Post-Harvey problems plague Texas; Houston's mayor
Flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Southeast Texas on August 31, 2017 (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel J. Martinez/Released)
HOUSTON (AP) - One week after Harvey roared into the Gulf Coast, residents of a Texas city struggle with no drinking water, fires at a stricken chemical plant, curfews, and more evacuations.
Funerals also began for some as the number of deaths related to the storm stands at 39.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner issued a mandatory evacuation order for a small area of the city Saturday, saying the part of Harris County will remain under water for days. The order only applies to homes that are currently inundated.
Starting Sunday morning, crews will start going house-to-house in that area to turn off power to any homes that are inundated.
The mayor and other city leaders said that it is too dangerous for firefighters and police officers to keep having to go into these flooded areas to help people. They said the water has a powerful current in some areas and is hiding dangers like open manhole covers.
On Saturday, Houston's school superintendent says 10,000 to 12,000 students whose schools were damaged by Harvey will have to attend classes elsewhere once school resumes on Sept. 11.
Richard Carranza, the superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, toured the damaged A. G. Hilliard Elementary School on Saturday along with the school board president and other officials. He says the district has assessed 245 schools since the storm and still has to look at about 40 more. He says about 115 of the schools that have been examined can be cleaned and ready to go on time. He says 75 schools suffered major or extensive damage and won't be ready to reopen for months.
Carranza says the damage was spread out equally throughout the city and that students whose schools can't reopen on time will be relocated to other facilities.
President Donald Trump helped serve lunch at a Houston shelter for people displaced by Harvey. Wearing plastic gloves and a wide smile, Trump stood next to first lady Melania Trump and handed out hot dogs in white containers with the Red Cross logo.
As he briefly served lunches, Trump shook hands and posed for photos. He was heard asking one man about his military service. The Trumps are on their second visit to Texas to survey damage from the hurricane. They're also due to visit Lake Charles, Louisiana, later Saturday.
In Beaumont, Texas, home to almost 120,000, people waited in a line that stretched for more than a mile to get bottled water after the municipal system failed earlier this week.
Thick black smoke and towering orange flames shot up Friday after two trailers of highly unstable compounds blew up at Arkema, a flooded chemical plant in Crosby, the second fire there in two days.
Earlier Friday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that ongoing releases of water from two reservoirs could keep thousands of homes flooded for up to 15 days, especially in west Houston where evacuations were recommended. He told residents that if they stayed and later needed help, first responders' resources could be further strained.
Those residents began demanding answers Saturday about when they'll be able to return to their homes. About 200 people rallied outside a subdivision in Katy, Texas, on Saturday, waving signs and barking questions. Public officials used a PA system to address the frustrated crowd.
Water has receded in much of the Houston area, but homes here remain flooded because of releases from a reservoir holding storm water. Officials say the releases must continue to protect the reservoir's integrity. Many who rallied said their homes were being sacrificed to save others.
Homeowner Sheetal Parwal said her family now has less than what they had when they immigrated from India 10 years ago, and that their home is now a swamp.
Turner, meanwhile, pleaded for more high-water vehicles and more search-and-rescue equipment as the nation's fourth-largest city continued looking for any survivors or corpses that might have somehow escaped notice in flood-ravaged neighborhoods.
Search teams quickly worked their way down streets, sometimes not even knocking on doors if there were obvious signs that all was well - organized debris piles or full cans of trash on the curb, for instance, or neighbors confirming that the residents had evacuated.
Authorities considered it an initial search, though they did not say what subsequent searches would entail or when they would commence.
Turner also asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide more workers to process applications from thousands of people seeking government help. The mayor said he will request a preliminary aid package of $75 million for debris removal alone.
The storm had lost most of its tropical characteristics but remained a source of heavy rain that threatened to cause flooding as far north as Indiana.
By Friday evening, Harvey had dumped more than 9 inches (23 centimeters) of rain in parts of Arkansas and Tennessee and more than 8 inches (20 centimeters) in spots in Alabama and Kentucky. Its remnants were expected to generate another 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 8 centimeters) over parts of Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and West Virginia.
National Weather Service meteorologists expect Harvey to break up and merge with other weather systems over the Ohio Valley late Saturday or Sunday.
An estimated 156,000 dwellings were damaged by flooding in Harris County, or more than 10 percent of all structures in the county database, according to the flood control district for the county, which includes Houston.
Figures from the Texas Department of Public Safety indicated that nearly 87,000 homes had major or minor damage and at least 6,800 were destroyed.
Harvey initially came ashore Aug. 25 as a Category 4 hurricane, then went back out to sea and lingered off the coast as a tropical storm for days. The storm brought five straight days of rain totaling close to 52 inches (1.3 meters) in one location, the heaviest tropical downpour ever recorded in the continental U.S.
Far out over the Atlantic, Hurricane Irma was following a course that could bring it near the eastern Caribbean Sea by early next week. The Category 2 storm was moving northwest at nearly 13 mph (20 kph). No coastal watches or warnings were in effect.
Amy reported from Beaumont, Texas. Associated Press writers Johnny Clark in Beaumont, Texas; Brian Melley in Houston; Paul Weber and Will Weissert in Austin; Diana Heidgerd, David Warren, Jamie Stengle, Emily Schmall and Adam Kealoha Causey in Dallas; Michael Kunzelman in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Tammy Webber in Chicago contributed to this report.