Rainfall Measured in Feet, Not Inches, as Storm Lingers; Rescue Efforts Appear To Be Working Well
Unprecedented. Nearly two feet of rain fell on the Houston area from Hurricane Harvey, now downgraded to a tropical storm. “This will be a devastating disaster, probably the worst disaster the state’s seen,” said William “Brock” Long, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The storm could drop as much as four feet of rain in the region over the week.
Harvey made landfall late Friday as a Category 4 hurricane. About 400 search-and-rescue personnel from FEMA were in southeast Texas Sunday afternoon, and 500 more were expected Sunday night. The Coast Guard had 16 helicopters flying rescue missions. About 800 to 1,200 were rescued. Many of the rescues were being done by local citizens.
Even as the storm had been blamed for several deaths, the full toll of the storm remained unclear. Officials warned that the danger was far from over, saying that the flooding in Texas is unlikely to recede quickly and that the storm will force more than 30,000 people from their homes. Federal officials, meanwhile, widened the emergency zone to Louisiana.
Trump signed a federal disaster declaration. A law passed after Katrina, which killed more than 1,800 people, requires FEMA to dispatch teams and relief supplies before disaster hits. Trump has proposed cutting FEMA by $361 million. “Whether it’s an active shooter, whether it’s a tornado, in many cases citizens find themselves having to render first aid, CPR, or making safety decisions before the true first responders arrive,” Long said.
Underwater. The National Flood Insurance Program is about $24 billion in debt. The program encourages people to build and stay in areas that flood. Trump’s proposed budget would cut $190 million from efforts to update flood maps. The program must be reauthorized by Congress by Sept. 30. Only 1/6 of Houston residents have federal flood insurance. Buffalo Bayou, a major river near downtown Houston, was a foot above flood stage Sunday afternoon and projected to rise as much as 12 feet higher in the next day.
Not Brownie. William “Brock” Long was confirmed by the Senate in June to be the FEMA administrator. He has previously worked for the agency and also was Alabama’s emergency manager. The beleaguered FEMA director under former President George W. Bush, Michael Brown, became a national punch line after premature praise from Bush. Brown said it appears that the U.S. hasn’t learned anything from Katrina.
Trump trip. Trump plans to visit Houston on Tuesday. He has said he doesn’t want to disrupt rescue efforts. Trump also plans to visit Springfield, Mo., in the conservative Ozarks, to plug for Republican tax plans.