TS Harvey: Harvey death toll rises to 25

Robert Spooner, a U.S. Customs and Border patrol officer, center, and other volunteers work to prepare boats to help people in the aftermath of Harvey, Wednesday, Aug.30, 2017 in Houston. Harvey’s floodwaters started dropping across much of the Houston area, but many thousands of homes in and around the nation’s fourth-largest city were still swamped and could stay that way for days or longer. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)
A family of 6 was in a van that was swept off this bridge in Houston. NBC News image

HOUSTON (AP) — The Latest on Tropical Depression Harvey (all times local):

7:25 p.m.

A top county official says Tropical Depression Harvey has taken two lives in Orange, Texas.

Orange County Judge Stephen Carlton would only say the two died Monday night in the city of Orange and that the deaths were storm related. He provided no other details.

The fatalities bring the number of confirmed deaths to 25.

7:15 p.m.

The National Hurricane Center has downgraded Harvey to a tropical depression, but warns of continuing flooding in parts of Southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana.

In its Wednesday evening update, the hurricane center said Harvey is located about 10 miles (16.09 kilometers) southwest of Alexandria, Louisiana, and has maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (56.32 kph).

The center said the threat of heavy rains has ended for the Houston and Galveston areas, but “life-threatening” flooding will continue in and around Houston, Beaumont, Port Arthur and southwest Louisiana.

Harvey is expected to produce an additional 4 to 8 inches of rainfall along the Texas-Louisiana line.___

7 p.m.

The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has donated $1 million to the newly established United Way Harvey Recovery Fund which will go toward relief and recovery efforts for several years.

United Way Worldwide said Wednesday that the national fund will distribute 100 percent of donations to recovery efforts for those affected by Hurricane Harvey. United Way is the world’s largest privately-funded non-profit.

The $1 million from the actor’s foundation represents the inaugural donation to the fund. It is the latest disaster relief support from the Oscar-winner’s namesake foundation.

Many celebrities have pulled out their pocketbooks to help Harvey victims over the past few days including Sandra Bullock, who on Tuesday donated $1 million to the American Red Cross.

6:10 p.m.

In Houston’s flooded Meyerland district, hundreds of families have been emptying their homes of sodden possessions under a baking sun as temperatures crawled up into the 90s. On Wednesday, they piled couches, soggy drywall and carpets ripped out of foul-smelling homes where floodwater had lingered for more than 24 hours. The curbs were lined with the pickup trucks of cleanup contractors and friends.

For Harry Duffey, a 48-year-old computer security specialist, this was flood No. 3 in as many years. He’d moved his family of six back into their one-story ranch a block and a half from Bray’s Bayou eight months ago — after a second remodeling.

They figured that if it flooded they’d just drive to their old house about a mile away on higher ground. But they waited too long.

In no time the water was up to their knees and would reach four feet. They quickly headed to their neighbor’s home. The neighbor rebuilt following an earlier flood on a six-foot foundation, which is what Duffey wants to do now. He’ll apply for a federal flood grant and hope it’s approved because he can’t afford what it would cost to elevate his home.

Just before the flood, Duffey got a notice that his flood insurance premium had nearly doubled to $5,300 a year.

But Duffey has no intention of moving out. First, he can’t afford it. Second, he loves the community.

He says: “I’m not leaving.”

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5:55 p.m.

The CEO of a chemical plant northeast of Houston says it could explode and cause an intense fire.

Arkema president and chief executive Rich Rowe said Wednesday that the floodwaters from Harvey and the lack of power are keeping the company from preventing an explosion. The company says the chemical compounds must be stored at low temperatures. He said there is 6 feet of water at the plant and they have lost critical refrigeration of the materials.

Rowe says: “We have lost critical refrigeration of the materials on site that could now explode and cause a subsequent intense fire.”

Arkema makes organic peroxides in Crosby, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of Houston.

Officials have evacuated the plant and homes within 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) of the plant.

Arkema said it shut down the Crosby site before Harvey made landfall last week, but a crew of 11 had been kept onsite. That group was removed Tuesday.

5:40 p.m.

Wednesday afternoon brought the unusual sight of Louisiana’s governor holding a news conference on Texas soil.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards visited a command post set up by Louisiana government agencies on the side of Interstate 10 in Orange.

Edwards said Louisiana wanted to send help, including Fish and Wildlife agents and the Louisiana National Guard because “it’s the right thing to do.”

