‘We’re at God’s mercy’: Texas coast doused with new assault from Harvey’s rain and winds
The biggest rainstorm in U.S. mainland history made a second landfall on the Gulf Coast on Wednesday, cutting a devastating path across southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana — even as the sun began to emerge in Houston and some residents returned to their waterlogged homes.
A string of coastal Texas cities were engulfed in water as Harvey came ashore once again at 5 a.m. Wednesday just west of Cameron, La., with heavy rain and winds near 45 mph.
“Yep, we got some water, y’all,” Port Arthur, Texas, Mayor Derrick Freeman of said in a live Facebook video Wednesday morning as he sloshed through knee-deep water inside his home. “Harvey wasn’t playing.”
Mayor Pro Tem Cal Jones estimated that at least 80% of the city, 90 miles east of Houston on the Gulf Coast, was underwater.
“I’m helpless as the rest of them,” said Jones, who was trying to get to a store to pick up supplies for several residents with diabetes. “We got caught by surprise. We weren’t expecting this kind of flood. We didn’t even get a command center because we weren’t expecting this kind of outcome.”
“Right now, we’re at God’s mercy,” he said.
Fields and roads were flooded around nearby Beaumont, Texas, and heavy rains continued to douse the region.
Colette Sulcer, 41, and her 3-year-old daughter were swept away by high floodwaters there Tuesday after getting out of their car near a flooded freeway. The girl clung to her mother for half a mile before police officers and fire rescue divers spotted them in a canal and plucked them out of the water just before they went under a trestle. The mother died, but the child was in stable condition.
The storm produced at least one tornado, which touched down Wednesday in the southern Mississippi town of Petal, near Hattiesburg. Local news outlets broadcast images of knocked-down trees and damaged roofs, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.
“We can’t rule out the potential for more brief tornadoes the rest of this afternoon and maybe tonight, and then the threat will be there again tomorrow,” said Thomas Winesett, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Jackson, Miss.
Harvey no longer has the power of the Category 4 hurricane that slammed the Gulf Coast late Friday — it was weakening as it moved north toward Mississippi and Tennessee and was downgraded Wednesday evening from a tropical storm to a tropical depression. But the National Hurricane Center warned of continued “catastrophic and life-threatening” flooding.
Over the last five days, tens of thousands of people in Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, and across southeast Louisiana have had to evacuate their homes. More than 30 people are believed dead, including a Houston police officer who drowned in his car while driving to work.
The Texas National Guard has made more than 8,500 rescues and 26,000 evacuations, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday. He announced he was seeking an additional 10,000 National Guard members from other states to help the 14,000 members of the Texas Guard who have been activated.
“The worst is not yet over for southeast Texas,” the Republican governor said.
The Navy said it had ordered the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge and dock landing ship Oak Hill to get underway from their home port in Norfolk, Va., on Thursday to support the relief efforts. The ships are capable of providing medical support, maritime civil affairs, logistics support, medium- and heavy-lift air support and security.
Houston officials imposed a midnight-to-5-a.m. curfew for a second night Wednesday after police arrested a crew of armed robbers who were hijacking vehicles, and officials warned residents of people impersonating Homeland Security investigators. There also were fears of looting as thousands of houses were left partially submerged.
A white van containing the bodies of four children and their great-grandparents was found Wednesday in Greens Bayou in East Houston. Virginia Saldivar, 59, said her brother-in-law, Sam, was driving her grandchildren and her husband’s parents to higher ground Sunday when the current swept up the van.
In Montgomery County, Texas, 33-year-old Joshua Feuerstein of Conroe died when he drove his pickup through a barricade into standing water Monday, sheriff’s Capt. Bryan Carlisle reported Wednesday.
The Sheriff’s Office in Harris County, which includes Houston, said Wednesday morning that the Coast Guard was leading a search in the northeast part of the city for two civilian rescuers missing after a boat crash.
Since Harvey made initial landfall Friday, some areas around Houston have seen more than of 50 inches of rain — about what they usually receive in a year.
As the rain let up in Houston, restaurants and shops began to reopen. In the Montrose neighborhood west of downtown, small groups of neighbors took to rain-slicked streets in boots and sneakers to survey the damage.
With its app working again Wednesday, Uber was offering free rides to shelters in Houston, according to a tweet from Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Thank you!” the mayor wrote.
Houston’s two main airports reopened Wednesday afternoon with limited service. Some bus and rail service was expected to resume Thursday along with regular trash pickup.
Even warnings from the National Weather Service in Houston and Galveston became less dire: “Improving weather conditions to come,” it announced after canceling its tropical storm warning and storm surge watch.
But many areas still remained impassable. Main highways and other roads were washed out, and about 8,000 people were temporarily homeless at the main shelter in the city’s downtown George R. Brown Convention Center.
