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Thursday, August 31

Arsenic and Old CNN, FOX, and MSNBC



We’ve grown used to “news” that’s manufactured out of the opinions of hosts and experts for hire.

The quote is from Lorraine Ali's August 29 op-ed for The Los Angeles Times, How Harvey is giving us a break from our pundit addiction, which delivers a spot-on analysis of the stunning turnaround Storm Harvey worked on the national mainstream U.S. news media and by extension the national American public discourse:

In all the arguments about what qualifies as fake news, the shift of the media during Harvey is a clear example of the difference between spin and journalism. One is news filtered through analysts, commentators or a ratings-minded, network-wide vision, the other is the stuff journalists have been doing since before your great-great-grandparents were born. Reporting the news.
Yes. Within hours of Harvey's landfall the U.S. national news media and its Talking Heads had been forced to recalibrate when they discovered to their horror that the American public wasn't paying attention to them. Everyone was glued to local news coverage out of Texas on Harvey's onslaught.

Not to be outdone by a bunch of hicks, reporters for national news organizations raced to Texas and rolled out thousands of stories covering every angle imaginable related to Harvey.

This turn of events caused the American political industry to ratchet to DEFCON 1, as consultants who labor for the industry gathered in vape mist-filled backrooms to strategize on the crisis of unity that had broken out, while Americans from across the political spectrum trucked their boats to Houston to help out with rescue efforts.

To make matters worse for the consultants Harvey didn't cooperate. As the storm blew east out of Houston it left another trail of devastation. "Our whole city is underwater right now but we are coming!” Port Arthur Mayor Derrick Freeman posted Wednesday morning on Facebook. “If you called, we are coming. Please get to higher ground if you can, but please try to stay out of attics.”


This requires yet more big search and rescue operations, setting off even more unseemly shows of unity among  Americans.

Yet in my view the comeuppance of the U.S. national media in America isn't really the important story to emerge from reportage on the Harvey crisis; it's the interest shown by many Americans in news coverage from local TV stations. As Ali noted:
Harvey is a not-so-subtle reminder that national news is still local, even though a handful of national outlets have come to represent what we think of as the nexus of American Media.
The Big Three national cable TV channels -- FOX, CNN, MSNBC -- came to dominate coverage of American news when hard economic times in communities across America laid waste to local reporting. But they went further than reporting; the Big Three have promoted national political party agendas that are less about solving shared problems in America and more about serving the political industry. 

By the time Harvey struck they had fostered so much chaos and distrust that many people had come to believe America was in the midst of a cultural civil war and headed for an actual civil war. The silver lining in Harvey's rain clouds is that the storm broke the spell. Millions of Americans are demonstrating in the face of crisis that there is no civil war, beyond the one created by a national news media that puts serving America's political industry above the public interest.

That has to change. National TV spends so much time raising specious alarms they completely miss important American events. The upshot is a kind of madness in the media; it reminds me of the running joke in the movie Arsenic and Old Lace: Every time crazy Uncle Teddy climbs the stairs he relives Theodore Roosevelt leading the Rough Riders charge up Kettle Hill.

********

Wednesday, August 30

Missing the Texas flower Selena Quintanilla-Perez

I see that Google has raised $2 million for victims of Hurricane Harvey. That's great, but Selena Quintanilla-Perez would've raised $10 million in a couple hours. 



Here, via YouTube a medley of some of her hit Tejano songs -- Como la flor, La carcacha, Bidi bidi bom bom, Baila esta cumbia -- and cumbia dance routines. The irresistibly danceable Tejano is a mix of pop, rock, polka, R&B and Latin music, but Selena was the heart of Tejano -- and "Tex-Mex."

And again from YouTube, for rent for about 3 bucks, is Selena, the 1997 movie starring Jennifer Lopez based on Selena's life. There was controversy at the time about Lopez playing Selena, but there would have been controversy in any case; nobody could quite believe someone so young, so beautiful and full of good spirits, was gone. Once the movie was released, however, Selena's fans and family admitted that Lopez did a fine job of portraying Selena (with Selena's singing dubbed into her songs).

Selena's life is an uplifting story, well told in the film with big help from Edward James Olmos playing Selena's father, although it missed being great viewing fare for adolescents because of the crime, fueled by pathological envy, that took her life even though it was sensitively handled in the script.

Well, the murderer's name is forgotten; Selena Quintanilla-Perez became a kind of immortal, if only because she was the breakthrough. 