School buses and transit buses were sent from Lake Charles to carry evacuees to two shelters the state is running there. Louisiana has also opened a shelter in Alexandria, the largest city in the central part of the state.

Edwards said he’d spoken to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Wednesday about the effort. He said Louisiana would assist for “however long it takes,” saying the state owes its western neighbor a debt for its aid in 2005.

Edwards says, “Twelve years and a day ago, it was Hurricane Katrina.”

Edwards is asking for expansion of a federal emergency disaster declaration as Tropical Storm Harvey moves through the state.

President Donald Trump already has issued such a declaration for five southwestern parishes: Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jefferson Davis and Vermilion. Edwards is seeking the addition of Allen, Acadia, Iberia, Natchitoches, Rapides, Sabine and Vernon.

The declaration authorizes the federal government to cover 75 percent of costs of certain emergency protective measures.

Rescue efforts are continuing for the human and wildlife residents of Katy, Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. (Aug. 30)

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5:20 p.m.

Xyrius Langston stood at the edge of a pond in the Houston suburb of Missouri City holding a fishing rod. Several family members were fishing nearby. It was the third pond they had visited Wednesday, looking for something to bite.

Langston’s family spent three days inside their home in Missouri City as the floods outside reached their driveway. He says it was getting “kind of chaotic” inside so he decided to go fishing.

Standing at the pond, Langston said he hadn’t caught anything in several hours and didn’t expect to catch anything. His favorite spots along Matagorda Bay, on the other side of Houston, are still too difficult to reach as many highways and roads remain flooded.

But Langston said he couldn’t fully enjoy the weather, knowing how much of the region remains flooded in. He says he would be helping rescue people if he had a boat.

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5 p.m.

Water is continuing to rise on Buffalo Bayou in Houston because of releases from one of two reservoirs in west Houston even though the rain from Tropical Storm Harvey has stopped.

Harris County Flood Control District meteorologist Jeff Lindner says it is hard to forecast what happen because several gauges that have been knocked out by the surging waters.

Buffalo Bayou heads west to east across Houston toward downtown.

He said levels in the Addicks and Barker reservoirs, which dump water into the bayou, have been constant Wednesday. Edmond Russo, regional engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers, says water is being released into the bayou to create more storage capacity in case of future rain and keep the dams from overflowing.(backslash)

Lindner says he would not be surprised if the number of homes flooded reaches 100,000 in Harris County.

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4:45 p.m.

Forecasters predict a wobbling and weakening Harvey will be downgraded to a tropical depression late Wednesday or early Thursday and that the killer storm will completely dissipate within three to four days.

But with 40 mph (64 kph) winds as of Wednesday afternoon, Harvey still has lots of rain and potential damage to spread, this time further north.

The National Hurricane Center says that Harvey should drop 4 to 8 inches more of rain from the Louisiana/Texas border northeastward into Tennessee and Kentucky through Friday. Some spots may get as much as a foot of rain. Flooding is a possibility.

The threat of heavy rains for Houston has ended, but catastrophic and potentially deadly flooding will continue around Houston, Beaumont, Port Arthur and southwest Louisiana for the rest of the week.

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4:15 p.m.

Among the places to open their doors to victims of Harvey’s flooding is a bowling alley in the coastal Texas city of Port Arthur.

Max Bowl general manager Jeff Tolliver says firefighters called Tuesday night to ask him to turn off the venue’s alarm system. When he left around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, there were 80 to 100 people sheltering there. By afternoon, there were more than 500, as well as 50 to 100 dogs and cats, a lizard and a monkey.

He says the monkey “was a little surprising,” but that everyone is trying to help. The bowling alley’s cafe is feeding people and others have been dropping off clothes, toiletries, water and other things.

Tolliver and his wife left their flooded home to stay with friends. He says he moved to Texas from Michigan a year ago to get away from the snow, but ended up with rain instead.

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4:05 p.m.

Authorities say a married couple who drove their pickup truck into Harvey’s floodwaters has drowned after the current from a nearby creek swept them away.

Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Maj. Chad Norvell says the couple was on the phone with 911 asking for help when the line went silent. When officers found the truck, it was completely submerged.

Norvell identified the couple as 65-year-old Donald Rogers and 58-year-old Rochelle Rogers.

They lived in a rural area of the county southwest of Houston and they were headed to a relative’s house nearby.