Samir Novruzov wades through water to get to a vehicle after spending the day clearing out his flooded home in Katy, Texas.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Melissa Teague, right, instructs her children Andrew and Emily as they clear out their flooded home in Katy, Texas, on Monday.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
People ride through floodwaters in Katy, Texas.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
People hop off Chris Ginter’s truck as he helps ferry residents around Katy, Texas.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Two men collect a disposed mattress as residents in the Trinity/Houston Garden area of northeast Houston gut their flooded homes.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Wayne Christopher, center, weeps as his wife, Helen, looks on during a Sunday service at First United Methodist Church in Dickinson, Texas.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Hurricane Harvey severely damaged the First Baptist Church in Rockport, Texas. Worshipers on Sunday brought their own chairs to take part in an outdoor service.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Ken Garrett, right, hugs Pastor Jordan Mims after they both delivered prayers on the grounds of the First Baptist Church in Rockport, Texas.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
University of Houston law professor Johnny Buckles props up an American flag on the debris pile from his flood-damaged home in the Kingwood area of north Houston.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Jose Esquivel flags down motorists to visit a parking lot full of donated clothes, supples, water and brisket in Refugio, Texas.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Despite heavy damage and no electricity, a homeowner displays his patriotism while clean up and recovery efforts continue in his devastated neighborhood of Rockport.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Volunteers from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, Yusuf Seager, from left, Rahib Ahmed, Rahman Nasir, and Khalil Nasir help tear out drywall damaged by floodwater in the Westbury neighborhood in Houston.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Volunteers from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association help residents of the Westbury neighborhood in Houston clear debris from their homes. It is also the Islamic holiday of Eid-ul-Adha. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Jenna Fountain and her father Kevin carry a bucket down Regency Drive to try to recover items from their flooded home in Port Arthur, Texas on Thursday.(Emily Kask / AFP / Getty Images)
Lillie Roberts talks with family members as contractor Jerry Garza begins the process of repairing her Houston home on Friday.(Scott Olson / Getty Images)
to perform holy prayer as they help local residents in the Kashmere Gardens area of Houston clean out their flooded homes.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Volunteers assist Cornell Beasley with repairs to his damaged home in Houston on Friday.(Scott Olson / Getty Images)
Katie Estridge organizes hundreds of soaked family photographs on the front lawn of her father’s home in northeast Houston.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Wes Higgins wipes sweat from his face after spending five days patrolling flooded Houston neighborhoods in his boat. Higgins, from Knott, Texas, organized a volunteer team of 10 boats to help Houston residents.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Members of the California Air National Guard 129th Rescue Wing, Senior Airman George McKenzie, left, and Master Sgt. Adam Vanhaaster, right, help a man carry his infant, who has a serious medical condition, to a hospital in Orange, Texas.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
A search-and-rescue crew speeds along Maple Rock Drive in west Houston looking for flood victims.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
A woman and a child are among those rescued by California Air National Guardsmen in Lumberton, north of Beaumont.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
California Air National Guard 129th Rescue Wing’s Master Sgt. Adam Vanhaaster searches for people in need of help near Lumberton.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
A man prepares his dinner at home near Lumberton.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Boys sit on a damaged railroad track near Lumberton.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
A woman waves to a California Air National Guard helicopter from her neighborhood near Lumberton.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
A drop-off point for boat rescues in Lumberton.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Baseball fields in Lumberton are inundated.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Coca-Cola delivery trucks are trapped by floodwater in Lumberton, Texas.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
A military search and rescue helicopter refuels mid-flight before resuming nighttime missions over areas flooded in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Houston police search a flooded home after hearing that an elderly couple lived there. The house was empty. Police later learned the couple had safely evacuated.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
West Houston resident Pedro Albiso uses trash bags to protect his shoes and pants as he prepares to cross a flooded street.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Patients are evacuated from Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas after the city of Beaumont lost its water supply.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Fatima Flores, 12, gets her hair done by cousins Shelly Flores, 7, left, and Ashley Flores, 7, as their family takes shelter at Max Bowl, a bowling alley in Port Arthur, Texas.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
James Benoit, left, and George Clipton sought refuge at Max Bowl in Port Arthur, Texas.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
June Ayrow spent the night with his oxygen tanks underneath a table at Max Bowl in Port Arthur, Texas.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Floodwaters surround homes Thursday in Port Arthur, Texas.(Gerald Herbert / Associated Press)
Volunteers rescue patients from the Cypress Glen nursing home where floodwaters trapped dozens of elderly patients in Port Arthur, Texas on Wednesday.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Residents lie on sofas as they wait to be evacuated from the Cypress Glen senior care facility in Port Arthur, Texas, which was inundated with floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey on Wednesday.(Matt Pearce / Los Angeles Times)
Emergency crews help rescue elderly residents from the Golden Years Assisted Living home in Orange, Texas, on Wednesday.(Gerald Herbert / Associated Press)
Rescuer workers help a woman from her flooded home n Port Arthur, Texas.(Joe Raedle / Getty Images)
Evacuees ride on a truck after they were driven from their homes by the flooding in Port Arthur, Texas.(Joe Raedle / Getty Images)