Born and raised in southeastern Texas, she was thoroughly American -- she didn't even speak Spanish -- and protected from the prejudice directed at Mexican-Americans in the larger American society. But her father knew from experience that not only was there prejudice, it was on both sides. Non-Mexican Americans didn't want to hear a 'Mexican' singing 'American' music. The Mexicans in Mexico didn't want to hear an 'Americano' singing Mexican music.

Selena ended all that silliness. Quite an accomplishment for a woman who didn't live to see her 24th birthday.

*******

Astounding rescue effort prevented thousands of deaths in Houston's floods


Chris McGonigal at The Huffington Post has put together a photo essay of Harvey's onslaught in Houston and the humans who fought back. The photographs are overwhelming, especially when considered against the announcement yesterday that the U.S. Coast Guard had saved 4,322 lives from floods in the Houston area since Sunday. 

That's just the Coast Guard; the count doesn't include vital rescues by police and fire crews, state and national guards, and ones by volunteers. But the announcement answers the complaint made by some that they never saw an official rescue squad and were rescued by volunteers:

Often the official squads were deployed in the most serious situations, and I think that would have been particularly true for the Coast Guard. In many cases there was no way to reach stranded people except by helicopter, and that's where the Coast Guard was critical.
    
Yet the low official death count from the flooding (now around 22) has tended to mask the worst of the crisis that descended on America's fourth largest city. Houston's police chief said the other day that he feared more bodies would be found when the floodwaters receded. I hope that won't be the case, but what is already clear is that a search and rescue effort had to fill the gap caused by the Houston city government's failure to develop and implement a 'targeted' evacuation plan. 

The gap represented several thousand human and animal lives.

Update, from the Washington Post today at 4:57 AM EDT: 
Authorities said more than 13,000 people had been rescued from floodwaters, according to the Associated Press, but that number was surely low. Many had been rescued by strangers with boats, who had rescued so many that they themselves had lost count.
Jonathan Bachman

See Also:

Texans refuse to leave pets behind as they flee Harvey; August 28, Reuters

********

Tuesday, August 29

Southeast Texas v Harvey: Dunkirk meets Mad Max 2 meets Noah's Ark UPDATED 8/30

UPDATE
Below I wrote "None of the shelters, it seems, turns away any evacuee who brings a pet." To correct the record, that wasn't the case at first at Houston's George R. Brown Convention Center, which is being used as a shelter for flood evacuees. Reuters reported (Texans refuse to leave pets behind as they flee Harvey):
[On Sunday night] Dozens of people with dogs arrived only to be told they could not bring them inside or that animal services were not available to care for their pets. That included Rosana Nagera, 27, who took shifts with her husband in the rain with their shivering dog.
The snafu,  however, was quickly sorted out: 
On Monday morning pets were welcomed in a designated area at the facility, where dogs nestled next to owners on cots. Red Cross officials said evacuees with pets are welcome at its shelters, and animals are typically housed in cages on site or accommodated by partner organizations.
END UPDATE


This morning my muscles felt as if I'd been on my feet all day yesterday moving furniture, even though all I did for the most part was stay glued to YouTube to watch Houston Fox26 coverage of rescue efforts in the TV station's viewing area. 

Unlike actual TV, which has advertising and station breaks, YouTube streaming was total immersion hour after hour. I think the effect this had on me was as if I was in Houston watching the reporting. Maybe that explains the sore muscles -- sort of unconsciously reliving memories of watching local TV coverage of bad storms where I live, in the Greater Washington, DC region.

I am not sure I want to repeat the YouTube experience. Yet I am glad I watched the coverage. I'd never seen anything like it, with people from as far away as Louisiana piloting every kind of small boat to rescue people stranded in Houston and close nearby. 

The only comparable situation I know about was the Dunkirk evacuation operation during World War II, the part carried out by volunteers manning their own boats.     
     
In Houston, however, the improvised rescue armada is augmented by an equally random collection of high-water vehicles. This reminds me of the desperate race in Mad Max 2 to outrun a vicious gang. As long as it can float or drive through several feet of water without stalling it's being used as a rescue vehicle in Houston  -- everything from tractors to dump trucks to furniture moving trucks to monster military contraptions. 