The deaths raise the toll from Harvey to at least 23.

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4 p.m.

A Houston-based telemedicine practice has made its virtual network of 50 doctors available for free to patients affected by Harvey.

Dr. Latisha Rowe said Wednesday that Rowe Docs’ physicians are coordinating with doctors and nurses volunteering at shelters to treat and write prescriptions for Harvey evacuees who fled their homes without medicine or who sustained injuries on the way out.

She said the greatest threat in shelters comes from the contaminated water many people treaded through to safety. She said infections need to be “contained and controlled” so they don’t spread.

Among the network’s doctors is Angela Nunnery, who escaped her flooded home on Houston’s north side by boat and dump truck with her husband, children, 78-year-old mother and two dogs. In addition to a daily shift attending patients online, Nunnery has been volunteering at her church — a makeshift shelter for about 150 evacuees.

She said local pharmacists have been providing patients with a week’s supply of free medicine.

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3:50 p.m.

Tropical Storm Harvey has spawned at least one tornado in Mississippi and created bands of strong winds that damaged homes and toppled some trees.

The National Weather Service says the tornado touched down Wednesday in the southern Mississippi town of Petal, which is near Hattiesburg. Local news outlets showed photos of damaged fences and shingles pulled off a home. No injuries were immediately reported.

The weather service was trying to determine whether damage further south was caused by tornadoes or other strong winds. Meteorologist Alek Krautmann says damage was reported in Pearl River County, in the city of Biloxi and in a subdivision between Ocean Springs and Gautier (GO-shay).

He says Harvey also caused flash flooding before dawn Wednesday in parts of Pascagoula.

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This version of the Latest corrects the last word of the 3:50 p.m. item to Pascagoula.

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3:30 p.m.

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued emergency waivers allowing states from Maryland to Texas to ignore some clean-air requirements for gasoline to ensure an adequate fuel supply despite disruptions caused by Harvey.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says the waivers issued Wednesday will help ensure an adequate supply of fuel throughout the South, Southeast and Mid-Atlantic.

In a letter to governors, Pruitt says the shutdown of nearly a dozen refineries and extreme weather conditions that have prevented fuel-barge movement in the Gulf Coast region justify the waiver. The designated states receive significant gasoline supplies from Gulf-area refineries.

The waivers are effective immediately and continue through Sept. 15 at least.

Affected states are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, as well as Washington, D.C.

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3:10 p.m.

Residents of a retirement home in Orange, Texas are being evacuated by airboat from the flooded facility about 30 miles east of Beaumont.

Agents from the Florida Wildlife Commission and two trucks from the Louisiana Army National Guard are participating in the evacuation of the Golden Years Retirement home.

Water in the parking lot was thigh deep about 3 p.m. Wednesday as guardsmen entered the building and carried residents from the second floor where they had been sheltering in a dry area of the small facility.

Wildlife agents then floated the residents, one-by-one in a Wildlife Commission airboat to the truck. About six residents had been rescued as of midafternoon and it was unclear how many more were sheltering on the second floor.

Texas Health and Human Services records show Golden Years has a licensed capacity of 16. Department spokeswoman Carrie Williams said more than 2,800 residents of about 120 long-term care facilities in areas affected by Harvey had been evacuated by Tuesday. That number was expected to grow.

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3:05 p.m.

The VA North Texas Health Care System in Dallas says 20 of its nurses have headed to Houston to relieve the staff at Houston’s beleaguered Veterans Affairs hospital.

The team will join a 25-member team from the Austin-based Central Texas Veterans Health Care System, and 15 professionals from San Antonio-based South Texas Veterans Health Care System.

According to a statement Wednesday, Houston’s VA hospital has had about 700 staffers staying onsite, sleeping on floors, in the auditorium and in offices to keep the facility open throughout the disaster.

A former U.S. Army ranger swam through flood waters to the hospital to be treated for a burst appendix.

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2:55 p.m.

Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls says one man is being detained and another is hospitalized in critical condition after an apparent road rage shooting in storm-related traffic.

The sheriff said high water across many streets and roads in the county west and southwest of Houston has forced traffic to the few roads opened, leading to congestion.

Nehls told television station KPRC that the incident “should not have happened.”

Nehls says the man in custody after the shooting Wednesday afternoon is telling investigators he does have a license to carry a gun.

