As Hurricane Harvey made a second landfall on Wednesday along the Texas/Louisiana coast, the devastation continues to mount with homes and property destroyed, epic flooding in Houston and other areas, and at least 30 people dead. Now downgraded by the National Weather Service to a tropic storm, Hurricane Harvey was the heaviest tropical downpour in U.S. history and has wreaked unimaginable devastation to the region through flooding that will take days to subside and years from which to recover.
National Hurricane Center meteorologist Dennis Feltgen said “it’s the end of the beginning,” pointing to the weakening of the storm but the untold struggle ahead for those affected by the hurricane and the flooding. Some have lost their pets, their homes, their possessions, and even their loved ones. Thousands of people have become homeless and are finding refuge in shelters.
According to the National Weather Service, parts of Texas received nearly 52 inches of rain, and Louisiana has already received more than 18 inches of rain. In Texas, that amounts to 11 trillion gallons of rain so far — a number which could more than double, according to CNN. The American Red Cross said that more than 17,000 people have been forced out of their homes and into shelters. The National Guard deployed 12,000 members, who have so far conducted thousands of rescues by helicopters, boats, and land transportation.
“Harvey will spend much of Wednesday dropping rain on Louisiana before moving on to Arkansas, Tennessee and parts of Missouri, which could also see flooding,” according to a report by the Associated Press.
Jeffrey Lindner, a meteorologist for the Harris County Flood Control District, told the New York Times that 25 to 30 percent of Harris County alone — including Houston — “has been inundated” with more than a trillion gallons of rain over the five-day storm. That amount of rain, Linder said, is enough to “run Niagara Falls for 15 days.” As unimaginable as that seems, the photos coming from Houston show just how devastating the storm has been and give a bleak glimpse of what it will take to recover once the flood waters eventually subside.
Houston spent Tuesday night under a mandatory curfew from midnight until 5 a.m., partly due to opportunistic looters in the city, but mostly to aid in the search and rescue operations taking place to find those who are stranded and trapped. The death toll from the storm has tragically risen to approximately 30 people so far. In addition to the National Guard, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) was immediately called in to help with rescue and recovery efforts.
Maj. Gen. James C. Witham, director of domestic operations for the federal National Guard Bureau, said in a press conference that while the normal response to an emergency is typically designed to run during the first 72-96 hours, the severity of Hurricane Harvey meant “we will be doing lifesaving, life-support efforts for a much longer period,” and that it will be “days, if not weeks, before we’re into the recovery mode.”
Rescue efforts have not only been conducted by first responders and the National Guard, but also by citizens from around the country who came with boats to help rescue people trapped in the flood waters. The Cajan Navy, a volunteer group of boaters from Louisiana who have helped rescue flood victims since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, also mobilized as the flooding began and have been rescuing people in Texas.
Local businesses have also opened their doors to those displaced by the storm and floods. Jim McIngvale, owner of the two large Gallery Furniture stores in Houston, opened the businesses’ doors to people and their pets, providing shelter, food, and beds.
The people of Texas need help today and will continue to need help over the coming days, weeks, and months. While most around the country cannot physically aid in the rescue and recovery efforts, there is a way to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Funding is desperately needed to help organizations in the field continue to provide search and rescue, sheltering, and medical assistance, as well as putting together teams who will help communities rebuild.
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Jacob H. is an award-winning journalist and photojournalist who currently resides is West Michigan with his wife. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys writing, photography, mountain climbing, and camping.