By last night things had gotten into a routine. First rescuers, either volunteer or official, locate people who need to be evacuated (sometimes relying on the Zello app). Then they drive a high-water vehicle or boat to the address. If there isn't enough room in the conveyance for everyone, some of the rescuers lead the remaining evacuees on foot through the floodwaters to the nearest temporary patch of dry land, such as under a highway overpass. 

Then more high-water vehicles and/or boats show up to take the evacuees to a staging area, say the parking lot of a shopping mall. Then buses arrive and drive a group of evacuees to a shelter.

By yesterday there were already scores of shelters set up, some completely makeshift. The owner of two large furniture stores hauled mattresses from his company's warehouse and converted the stores to shelters.  

None of the shelters, it seems, turns away any evacuee who brings a pet. One shelter dedicated a room for the animals. So there's a Noah's Ark aspect to the place, with the rain pelting the windows and floodwaters rising nearby as the assortment of pets -- pigs, parrots, dogs, cats, you name it -- beds down together for the night. 

Indeed the whole situation evokes the story of Noah's Ark, as people carry animals through rain and rising waters to find refuge.



Dunkirk, Mad Max 2, and Noah's Ark. Now there's a metaphor for our times, if only I could figure it out.

Anyhow, Bravo! the hardy people of Southeast Texas, and everyone who's helping them. Bravo the staff and reporters at Fox26 Houston! And yes, Bravo YouTube [reaching for the muscle rub].

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDtD-2-5zOs

The Photographs:

Top: Adrees Latif for Reuters
August 28 -- evacuations along Tidwell Road in east Houston

Middle:  Reuters; possibly Adrees Latif was the photographer 

Last:  Joe Raedle for Getty Images
"Naomi Coto carries Simba on her shoulders as they evacuate their home in Houston."

********

Monday, August 28

Why is Harvey so strange? Scientific American turns to Weather Underground for answers

"Harvey has dropped so much water over such a large area of southeastern Texas that the storm is pulling that water back up into itself and dumping it again as more rain. The flood area is so far and wide that it is acting like part of an ocean ..."

Why Hurricane Harvey became so extreme
By Mark Fischetti 
August 28, 2017
Scientific American

Hurricane Harvey is drowning southeastern Texas for the fourth day, putting a vast area under feet of water. Experts say Harvey has been stuck longer in one place than any tropical storm in memory. That is just one of the hurricane’s extremes; the storm is off the charts by many measures. Scientific American wanted to learn why, and we asked meteorologist Jeff Masters for help. Masters is the co-founder of Weather Underground, a website that meteorologists nationwide go to for their own inside information about severe weather. Masters also wrote a fascinating article on why the jet stream is getting weird.

Why did Hurricane Harvey so quickly explode from a Category 1 hurricane to Category 4?
Last Wednesday night, August 23, Harvey was a tropical depression, but after just eight overnight hours it was forming a hurricane eye wall. “That’s remarkably fast,” Masters said. On Friday it rapidly ballooned from a Category 1 hurricane to Category 4. That is because it happened to pass over a region of extremely warm ocean water called an eddy. This spot of hot water was 1 to 2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the Gulf of Mexico around it, which itself was already 1 to 2 degrees Fahrenheit higher than average, reaching 85 or 86 degrees Fahrenheit in places. The hotter the water, the more energy it drives into a storm. Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed New Orleans in 2005, also mushroomed to Category 4 in a similar fashion because it, too, passed over a hot eddy in the Gulf.

Why is Harvey so stuck in place over Texas?
Hurricanes are circular structures with winds that spiral counterclockwise, but they are steered by larger wind patterns in the greater atmosphere that push them in one direction. In Harvey’s case, a big high-pressure system over the southeastern U.S. is trying to push the storm in one direction, but a big high pressure system over the southwestern U.S. is trying to push the storm in the opposite direction. “The systems have equal strength and are cancelling each other out,” leaving Harvey stranded, Masters said. “It’s highly unusual to have two highs on either side of a hurricane of equal strength.” The only other time Masters recalls that happening to a huge storm system was Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which struck Central America and killed an estimated 7,000 people in Honduras.

WATCH: Why Houston is a ‘sitting duck’ for hurricanes

How can Harvey reverse direction, now, heading back out over the Gulf of Mexico from where it came?
The high pressure system in the southeastern U.S. is also trying to push Harvey west, but now the storm has bumped into the high pressure system in the southwestern U.S., which is pushing it back to the east. On any given day one of the systems might temporarily be winning this atmospheric ping-pong match. Masters said a low-pressure trough system has been setting up north of Harvey and might strengthen enough to start to pull the hurricane northward. National weather forecasts released Monday morning indicate that might happen later this week.