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2:45 p.m.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez says the bodies of six members of a Houston family have been recovered from a van that was swept off a Houston bridge and into a storm-ravaged bayou.

Gonzales says relatives returned to the scene Wednesday to look for signs of the van and notified authorities after spotting part of it poking above the water and seeing two bodies in the front seat.

The van was recovered from about 10 feet (3 meters) of muddy water in Green’s Bayou in northeast Houston.

Gonzalez says bodies of two adults were recovered from the front seat and the four children were found in the back. He said it appeared the van was a work truck and the back section was separated by a steel screen partition.

Samuel Saldivar told deputies he was in his brother’s van rescuing his parents and relatives from their flooded home Sunday when the van was tossed by a strong current into the bayou as it crossed a bridge. He escaped through a window but the others were trapped. The victims included his parents and their four great-grandchildren ranging in age from 6 to 16.

2:55 p.m.

Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls says one man is being detained and another is hospitalized in critical condition after an apparent road rage shooting in storm-related traffic.

The sheriff said high water across many streets and roads in the county west and southwest of Houston has forced traffic to the few roads opened, leading to congestion.

Nehls told television station KPRC that the incident “should not have happened.”

Nehls says the man in custody after the shooting Wednesday afternoon is telling investigators he does have a license to carry a gun.

2:45 p.m.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez says the bodies of six members of a Houston family have been recovered from a van that was swept off a Houston bridge and into a storm-ravaged bayou.

Gonzales says relatives returned to the scene Wednesday to look for signs of the van and notified authorities after spotting part of it poking above the water and seeing two bodies in the front seat.

The van was recovered from about 10 feet (3 meters) of muddy water in Green’s Bayou in northeast Houston.

Gonzalez says bodies of two adults were recovered from the front seat and the four children were found in the back. He said it appeared the van was a work truck and the back section was separated by a steel screen partition.

Samuel Saldivar told deputies he was in his brother’s van rescuing his parents and relatives from their flooded home Sunday when the van was tossed by a strong current into the bayou as it crossed a bridge. He escaped through a window but the others were trapped. The victims included his parents and their four great-grandchildren ranging in age from 6 to 16.

 

Authorities in the Houston-area say they are investigating 17 more deaths to see whether they qualify as storm-related.

Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences spokeswoman Tricia Bentley says that the medical examiner is doing autopsies Wednesday and the agency will update its storm-related death toll in the evening.

She says authorities expect to find more bodies in homes and cars as the waters from Harvey begin to recede. The 17 bodies at the morgue do not include the bodies of six relatives found in a van in Houston on Wednesday.

The overall death toll from Harvey is at least 21.

2:25 p.m.

Some motorists have been stranded along Interstate 10 in southeast Texas for nearly 24 hours after they pulled off the freeway but couldn’t re-enter.

More than two dozen vehicles, including a TV news crew’s, remained clustered Wednesday afternoon around a closed convenience store in Orange, Texas.

I-10 is elevated and passable between Orange and Lake Charles, Louisiana, about 35 miles to the east. But many on- and off-ramps are too flooded from Harvey’s rains to allow vehicles to pass.

Erin Gaudet of Beaumont, Texas, is among those stranded at the store. She said she left her house Tuesday to pick up a kitten, then had to spend the night with it in her SUV. She says she’s planning to name it Harvey.

Harvey made landfall again Wednesday near the Texas-Louisiana border.

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2:20

About 10,000 additional National Guard troops from around the U.S. are being deployed to Texas as Harvey continues dumping rain on the region.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that “the worst is not over” for southeastern Texas as widespread flooding continues.

The Republican says the arrival of additional Guard members from around the country will bring the total number of deployments to about 24,000. Abbott earlier this week activated all available members of the Texas National Guard.

Abbott says the Guard has conducted more than 8,500 rescues and more than 1,400 shelter-in-place and welfare checks.

2 p.m.

A woman whose body was found floating in floodwaters near a residential area in southeast Texas is believed to be at least the 21st person to have died in Harvey’s path.

Beaumont police say the woman’s body was discovered Wednesday morning. Authorities have not released her name and are not certain of the circumstances that led to her death.

The woman is the second person to have died in Beaumont this week.

Authorities found a shivering 3-year-old clinging to the body of her drowned mother in a rain-swollen canal Tuesday after the woman tried to carry her child to safety.