People wait in line to buy groceries at a Food Town during the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey.(Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images)
Juan Figueroa removes damaged furniture from his mother’s northeast Houston home where residents begin rebuilding from the devastating effects of the storm.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Rafael Minor, left, and Miguel Ramirez remove the contents from a flooded home in northeast Houston on Wednesday.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
A construction crew cleans out a home that was flooded by Tropical Storm Harvey in Spring, Texas.(Brett Coomer / Associated Press)
A flooded residential neighborhood near Interstate 10 in Houston, Texas.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
A flooded residential neighborhood near Interstate 10 in Houston, Texas.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
People come out to view the flooded areas near their homes in Houston, Texas.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
CaroLine Kirkpatrick of Salt Lake City, Utah, is evacuated from the Omni Hotel by rescue worker Adam Caballero in Addicks, a suburb of Houston, Texas.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
People displaced by flooding fill the shelter at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston.(LM Otero / Associated Press)
Mark Ocosta and his baby, Aubrey, take shelter at the George R. Brown Convention Center.(Joe Raedle / Getty Images)
Frantzy Thenor receives an embrace from a fellow evacuee after he helped her leave from the flooded Omni Hotel, in the Addicks area of Houston, Texas.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Storm clouds over Houston skyline.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Recreational vehicles sit on their sides in flood water in Houston, Texas.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
A woman carries a dog above the rising floodwaters near Addicks Reservoir.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Eduardo Retiz, 21, drives his elevated pickup truck through a flooded street near Addicks Reservoir.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Mike Hoskovec, left, walks to a boat after helping friend Ben Berg, behind, move some photo albums to the second floor of his Nottingham Woods home.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Matthew Koser looks for important papers and heirlooms inside his grandfather’s house after it was flooded by heavy rains.(Erich Schlegel / Getty Images)
Residents wade through floodwaters as they evacuate their homes near the Addicks Reservoir Tuesday.(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)
Larry Koser Jr., left and his son Matthew look for important papers and heirlooms inside Larry Koser Sr.’s house after it was flooded by heavy rains.(Erich Schlegel / Getty Images)
Portions of Interstate 10 remain flooded in Houston, Texas.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Rising flood waters stranded hundreds of residents of Twin Oaks Village in Clodine.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Comfort Morgan is helped to dry land after being rescued from her flooded home in Twin Oaks Village in Clodine.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Rising flood waters stranded hundreds of residents of Twin Oaks Village in Clodine, where a collection of small boat owners, including some with pool toys, coordinated to bring most to dry ground.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Rising flood waters stranded hundreds of residents of Twin Oaks Village in Clodine, where an collection of small boat owners coordinated to bring most to dry ground.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Hundreds of residents of Twin Oaks Village are evacuated in Clodine Monday.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Residents are stranded at Twin Oaks Village in Clodine due to rising flood water.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Stranded residents of Twin Oaks Village in Clodine are evacuated from the rising flood water.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Jan Tullos, 32, searches a flooded home for an injured woman who was reportedly stranded inside in Clodine, Texas. The home was empty.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
People walk down a flooded Houston street as they evacuate their homes after the area was inundated with rains from Tropical Storm Harvey.(Joe Raedle / Getty Images)
Dean Mize holds children as he and Jason Legnon use an airboat to rescue people from flooded homes in Houston on Monday.(Joe Raedle / Getty Images)
Dean Mize, left and Jason Legnon carry a person to an airboat as they rescue people in Houston.(Joe Raedle / Getty Images)
Evacuees walk down a flooded street after leaaving their homes Monday in Houston.(Joe Raedle / Getty Images)
Dean Mize holds a child as he helps evacuate people in Houston as Tropical Storm Harvey continues to drench southeastern Texas and Louisiana with heavy rains and surging floodwaters.(Joe Raedle / Getty Images)
People evacuate their flooded homes on Monday in Houston. By Monday morning, 911 operators had received 56,000 calls, city officials said.(Joe Raedle / Getty Images)
Adults use a kiddie pool to transport children as they evacuate on Monday.(Joe Raedle / Getty Images)
People catch a ride on a construction vehicle down a flooded Houston street.(Joe Raedle / Getty Images)
Alexendre Jorge evacuates Ethan Colman, 4, from a Houston neighborhood inundated by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey.(Charlie Riedel / AP)
People push a stalled pickup to through a flooded street in Houston on Sunday, as Tropical Storm Harvey dumped heavy rains.(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)
A Houston police officer helps Frank Andrews, 74, into his walking chair after rescuing him from his flooded home in the Braeswood Place neighborhood, southwest of Houston, on Sunday.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Wilford Martinez, right, is rescued from his flooded car by Harris County Sheriff’s Department Richard Wagner along Interstate 610 in Houston, Texas.(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)
Daniel Gross, 15, is rescued by Houston police after he was stranded on top of his car in southwest Houston.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Andrew White, left, helps a neighbor down a street after rescuing her from her home in his boat in the upscale River Oaks neighborhood after it was inundated with flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey.(Scott Olson / Getty Images)
Volunteers and officers from the neighborhood security patrol help rescue residents in Houston’s River Oaks neighborhood Sunday.(Scott Olson / Getty Images)
Jesus Nunez carries his daughter Genesis, 6, as he and numerous family members flee their flooded home, walking nearly four hours to the safety of a relative’s house on Sunday.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
City officials asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for cots and food for an additional 10,000 people, and opened additional shelters at the Toyota Center, a downtown Houston arena, and the NRG Center, a convention hall.