How can Harvey produce such extreme rainfall even though it is no longer over the ocean?
The answer to this is fascinating. Normally a hurricane pulls moisture up from the ocean and releases it as rain all around the storm’s area, particularly in the northeastern quadrant. But Harvey has dropped so much water over such a large area of southeastern Texas that the storm is pulling that water back up into itself and dumping it again as more rain. The flood area is so far and wide that it is acting like part of an ocean, feeding warm moisture up into Harvey. “You only need about 50 percent of the land to be covered with water for that to happen,” Masters said. “Obviously we have more than that in Texas.”

Could Harvey exist as a self-perpetuating rain machine over land?
Masters said meteorologists cannot answer this question yet. “If it were to stay perfectly still, could it maintain itself for a long period of time?” he asks. “That’s an interesting theoretical question. We just don’t know.”

Why did Harvey’s rain bands intensify at night rather than during the day?
This phenomenon is actually typical of large hurricanes: they weaken during the day and strengthen at night. “At night the upper atmosphere cools,” Masters explained. “That creates instability, which increases the updrafts in thunderstorms throughout the hurricane system. Those air currents pull more moisture up from the surface” of the ocean—or the flooded land.

Why has Harvey caused such deep coastal flooding even though the ocean storm surge was not so high?
This answer is also intriguing. Storm surge is often the deadliest aspect of tropical systems. Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge drowned New Orleans. Hurricane Sandy’s surge inundated New York City and New Jersey. Harvey’s storm surge was not nearly as high, yet water piled up along certain portions of the Texas coast. Masters said this is called “compound flooding.” With feet of rain, the rivers are so swollen that they are rushing toward the Gulf coast, but the storm surge is coming inland as those rivers try to flow seaward. The two surges meet at the coast “and the water piles up from both sides,” Masters said. The land’s shape and elevation at any location can make the compound flooding worse. In Galveston, for example, the sea surge was about three feet but the actual water surge was about nine feet.

For more on hurricane dynamics, click here.

[END REPORT]

********

"Chaos in Houston as floodwaters reach roof lines of single story homes"

 -- Quotes are from the latest Associated Press update, below. First here are my notes, taken mostly from Houston's Fox26 reports today, which I've been listening to at YouTube:

Weather update approx. 3:30pm from Fox26 Houston TV (via YouTube)
  • Harvey is now back over the water, but this means it's drawing in moisture, although slowly.
  • Southeast Texas is still on the 'wrong' side of the storm
  • heavy rains still falling - will continue heavy at least 24 hours -- but rains not as heavy as yesterday.
  • winds picking up to about 40 mph gusts; avg sustained winds between 20-30 mph.

Dangerous Waters In Houston, nearby areas
  • some rivers still rising; many roads still impassable.
  • Fox26 reported late this morning that there were 346 high water areas on roadways into/through Houston that are dangerous; footage of some of those areas shows the waters are moving very swiftly. Also, 'flash flood' areas keep emerging  
Evacuations:
  • Houston - Fort Bend neighborhoods within levees ordered to evacuate (Fox26 Houston - 1:39 PM CDT posted a list of the neighborhoods, which are several, at their website). Some parts are under voluntary evacuation according to Fox26; I guess if your neighborhood is not on the list that means you have a choice about whether to evacuate.
More Help is on the Way:

From Fox26 reporting earlier this afternoon
  • Squad of Navy helicopters (at least 4) flying in from Virginia to deliver supplies to Houston and help with rescues.
  • City of Phoenix, AZ 80 member team with canines and (2?) structural engineers flying in to help Houston; the team is the best urban search and rescue squad in the USA.
  • Entire Texas National Guard now called up (about 12,000 to be eventually deployed) to help flood victims; at least 1,000 Guards arrived earlier today in Houston.
  • More boats (about 40) and high-water vehicles are being sent to Houston for use by official rescue teams.
  • The volunteer cavalry ("Cajun Navy") is also arriving. Fox26 reported this morning on a caravan of 20-25 trucks driven by volunteers hauling boats that arrived in Houston from Louisiana. "Texans came to our rescue [during the big floods last year in Louisiana, which got almost no national coverage] and now we're coming to theirs."  From what a volunteer said around 1 AM the Cajun Navy had been trying since last night to get into Houston but were blocked by flooding/heavy rains.  
The Panic Factor:
  • Panic has set in for many residents still waiting for rescue, some of whom are stranded in rising waters; some are clinging to poles, other structures. Earlier today Fox26 reported a Houston resident screaming, "Save me or I'm going to die!" and some residents jumping off bridges into swift (and toxic) waters.
  • Some panic is simply due to exhaustion after waiting without food or water for many hours for rescue. Some residents feel abandoned because they don't understand that they can be stranded in an area where responders, whether official or volunteer, cannot go at that time because of very dangerous water conditions. If their cell phone batteries have given out, they'd have no way of knowing this, especially after dark.
  •   And they might not understand that no matter how dire they believe their situation, others are in a life-or-death situation and the rescue of such people takes priority.  
  • Residents in need of rescue can be frustrated by long waits on hold when they call 911; they will often hang up, thus losing their place in the call line-up. The advice from officials is to stay on the line no matter what and that 911 operators can see from the call the location of callers. Houston has added more 911 operators but they are dealing with an unprecedented volume of calls. 
Electricity:

Headlines from CNBC report today on the power outages; report updated approximately 4:45 PM EDT:

  • About 280,000 Texas customers were without power on Monday, according to four of the state's investor-owned utilities.
  • Continued high winds, rain and flooding were preventing the companies from restoring power in some of the hardest hit areas.
  • Thousands of out-of-state workers helped to restore electricity to some customers.
Latest Associated Press update via Chicago Tribune - 2:28 PM today (I'll assume CDT)
Chaos in Houston as floodwaters reach roof lines; 6 in van that was swept away feared dead
By Michael Graczyk and David Phillip

(HOUSTON) Floodwaters reached the roof lines of single-story homes Monday and people could be heard pleading for help from inside as Harvey poured rain on the Houston area for a fourth consecutive day after a chaotic weekend of rising water and rescues.

The nation's fourth-largest city was still largely paralyzed, and there was no relief in sight from the storm that spun into Texas as a Category 4 hurricane, then parked itself over the Gulf Coast. With nearly 2 more feet of rain expected, authorities worried whether the worst was yet to come.