Beaumont police on Wednesday identified the mother as 41-year-old Colette Sulcer and said her daughter was being treated for hypothermia but doing well.

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1:45 p.m.

Forecasters are looking at a weather system off the Mexican coast just south of Texas that they say has a one-in-five chance of developing into something tropical in the next five days.

Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center, says if it does develop, it would do so slowly and that it shouldn’t be seen as an imminent threat. He says it wouldn’t necessarily hit Harvey-flooded areas, but there’s a chance.

The system is so far out that forecasters can’t say how much more rain it would bring.

Hurricane Harvey has weakened to a minimal tropical storm, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (64 kph), down from 45 mph (72 kph). Warnings and watches have been dropped for nearly all of Texas, except Sabine Pass.

Rescue efforts are continuing for the human and wildlife residents of Katy, Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. (Aug. 30)
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1:40 p.m.

A 36-year-old inmate scheduled for execution in Texas next week has been granted a temporary reprieve because of Harvey.

Bexar County prosecutors cited “extraordinary circumstances” in asking to move Juan Castillo’s execution to Dec. 14 because some of his legal team is based in Harris County, which has been slammed by the tropical storm. On Wednesday, a state judge agreed.

Gov. Greg Abbott has designated Harris County — which includes Houston — a disaster area along with dozens of other Texas counties after the tropical storm submerged Southeast Texas with torrential rain.

Castillo had been scheduled for lethal injection Sept. 7 in Huntsville for the slaying of 19-year-old Tommy Garcia Jr. during a 2003 robbery in San Antonio.

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1:35 p.m.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards says the threat of flooding in the state’s southwest appears to be diminishing as Harvey pulls away from the region.

He says Louisiana remains committed to assisting officials in Texas, where another overnight round of torrential rains stranded many residents in flooded homes.

Edwards says 330 people were staying at a Lake Charles shelter as of Wednesday afternoon. He expects that number to grow as more people are rescued from floodwaters in eastern Texas, just across the state line.

He says a shelter in Shreveport is ready to accommodate up to 3,400 flood victims from Texas if officials accept the state’s offer to shelter them in northern Louisiana.

Edwards planned to travel to southwest Louisiana on Wednesday afternoon to meet with local officials there.

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1:10 p.m.

Residents along the Texas-Louisiana border are feeling Harvey’s second punch as flash flooding inundates homes and overwhelms first responders trying to pluck people from the water.

Police in Beaumont, Texas, have been recruiting anyone people with boats Wednesday to help check neighborhoods for potential rescues. Police said many were not calling 911, instead calling for help on social media, adding to the chaos.

Twenty-five miles west in Orange, Texas, Anna McKay says she tried calling 911 for help, but nobody answered. Neighbors helped bring her and 12 other people who had sought refuge at her home to dry ground. They gathered at a Baptist church where people were planning to cook food to offer comfort.

Harvey made its second landfall Wednesday as a tropical storm after roaring ashore last week as a hurricane.

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1:05 p.m.

The Texas Department of Public Safety says more than 48,700 homes have been affected by flooding and other damage brought by Harvey since it first came ashore Friday.

A report released Wednesday shows more than 1,000 homes have been destroyed while about another 17,000 have sustained major damage. Approximately 32,000 have damage described by state authorities as minor.

In Harris County, one of the state’s largest and home to Houston, about 43,700 homes have been damaged, with some 11,600 receiving major damage and another 770 destroyed.

Harvey has also damaged nearly 700 businesses in the state.

DPS says its report will be updated each day so the number of damaged structures is expected to rise, particularly with expanding floodwaters in Southeast Texas as Harvey moves into Louisiana.

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1 p.m.

Downtown Houston business district officials say the city’s center has survived Harvey in relatively good shape, though flooding has damaged several buildings, including City Hall and the city’s main performing arts centers.

Officials said Wednesday that flooding damaged the ground floor or basements of more than two dozen buildings or businesses downtown, primarily along Buffalo Bayou, a river-like waterway that meanders west to east through the city.

Among the damaged buildings are the Alley Theatre, Wortham Theater Center, Hobby Center and Jones Hall, home of the Houston Symphony.

Streets to and within downtown are open, although some freeway exit ramps leading into downtown remain impassable. There are some scattered power outages and some traffic signals are out.

There is isolated flooding in the pedestrian tunnels what wind through downtown.

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12:50 p.m.

