The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it was committed to getting federal resources to Texas as quickly as possible to help with the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Harvey. Speaking on Monday morning FEMA administrator Brock Long said more than 30,000 people were expected to be placed temporarily in shelters and more than 450,000 people likely to seek assistance. A disaster declaration request from the Louisiana governor would also likely be expedited.
"We are not out of the woods yet"- FEMA official on Tropical Storm Harvey https://t.co/DKu4odcq3v— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 28, 2017
Long said that 30 to 50 Texas counties have been affected by Tropical Storm Harvey and that work was underway to restore power for critical infrastructure. Other highlights, courtesy of Bloomberg:
- “This is a life safety, life-sustaining mission”
- In addition to search and rescue, next objective is to relocate survivors to shelters
- Evacuation of Houston could take days
- Says people must listen to Houston-area local officials
- Helping Texas overcome this disaster is going to be bigger than FEMA; “We need citizens to be involved”
- “You could not dream this forecast up”; this has been a “landmark event”
The FEMA administrator said the agency is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to restore power and critical infrastructure to the Southern Texas region. Long also said FEMA is working with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense to bolster security forces in the region.
Another FEMA official at briefing said rivers won’t crest until later this week, with the peak of the torrential rainfall expected to hit around Wednesday or Thursday, while National Weather Service’s Louis Uccellini says flooding will be very slow to recede.
The silver lining: according to the Coast Guard no oil spills have been detected yet.
Also on Monday, Emergency workers began releasing water into the Buffalo Bayou from two flood-control dams in Houston on Monday, a move that could impact thousands of residents, officials said. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it began to release water from the Addicks and Barker dams early Monday morning to prevent uncontrollable flooding of the Houston-metropolitan area as water levels continued to rise rapidly beneath torrential rains being released by Tropical Storm Harvey.
Engineers were forced to start the process earlier than previously announced because water levels in the reservoirs had “increased dramatically in the last few hours,” officials said early Monday, adding that the release would likely cause additional street flooding that could potentially spill into homes. This is the first time engineers have done this for flood control, officials said.
“If we don’t begin releasing now, the volume of uncontrolled water around the dams will be higher and have a greater impact on the surrounding communities,” Col. Lars Zetterstrom, Galveston District commander, said in a statement Monday.
The two dams were constructed by the federal government in the 1940s to reduce flooding along Buffalo Bayou, a narrow body of water that runs through downtown Houston. But development along the edges of the reservoirs has in recent years placed homes at risk upstream of the dams as well. The reservoirs, located on western outskirts of Houston, are about 17 miles away from downtown Houston.
“Both reservoirs are rising more than half a foot per hour,” Zetterstrom said. “Residents adjacent to the reservoirs need to be vigilant because the water in the reservoirs is rising rapidly."