The storm has been blamed for at least two confirmed deaths. A Houston television station reported Monday that six family members were believed to have drowned when their van was swept away by floodwaters.
The KHOU report was attributed to three family members the station did not identify. No bodies have been recovered.
Police Chief Art Acevedo told The Associated Press that he had no information about the report but said that he's "really worried about how many bodies we're going to find."
According to the station, four children and their grandparents were feared dead after the van hit high floods Sunday when crossing a bridge in Greens Bayou.
The driver of the vehicle, the children's great-uncle, reportedly escaped before the van sank by grabbing a tree limb. He told the children inside to try to escape through the back door, but they were unable to get out.
The disaster unfolded on an epic scale in one of America's most sprawling metropolitan centers. The Houston metro area covers about 10,000 square miles, an area slightly bigger than New Jersey. It's crisscrossed by about 1,700 miles of channels, creeks and bayous that drain into the Gulf .
The flooding was so widespread that the levels of city waterways have either equaled or surpassed those of Tropical Storm Allison from 2001, and no major highway has been spared some overflow.
The city's normally bustling business district was virtually deserted Monday, with emergency vehicles making up most of the traffic. Most traffic signals were out and most businesses closed.
Elsewhere, water gushed from two reservoirs overwhelmed by Harvey as officials sought to release pressure on a pair of dams where floodwaters were at risk of spilling uncontrolled from around the sides of the barriers. The move aimed at protecting the downtown business district risked flooding thousands more homes.
Meanwhile, rescuers continued plucking people from the floodwaters — at least 2,000 so far, according to Acevedo. At least 185 critical rescue requests were still pending on Monday morning, he said.
Rescuers were giving priority to life-and-death situations, leaving many people to fend for themselves.
Chris Thorn was among the many volunteers still helping with the mass evacuation that began Sunday. He drove with a buddy from the Dallas area with their flat-bottom hunting boat to pull strangers out of the water.
"I couldn't sit at home and watch it on TV and do nothing since I have a boat and all the tools to help," he said.
They got to Spring, Texas, where Cypress Creek had breached Interstate 45 and went to work, helping people out of a gated community near the creek.
"It's never flooded here," resident Lane Cross said from the front of Thorn's boat, holding his brown dog, Max. "I don't even have flood insurance."
Houston's 911 system has received 75,000 calls since Harvey inundated the city, including 20,000 just since late Sunday. The city normally averages 8,000 to 9,000 calls per day.
The Red Cross quickly set up Houston's George R. Brown Convention Center and other venues as shelters. The center, which was also used as a shelter for Katrina refugees in 2005, can accommodate roughly 5,000 people. By Monday morning, it was already half full.
People living near Houston's Addicks and Barker reservoirs were warned Sunday that a controlled release would cause additional street flooding that could spill into homes. The rising water and ongoing rain put pressure on a pair of dams that were created to prevent flooding in downtown Houston. If the pressure is not relieved, officials said, it could allow water to spill outside the dams.
Harris and Fort Bend county officials advised residents to pack their cars Sunday night and leave in the morning.
The Army Corps of Engineers started the reservoir releases before 2 a.m. Monday — ahead of schedule — because water levels were increasing at a rate of more than 6 inches per hour, Corps spokesman Jay Townsend said.
In the Cypress Forest Estates neighborhood in northern Harris County, people called for help from inside their homes as water from a nearby creek climbed to the same level as their eaves. A steady procession of rescue boats floated into the area.
One man, Joe Garcia, carried his German shepherd in the chest-deep water before being picked up by a boat. Garcia said he floated out a tub of his belongings, then went back in for the dog.
Up to 20 more inches of rain could fall in the coming days, on top of the more than 30 inches some places have already seen, weather service Director Louis Uccellini said Monday.
That means the flooding will get worse in the days ahead and that the floodwaters will be slow to recede once Harvey finally moves on, the weather service said.
The amount of water was so unprecedented that meteorologists had to update the color charts on the weather service's rainfall maps.
Rescuers were giving priority to life-and-death situations, leaving many affected families to fend for themselves. Several hospitals in the Houston area were evacuated due to the rising waters.
The White House said President Donald Trump would visit Texas on Tuesday, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump.
Harvey was the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 13 years and the strongest to strike Texas since 1961's Hurricane Carla, the most powerful Texas hurricane on record.
Associated Press writers Carla K. Johnson in Chicago; Juan Lozano, Josh Replogle and Robert Ray in Houston; Peter Banda in Dickinson, Texas; and Jamie Stengle and Claudia Lauer in Dallas contributed to this report.
[END ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORT]
********




Weather Channel streaming Harvey news on YouTube and setting up website dedicated to Harvey-related issues including volunteering and donation information; Fox 26 TV Houston also streaming on YouTube

The site will be set up sometime this afternoon. Watch the Weather Channel website (also Hurricane News section), on TV, or on YouTube, for information about the new site. Also, the Weather Channel is currently streaming on YouTube with Harvey-related reports.
  
See also: "LIVE: Fox 26 TV Houston Local News - Hurricane Harvey - Houston Flood" on YouTube. 

********

Harvey in Houston: “800-year flood level"


The Photograph:
David J. Phillip for The Associated Press
"Houston Police officer Daryl Hudeck carries Catherine Pham and her 13-month-old son, Aiden, after rescuing them from their home surrounded by floodwaters on Sunday in Houston." 

Excerpts from the following Associated Press report:
  • Judging from federal disaster declarations, the storm has so far affected about a quarter of the Texas population, or 6.8 million people in 18 counties.
  • Rescuers had to give top priority to life-and-death situations, leaving many affected families to fend for themselves.
  • Volunteers joined emergency teams in pulling people from their homes or from the water. The flooding was so widespread that authorities had trouble pinpointing the worst areas.
  • The rising water chased thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground and overwhelmed rescuers who could not keep up with the constant calls for help.
  • In a rescue effort that recalled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, helicopters landed near flooded freeways, airboats buzzed across submerged neighborhoods and high-water vehicles plowed through water-logged intersections. Some people managed with kayaks or canoes or swam.
See also:
Texans Lend A Helping Hand As Floods Continue Across The State; NPR, August 27, 2017; 8:41 PM EDT

Weather Channel live coverage on YouTube of all Harvey issues including rescues.  
    AP UPDATE: Flooding Will Worsen In Upcoming Days, Acevedo Concerned About Drainage

