Houston airports closed, Harvey causes 'catastrophic flooding'

- Via (AP) -

1:20 p.m.

Both major airports in Houston have been closed amid severe flooding blamed on Tropical Storm Harvey.

A Houston Airport System statement at midday Sunday said George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Hobby Airport are closed to commercial flights until further notice. 

Officials say roads in and out of both airports are shut down due to flooding.

Hurricane Harvey made landfall late Friday night along the Texas coast about 230 miles southwest of Houston, but it wasn't until late Saturday night that what became Tropical Storm Harvey began bringing torrential rains causing flooding to the Houston area.

The airport system's website says Bush Intercontinental Airport is 23 miles north of downtown Houston and provides service via 29 passenger airlines.

Hobby Airport is 7 miles south of downtown Houston and is served by four passenger airlines.

1 p.m.

Many of the people arriving at the George R. Brown Convention Center, which has been opened as a shelter for people fleeing flooding, are from a public housing complex about a mile north.

Clayton Homes public housing complex is bounded on one side by Interstate 45 and the other by Buffalo Bayou, which has flooded heavily along with all of Houston's major waterways. Police are using boats to evacuate many of the residents and bring them to the convention center in pickup trucks.

D'Ona Spears and Brandon Polson walked with their five children Sunday, bags full of belongings, and their 7-year-old Chihuahua, Missy. They decided to leave once the water in the first story of their home reached their knees.

Spears says that when they made it to the convention center, they sent their children inside to eat, but stayed outside with their Chihuahua because animals were not allowed inside. 

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced earlier Sunday that the convention center would serve as a shelter for people fleeing the flooding.

12:40 p.m.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says that Ben Taub Hospital, the county's public hospital, is being evacuated because flooding problems in the basement are disrupting power service.

Emmett oversees government operations in Harris County where Houston is located. He tells a news conference that evacuated patients are being taken to other area hospitals. It was not immediately known how many patients were being moved.

 

12:30 p.m.

Coast Guard Capt. Kevin Oditt says helicopters have rescued more than 100 people in the Houston area as Tropical Storm Harvey floods numerous neighborhoods. 

In a conference call Sunday with reporters, Oditt says Coast Guard personnel and aircraft from around the country have been dispatched to Texas. He says Texas Air National Guard choppers were also assisting with rescues.

Oditt says people facing rising floodwaters should not go into attics, since rescuers in the air cannot see them. The incident commander urged people who head to their rooftops to wave sheets, towels or anything else to attract the attention of helicopter crews. 

 Coast Guard helicopter crews along the southern portion of the Texas coast are reporting the rescue of almost 40 people, starting from the morning before Hurricane Harvey made landfall. That includes six people rescued from their home Saturday evening in the hard-hit city of Aransas Pass. Among them were three children, their two parents and an elderly woman who was in need of oxygen. 

10:15 a.m.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is defending his decision not to ask residents to evacuate before the heavy rain from Tropical Storm Harvey swamped roads and neighborhoods across the nation’s fourth-largest city.

Turner says at a news conference Sunday that there was no way to pinpoint which neighborhoods would be worst hit. He says every neighborhood has received at least some flooding.

He says, “If you think the situation right now is bad and you give an order to evacuate, you are creating a nightmare.”

Turner asked people to stay in their homes and not drive if at all possible. Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena says authorities have made more than 250 vehicle rescues in the storm.

9:35 a.m.

Harris County sheriff's spokesman Jason Spencer says flooding throughout the county that includes Houston and the region is so widespread that it's "difficult to pinpoint the worst area."

He says authorities are prioritizing hundreds of phones calls for help to ensure life-and-death situations "are at the top of the list."

"It's heartbreaking," he says.

Spencer says the department has high-water vehicles and airboats but "certainly not enough." He says officials are encouraged that rescue teams from the National Guard and state agencies have also been deployed.

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9:25 a.m.

The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency says Hurricane Harvey is a "landmark event" and the federal agency will be in the areas worst affected "for years."

Brock Long says nearly 5,000 people from the federal government are doing search and rescue missions, helping to restore power and supporting what he calls "mass care missions."

Speaking Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," Long said: "We expect a huge mass care mission today, of people flocking to shelters, if they can get to shelters."

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9:15 a.m.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says that boats and helicopters are being deployed to help with swift-water rescues in the Houston area and parts of East Texas also facing flooding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Abbott, appearing on "Fox News Sunday," said: "We're measuring rain these days not in inches but in feet."

He tells ABC's "This Week" that they "could not be more appreciative" of what the federal government and President Trump have done to help as Hurricane Harvey hit Texas.

Abbott said on CNN's "State of the Nation" he's talked to Trump several times and the head of FEMA. He says, "We've made multiple requests and we're getting absolutely everything we need."

Abbott said Harris County, which includes Houston, will soon be included in a federal disaster declaration as a result of Harvey.

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8:25 a.m.

President Donald Trump says he will be traveling to Texas "as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption" in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Trump tweeted that the "focus must be life and safety."

At least two people are dead and more than a dozen injured due to the storm that has battered the region, including the cities of Corpus Christi and Houston.

Trump has been complimenting the response to the storm on his Twitter feed, commending "Great coordination between agencies at all levels of government."