The federal Department of Education is easing financial aid rules and procedures for those affected by Harvey.

The department is encouraging students whose financial needs have been altered by the storm to contact their school’s financial aid office. The agency says in a statement that colleges and career schools will be allowed to use “professional judgment” to adjust a student’s financial information in the aftermath of Harvey.

A school may even be able to waive certain paperwork requirements if documents were destroyed in the flooding.

The department says borrowers struggling to pay off loans because of Harvey should inform their loan servicers — and they’ve been directed to give borrowers flexibility in managing loan payments.

12:25 p.m.

Officers have located a submerged van in which six members of a Houston family were traveling when it was swept off a Houston bridge and into a storm-ravaged bayou. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez says the van is in about 10 feet of muddy water in Green’s Bayou in northeast Houston. He says the bodies of two adults can be seen in the front seat but that if the four children’s bodies are inside they are obscured because of the water conditions and the angle of the vehicle.

Authorities are trying to decide whether dive team members will retrieve the bodies or if it would be safer to pull the van from the treacherous water first. Samuel Saldivar told deputies he was in his brother’s van rescuing his parents and relatives from their flooded home Sunday when the van was tossed by a strong current into the bayou as it crossed a bridge. He escaped through a window but the others were trapped.

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12:05 p.m.

Authorities say a 3-year-old girl who was found clinging to the body of her drowned mother in a rain-swollen canal in Southeast Texas is doing well and should be released from the hospital soon. Beaumont police on Wednesday identified the girl’s mother as 41-year-old Colette Sulcer. Officer Carol Riley says the toddler, who was suffering from hypothermia when she was rescued Tuesday afternoon, has now been reunited with her family. Riley says the girl is in stable condition and should be released from the hospital on Wednesday. Authorities have said the mother’s vehicle got stuck in a flooded parking lot of an office park just off Interstate 10.

A witness saw the woman take her daughter and try to walk to safety when the swift current of a flooded drainage canal next to the parking lot swept them both away. Officials say the child was holding onto the floating woman when police and fire-rescue team in a boat caught up to them a half-mile downstream.

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11:45 a.m.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it has assigned about 150 employees from around the country to help with disaster relief efforts in Houston. The agency said Wednesday that 139 agents and officers from Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, El Paso, Houston, Washington, New York, San Diego and Tampa are on scene. They are on 25-member teams that answer to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. ICE also has another dozen employees on another team that assists FEMA. It says it is prepared to send more employees if needed. The agency says it is not doing immigration enforcement operations in storm-affected areas.

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11:30 a.m.

President Donald Trump is promising billions to help Texas rebuild from Harvey, but his Republican allies in the House are looking at cutting almost $1 billion from disaster accounts to help finance the president’s border wall. The pending reduction to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief account is part of a spending bill that the House is scheduled to consider next week when Congress returns from its August recess. The $876 million cut, part of the 1,305-page measure’s homeland security section, pays for roughly half the cost of Trump’s down payment on a U.S.-Mexico border wall. It seems sure that GOP leaders will move to reverse the disaster aid cut next week. The optics are politically bad and there’s only $2.3 billion remaining in disaster coffers.

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11:20 a.m.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it’s not conducting immigration enforcement operations in storm-affected areas. The agency’s statement Wednesday came in response to reports a day earlier that impersonators were knocking on doors in Houston and identifying themselves as Homeland Security Investigations agents. ICE says the impersonators are reportedly telling people to evacuate, presumably with the intention of robbing their empty homes. ICE is encouraging people to demand to see badges and credentials. The agency has sent employees to help with search-and-rescue operations. The latest statement is more explicit than one issued earlier this week and perhaps more reassuring to people in the country illegally. On Monday, ICE said it won’t conduct “routine, non-criminal immigration enforcement operations” at evacuation sites and shelters, but that the law will not be suspended.

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11:05 a.m.

Venezuela says it will offer aid to victims of Harvey through the U.S. subsidiary of its state oil company. Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza announced Wednesday that President Nicolas Maduro had ordered Venezuelan officials to develop a plan to help those affected by the storm. Arreaza says that Citgo will provide up to $5 million in heating products to people in Houston and that when someone fills up their tank at a Citgo, station “they will be supporting the recovery.”