Early Wednesday, Harris County officials warned that a levee protecting the Inverness Forest subdivision in the north part of the county could fail after a portion of its base eroded. A mandatory evacuation of part of the area was in place until 6 p.m. while crews attempted to shore up the levee, said Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist for the Harris County Flood Control District.
Thousands of homes west of downtown, upstream from the Barker and Addicks reservoirs, flooded after dams backed up from heavy rainfall.
With some homes filled with up to 6 feet of water, residents would not be able to return for several weeks, Lindner said at a morning news conference. He was not sure whether the homes would be rebuilt.
“When water sits in a house for weeks, the house begins to degrade, and so we’re not sure what the condition of those homes will be when residents return in a few weeks,” Lindner said. “Will these homes be allowed to be rebuilt or will they be rebuilt? That’s a question that we’ll have to look at going forward.”
Lindner said he did not expect additional homes to flood.
“The watersheds are falling, and while most of them remain well over their banks, and some of them remain at record levels, the water levels are going down,” he said. “And that’s for the first time in several days.”
Centerpoint Energy was working to restore electricity to about 100,000 homes and businesses. By Wednesday evening, the number of customers without electrical service had been reduced to 75,000, including 32,000 in areas that remained inaccessible to work crews, officials said.
While conditions were beginning to improve in parts of Houston, a new threat emerged at a chemical plant in the small town of Crosby, about 25 miles to the northeast. Flooding knocked out the electricity supply at the facility owned by Arkema Inc., meaning that chemicals stored on-site cannot be refrigerated and will probably explode, the company’s chief executive, Rich Rowe, said in a statement.
The company evacuated its workers, and Harris County ordered evacuations in a 1.5-mile radius of the plant.
In Port Arthur, Motiva Enterprises began a controlled shutdown of its massive plant, the nation’s largest oil refinery. Employees won’t go back to work until floodwaters recede.
Five miles across town, floodwater began to spill into a shelter for displaced residents. At the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center, residents perched on cots standing in murky brown water.
And the death toll kept rising. On Wednesday, Beaumont officials said a second woman’s body was found on the north side at 7:25 a.m.
Tuesday night, the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences updated its storm-related deaths to include that of an 89-year-old woman, Agnes Stanley, whose body was found floating in 4 feet of floodwater in a home. The body of another woman, 76, was discovered floating in water near a vehicle. Her name was not released. A 45-year-old man, Travis Lynn Callihan, left his vehicle and fell into floodwater. He was taken to a hospital, where he died Monday.
Hennessy-Fiske reported from Houston, Pearce from Port Arthur and special correspondent Jarvie from Atlanta. Times staff writers Alexandra Zavis and Laura J. Nelson in Los Angeles contributed to this report along with W.J. Hennigan in Washington contributed to this report.
6 p.m.: This article was updated with Harvey downgraded to a tropical depression, the Navy deploying two ships to assist with relief efforts and other details.
2:40 p.m.: This article was updated with news of a tornado in Mississippi.
2:25 p.m.: This article was updated with an interview with the mayor pro tem of Port Arthur, Texas.
1:40 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details of damage along the Texas coast.
11:35 a.m.: This article was updated with comments by the Texas governor and more details.
10:45 a.m.: This article was updated with information on developments in Port Arthur.
8:15 a.m.: This article was updated with Beaumont officials saying a second woman’s body was found on the north side.
7:50 a.m.: This article was updated with information on when, or whether, people may be able to return to their homes.
6:30 a.m.: This article was updated throughout with Times reporting.
This article was originally published at 5:45 a.m.
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