Trump adds that: "Many people are now saying that this is the worst storm/hurricane they have ever seen. Good news is that we have great talent on the ground."

The storm could linger for days in the region and could unload as much as 40 inches of rain on cities including Houston.

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8:15 a.m.

The U.S. Coast Guard says it's received more than 300 requests for urban search and rescue in the Houston area.

The Coast Guard has five helicopters working the emergency calls and is asking for additional helicopters from New Orleans to help.

Officials are advising people in dire straits to get to the roofs of their homes and mark them somehow to be seen from the air. They're suggesting people wave sheets or towels.

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7:45 a.m.

Flooding in some parts of the county that includes the city of Houston is so bad that residents are being urged to seek refuge on their roofs.

Harris County Flood Control District official Jeff Lindner says people inundated by rising waters shouldn't crawl into attics of their homes but should get on top of them.

He says rainfall of more than 4 inches per hour has sent water higher than in recent Houston floods side and are exceeding levels seen in Tropical Storm Allison in June 2001.

Lindner says areas south of the city appear hard-hit and some flooding is reported in downtown Houston and in the Texas Medical Center, which was devastated in Allison.

He calls Harvey "a different animal" from Allison and a "historic situation."

He says he's most amazed that he's getting reports "of water into second-story of apartments and homes." Considering Houston's flat terrain, "it's very rare to get that depth of water."

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6:20 a.m.

Authorities say rescue attempts continue in Houston for those stranded inside flooded homes and submerged vehicles in the wake of Harvey.

The Houston Chronicle reports that hundreds of calls have been fielded for water rescues as of early Sunday, including Houston police officials who evacuated two apartment complexes and rescued more than 50 children.

Meanwhile, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Sunday continued urging residents via Twitter to "shelter in place" and stay off rain-swollen roadways.

Gonzalez actively used Twitter overnight to field assistance for those trapped inside water-soaked homes, attics and vehicles. Those appealing for assistance or being steered to help via Gonzalez's Twitter feed included a person suffering "cardiac-arrest," and a woman who posted: "I have 2 children with me and the water is swallowing us up. Please send help."

Gonzalez at one point appealed for calm and patience, saying officials were "trying to make it to everyone as best we can."

Turner's official Twitter account said "911 services at capacity. If u can shelter in place do so, a few inches in your home is not imminent danger. Only call if in imminent danger."

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4:03 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center says Harvey continues to cause "catastrophic flooding in southeastern Texas."

The hurricane center says in its 4 a.m. Sunday update that the tropical storm has maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (72.42 kph) and remains stationary about 45 miles (72.42 kilometers) northwest of Victoria, Texas.

A storm surge warning and a tropical storm warning also are both in effect for Port O'Connor to Sargent. The hurricane center says a storm surge warning means there is a danger of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the coastline.

The center says Harvey is likely to weaken to a tropical depression later Sunday. Harvey made landfall Friday night as a Category 4 hurricane.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service says a Flash Flood Emergency over west and central Harris County, where Houston is located, as well as for eastern Fort Bend and northern Brazoria counties remains in effect until 6:15 a.m. Sunday, calling it a "Particularly Dangerous Situation."

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2:11 a.m.

Jersey Village, Texas, officials are recommending that people who live along the White Oak Bayou, about 17 miles northwest of Houston, consider whether they need to evacuate their homes.

Jersey Village City Manager Austin Bleess says the city issued a notice to residents about 1:30 a.m. saying the bayou looked like it would be out of its banks before long. He says city officials worried that streets may soon become impassable and wanted those residents to have time to make arrangements.

"Certainly if people can stay in their homes, they can do that," Bleess said. "It's quite possible that the streets could get impassable so we wanted to get that recommendation out."

Bleess says the city is in the process of opening a storm shelter at the Champion Forest Baptist Church, Jersey Village chapter.

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1:20 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center says Harvey continues to weaken at a slow pace as it produces torrential rains across parts of Southeast Texas.

In its early Sunday update, the hurricane center said the tropical storm has maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (72.42 kph) and it is practically stationary about 45 miles (72.42 kilometers) northwest of Victoria, Texas.

The airport in Austin, about 165 miles (265.53 kilometers) west of Houston, reported sustained winds of 38 mph.

The center says Harvey is likely to weaken to a tropical depression later Sunday. Harvey made landfall Friday night as a Category 4 hurricane.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service extended a Flash Flood Emergency over west and central Harris County, where Houston is located, as well as for eastern Fort Bend and northern Brazoria counties until 6:15 a.m. Sunday, calling it a "Particularly Dangerous Situation."

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12:30 a.m.

At least two people have died as Tropical Storm Harvey continues to dump rain on Southeast Texas.

The Harris County medical examiner's office confirmed the death of one person late Saturday in Harris County, but the office did not identify the cause of death.

Gary Norman, a spokesman for the Houston emergency operations center, says the woman appeared to have gotten out of her vehicle in high water. She was found by neighbors about 30 yards away from the vehicle. Norman says she was pronounced dead at the scene by a doctor who was in the area.

Earlier Saturday, Aransas County Judge C.H. "Burt" Mills Jr. said the storm left one person dead in the county.

Harvey came ashore Friday night as a Category 4 hurricane, but has since been downgraded to a tropical storm.

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