my own newspaper ventures including this news portal and a weekly newspaper NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE (currently temporarily suspended).