    ASSOCIATED PRESS / HPM DIGITAL TEAM | POSTED ON
    AUGUST 28, 2017, 5:46 AM (LAST UPDATED:AUGUST 28, 2017, 8:39 AM)
    THE LATEST:
    The director of the National Weather Service is warning that the catastrophic flooding that’s overwhelming Houston and other parts of Texas will worsen in the coming days and then be slow to recede once Harvey finally moves on.
    Director Louis Uccellini said during a news conference Monday that up to 20 inches  of rain could fall in the coming days, on top of the more than 30 inches some places have already seen.
    He says some of the heaviest rainfall today, at a pace of 6 inches  an hour, will fall east of Houston in places such as Beaumont and Lake Charles, Louisiana.
    He adds that while Houston is experiencing a break from the rain Monday morning, heavy rainfall is forecast to return later in the day into Tuesday.
    ___
    Houston police chief, Art Acevedo,  is concerned about the prospect of more flooding, but is “keeping  fingers crossed” that the rain will subside.
    In an interview Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Chief Art Acevedo says drainage is a concern.
    Acevedo said  “not sure where the water is going because it’s just so much that we can’t really absorb more in the ground at this point. … We have way too much water and not enough places for it to drain.”
    He says officers have voiced frustration that they don’t have enough high-water vehicles to quickly help everyone who is stranded.
    He also warned any criminals who might try to take advantage of the disaster that his force has already arrested half a dozen people for looting.
    __
    The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)  is asking for volunteers to help Texas recover from Harvey.

    William “Brock” Long, FEMA administrator, told a news conference in Washington Monday that “we need citizens to be involved,” because the storm and resulting flooding is greater than the government can handle.

    [Pundita note: For crying out loud, hasn't FEMA been following the news? Hundreds if not thousands of volunteers have already been helping -- risking their boats and their safety all day yesterday and last night (and probably on Saturday night as well) to rescue stranded people. Many of those volunteers came to Houston from as far away as Austin and even further away to help, and fanned out to assist in other flooded areas in Texas as well, such as the city of Katy. 

