HOUSTON — Hurricane Harvey, 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, has delivered torrential rain to the point that 50 counties in Texas are now affected by the flooding, with a tremendous amount of rainfall also in the cards for southwest Louisiana.
Officials released more water today from Houston-area reservoirs overwhelmed by Harvey in a move aimed at protecting the city’s downtown from devastating floods but that could still endanger thousands of homes, even as the nation’s fourth-largest city braced for more rain.
The rising water has chased thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground.
The Army Corps of Engineers started the reservoir releases before 2 a.m. this morning, ahead of schedule because water levels were increasing at a rate of more than 15 centimetres per hour. The timetable was moved up to prevent more homes from being flooded.
Meanwhile, officials in Fort Bend County, Houston’s southwestern suburbs, late Sunday issued mandatory evacuation orders along the Brazos River levee districts. County Judge Robert Herbert said at a news conference that National Weather Service officials were predicting that the water could rise to 18 metres, 90 centimetres 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, grey-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 neighbourhoods and high-water vehicles plowed through water-logged intersections. Some people managed with kayaks or canoes or swam.
Volunteers joined emergency teams in pulling people from their homes or from the water. Authorities 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.
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 1.3 metres (50 inches) of rain. That would be the highest amount ever recorded in Texas.
Royal Caribbean International’s Liberty of the Seas was diverted to Miami. The Aug. 27 sailing of Liberty of the Seas, was cancelled. All guests will have their fares fully refunded and have been provided a future cruise credit, says the cruise line.
Meanwhile sailings on three Carnival ships – Carnival Breeze, Carnival Freedom and Carnival Valor – were also impacted by the hurricane and storm.
“Unfortunately, extreme flooding conditions caused by the storm continue to impact the Galveston and greater Houston areas,” said Carnival.
Based on the uncertainty of the port closure, Carnival said it made the decision to cancel the Aug. 26 sailings of Carnival Valor and Carnival Freedom, and the Aug. 27 departure of Carnival Breeze.
Carnival says a full refund will be automatically processed, including any pre-purchased Carnival Adventures, Fun Shop purchases and beverage packages. The refund will be processed to the original form of payment within three weeks. Additionally, a 25% future cruise credit will be applied to their next reservation with Carnival if booked within the next 60 days.
“We sincerely apologize to all our Galveston guests for the disruption to their vacation plans and thank them for their patience and understanding. We look forward to welcoming them on a Carnival cruise in the future. On behalf of Carnival Cruise Line, our thoughts and prayers remain with those in the affected communities.”
With files from The Associated Press