HOUSTON — Four days after Harvey made landfall as the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 13 years, it was still pounding parts of Texas and Louisiana with rain. Here are some things happening on the ground:
For the drenched Houston area, there’s an end of the rain and a sunny day almost in sight. Harvey is expected to move inland Wednesday, slog through Louisiana, then take its downpours north. Arkansas, Tennessee and parts of Missouri are on alert for Harvey flooding in a couple days.
“Once we get this thing inland during the day, it’s the end of the beginning,” said National Hurricane Center spokesman and meteorologist Dennis Feltgen. “Texas is going to get a chance to finally dry out as this system pulls out.”
So far, the highest rains recorded are just shy of the United States record for a tropical system. The rains in Cedar Bayou, near Mont Belvieu, Texas, topped the 50-inch mark with 51.88 inches (132 centimeters) as of 3:30 p.m. CDT. That’s a record for the continental United States, but it doesn’t quite pass the 52 inches (133 centimeters) from tropical cyclone Hiki in Kauai, Hawaii, in 1950 (before Hawaii became a state).
A TEST FOR TRUMP
It’s the first time President Donald Trump has been tested by a major natural disaster since the start of his administration. Trump visited Texas on Tuesday and promised residents, “We are going to get you back and operating immediately,” a contrast to the more measured assessments from emergency management officials. Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who appeared with Trump, warned, “This recovery is going to be frustrating.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters traveling with Trump that his visit was focused on coordination among different levels of government and laying the groundwork for what’s expected to be a lengthy recovery effort. Trump was briefed in Corpus Christi on relief efforts, then later flew to the state capital of Austin to meet with state officials.
SHELTER FROM THE STORM
More than 17,000 people have sought refuge in Texas shelters, according to the American Red Cross. Houston said it would set up at least two more mega-shelters with the George R. Brown Convention Center holding more than 9,000 people, almost double the number officials original planned to house there.
Nearby, Joel Osteen opened his megachurch — a 16,000-seat former arena that was the longtime home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets — to evacuees after social media critics slammed the televangelist for not offering to house people in need while Harvey swamps the city. In a tweet announcing the move, Osteen said he and wife Victoria Osteen “care deeply about our fellow Houstonians.”
Harvey has made plain that Houston’s Depression-era flood-control system of reservoirs and bayous is no match for the booming development the metropolitan area has gone through over the past several decades. Among other things, experts blame too many people, too much concrete, insufficient upstream storage, not enough green space for water drainage and, especially, too little regulation.
“Houston is the most flood-prone city in the United States,” said Rice University environmental engineering professor Phil Bedient. “No one is even a close second — not even New Orleans, because at least they have pumps there.”
SHADES OF KATRINA
While much of the focus has been on Houston, Louisiana is also getting rain from Harvey . Twelve years to the day after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, Harvey forced hundreds of people had to be rescued from floodwaters in southwestern Louisiana and prompted New Orleans to shut down some key institutions as a precaution. Meanwhile, images of flood devastation in Houston revived painful memories for survivors of Katrina.
PUTTING IT IN PERSPECTIVE
How much rain has fallen? Consider this: Already, 15 trillion gallons (57 trillion liters) of rain have fallen, and an additional 5 trillion or 6 trillion gallons (19 to 23 trillion liters) are forecast by the end of Wednesday, meteorologist Ryan Maue of WeatherBell Analytics calculates. That’s enough water to fill all the NFL and Division 1 college football stadiums more than 100 times over.
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