    Okay, I understand why FEMA would have made an 'official' request for volunteers but Mr Long might have taken a few seconds to thank the people who are already volunteering and under tough conditions.] 
    Long urges individuals and organizations to check the website www.nvoad.org or call 1-800-621-FEMA to find out how to help. He’s asking for financial donations and for people “to figure out how to get involved as we help Texas find a new normal.”
    A National Weather Service official says the peak flooding from the Houston-area storm is expected to max out Wednesday and Thursday, but said the floods will be slow to recede and that catastrophic flooding will persist.
    ___
    Harvey continues to head back toward the Gulf of Mexico at a slow pace.
    The National Hurricane Center says in its 4 a.m. CDT update that the tropical storm that made landfall late Friday as a Category 4 hurricane, dropping heavy rain in the Houston area, still has sustained winds of up to 40 mph (65 kph) and is centered 20 miles (30 kilometers) east of Victoria, Texas, about 120 miles (193 kilometers) southwest of Houston. It continues to creep to the southeast at 3 mph (4.8 kph).
    That means it remains virtually stalled near the coast and continues to drop heavy rain on the Houston and Galveston areas. In the past 48 hours, numerous spots in the region have measured more than 25 inches (64 centimeters) of rain.
    The hurricane center says Harvey’s center was expected to drift off the middle Texas coast on Monday and meander offshore through Tuesday before beginning “a slow northeastward motion.” The center says those in the upper Texas coast and in southwestern Louisiana should continue to monitor Harvey’s progress.
    ___
    Officials released more water from Houston-area reservoirs overwhelmed by Harvey early Monday in a move aimed at protecting the city’s downtown from devastating floods, but that could still endanger thousands of homes, even as the city braced for more rain.
    Harvey, which made landfall late Friday as a Category 4 hurricane and has lingered dropping heavy rain as a tropical storm, sent devastating floods pouring into Houston on Sunday.
    Residents living near the Addicks and Barker reservoirs — that were designed to prevent flooding in downtown Houston — were warned Sunday that a controlled release from both reservoirs would cause additional street flooding that could spill into homes. Rising water levels and continuing rain was putting pressure on the dams that could cause a failure without the release.
    Harris and Fort Bend county officials advised residents to pack their cars Sunday night and wait for daylight Monday to leave.
    “The idea is to prepare … pack up what you need and put it in your vehicle and when the sun comes up, get out,” said Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist for the Harris County Flood Control District. “And you don’t have to go far, you just need to get out of this area.”
    The Army Corps of Engineers started the reservoir releases before 2 a.m. Monday — ahead of schedule — because water levels were increasing dramatically at a rate of more than six inches (15 centimeters) per hour, a Corps spokesman Jay Townsend said. The timetable was moved up to prevent more homes from being flooded, Townsend said.
    Meanwhile, officials in Fort Bend County, Houston’s southwestern suburbs, late Sunday issued widespread mandatory evacuation orders along the Brazos River levee districts.
    County officials were preparing for the river to reach major flood stages late Sunday. County Judge Robert Herbert said at a news conference that National Weather Service officials were predicting that the water could rise to 59 feet (18 meters), three feet (90 centimeters) above 2016 records and what Herbert called an “800-year flood level.” Herbert said that amount of water would top the levees and carries a threat of levee failure.
    On Sunday, incessant rain covered much of Houston in turbid, gray-green water and turned streets into rivers navigable only by boat.
    In a rescue effort that recalled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, helicopters landed near flooded freeways, airboats buzzed across submerged neighborhoods and high-water vehicles plowed through water-logged intersections. Some people managed with kayaks or canoes or swam.  
    [Pundita note: I hope the swimmers get antibiotics in them ASAP, given the state of those waters]
    olunteers joined emergency teams in pulling people from their homes or from the water. The flooding was so widespread that authorities had trouble pinpointing the worst areas. They urged people to get on top of their houses to avoid becoming trapped in attics and to wave sheets or towels to draw attention to their location.
    Judging from federal disaster declarations, the storm has so far affected about a quarter of the Texas population, or 6.8 million people in 18 counties. It was blamed in at least two deaths.
    As the water rose, the National Weather Service issued another ominous forecast: Before the storm that arrived Friday as a Category 4 hurricane is gone, some parts of Houston and its suburbs could get as much as 50 inches (1.3 meters) of rain. That would be the highest amount ever recorded in Texas.
    Some areas have already received about half that amount. Since Thursday, South Houston recorded nearly 25 inches (63 centimeters), and the suburbs of Santa Fe and Dayton got 27 inches (69 centimeters).
    “The breadth and intensity of this rainfall is beyond anything experienced before,” the National Weather Service said in a statement.
    Average rainfall totals will end up around 40 inches (1 meter) for Houston, weather service meteorologist Patrick Burke said.
    The director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long, predicted that the aftermath of the storm would require FEMA’s involvement for years.
    “This disaster’s going to be a landmark event,” Long said.
    Rescuers had to give top priority to life-and-death situations, leaving many affected families to fend for themselves. And several hospitals in the Houston area were evacuated due to the rising waters.
    It was not clear how many people were plucked from the floodwaters. Up to 1,200 people had to be rescued in Galveston County alone, said Mark Henry, the county judge, the county’s top administrative post.
    Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center was quickly opened as a shelter. It was also used as a shelter for Katrina refugees in 2005.
    Gillis Leho arrived there soaking wet. She said she awoke Sunday to find her downstairs flooded. She tried to move some belongings upstairs, then grabbed her grandchildren.
    “When they told us the current was getting high, we had to bust a window to get out,” Leho said.
    Some people used inflatable beach toys, rubber rafts and even air mattresses to get through the water to safety. Others waded while carrying trash bags stuffed with their belongings and small animals in picnic coolers.
    Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said authorities had received more than 2,000 calls for help, with more coming in. He urged drivers to stay off roads to avoid adding to the number of those stranded.
    “I don’t need to tell anyone this is a very, very serious and unprecedented storm,” Turner told a news conference. “We have several hundred structural flooding reports. We expect that number to rise pretty dramatically.”
    The deteriorating situation was bound to provoke questions about the conflicting advice given by the governor and Houston leaders before the hurricane. Gov. Greg Abbott urged people to flee from Harvey’s path, but the Houston mayor issued no evacuation orders and told everyone to stay home.
    The governor refused to point fingers on Sunday.
    [...]
    [List of reporters from the same AP website report titled, Rescuers pluck hundreds from rising floodwaters in HoustonLead reporter "MICHAEL GRACZYK; Associated Press writers Carla K. Johnson in Chicago; Juan Lozano, Josh Replogle and Robert Ray in Houston; Peter Banda in Dickinson, Texas; and Jamie Stengle and Claudia Lauer in Dallas contributed to this report."]
    [END AP REPORT]

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