Harvey hit Southeast Texas last week as a Category 4 hurricane and has since downgraded to a tropical storm. The gesture follows the imposition of U.S. sanctions on Venezuela’s government that prohibit banks from providing it with new financing. Citgo is also restricted from sending dividends back to Venezuela. The sanctions were imposed because of the country’s creation of a government-loaded constitutional assembly that overrides the opposition-dominated congress.

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10:50 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center says Harvey should soon slow to a tropical depression. Meteorologist Dennis Feltgen said Wednesday that Harvey is “spinning down,” and while it is still a tropical storm with 45 mph  winds, “it should be a depression sometime tonight.” A depression has maximum sustained surface winds of 38 mph or less.

Feltgen says Beaumont, Texas, and Cameron, Louisiana, are “still under the gun” for rain from Harvey, and conditions won’t improve until Wednesday night. The storm is forecast to then move from Louisiana into northwestern Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky. The National Weather Service is predicting 5 to 6 inches of rain in western Tennessee. Flood watches and warnings have been issued for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee.

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10:45 a.m.

Houston City Council is holding its weekly meeting at a shelter for people displaced by Harvey because city hall is flooded. Mayor Sylvester Turner opened the meeting Wednesday at the George R. Brown Convention Center by thanking Houston’s first responders, prompting a standing ovation from council members and observers. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo told the meeting that his officers and other first responders continue to work, despite personal hardships including their own flooded homes. The convention center has become a temporary home for more than 10,000 people since Friday, when Harvey struck the Southeast Texas coast as a Category 4 hurricane. Harvey has since weakened to a tropical storm. City hall is closed because torrential rain flooded its basement and the bottom floor of an annex building, knocking out power.

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10:25 a.m.

Three Carnival Cruise Line ships that are based in Galveston but detoured to New Orleans to wait out Harvey could soon be back in storm-battered Texas. The ships, carrying more than 15,000 passengers and crew, were scheduled to return to Galveston last weekend but changed course when Harvey slammed into Southeast Texas as a Category 4 hurricane. Harvey has since weakened to a tropical storm that has dumped more than 50 inches of rain in parts of Southeast Texas.

Carnival spokeswoman Christine de la Huerta says the Carnival Freedom and the Carnival Valor were departing Wednesday from New Orleans as preparations continue to reopen the Port of Galveston. She says the Carnival Breeze left New Orleans on Tuesday. Miami-based Carnival, its parent company Carnival Corporation and the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation, are donating $2 million to Harvey relief efforts. Mickey Arison is Carnival’s chairman.

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10:15 a.m.

Harris County flood control officials are concerned that a levee could fail in a suburban Houston subdivision in the north of the county, thus adding to the Harvey-related floods. Spokesman Jeff Lindner says if the weakened section of levee along Cypress Creek in Inverness Forest is breached, water is going to rise “very quickly and very fast, and it is going to be deep.” He says the water could reach the rooftops of homes immediately in the levee area. The area is under a mandatory evacuation order due to Harvey, but some residents have remained. Lindner says county authorities are working with several agencies to figure out how to increase pressure on the outside of the levee to compensate for the tremendous pressure inside due to record amounts of water.

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10 a.m.

A sheriff’s official north of Houston says two men died this week in separate drownings, bringing the number of confirmed Harvey-related deaths to 20. Montgomery County sheriff’s Capt. Bryan Carlisle said Wednesday that 33-year-old Joshua Feuerstein of Conroe died when he disregarded a barricade and drove his pickup into standing water Monday. Carlisle says witnesses saw the pickup’s reverse lights illuminate, indicating that Feuerstein was attempting to back out of the water. But the pickup was carried into deeper water. The witnesses swam to help, but Carlisle says he was already dead. Separately, an unidentified man died as he tried to swim across a flooded roadway Monday. Carlisle says people nearby saw the man sink under the fast-moving water. His body was found a day later in the same area.

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9:50 a.m.

Joel Osteen is defending the decision not to open his Houston megachurch as a shelter during the initial flooding from Harvey in the face of withering criticism on social media. The televangelist maintained on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Wednesday that his Lakewood Church was inaccessible due to floodwaters during the early part of the storm. He says the 16,000-seat former basketball arena is prone to flooding and “the last thing we would do is put people in it right at the beginning.” He says the city didn’t ask the church to open as a shelter initially.

Osteen tells NBC’s “Today” show that a “false narrative” on social media was to blame for the backlash. Lakewood Church began taking in Harvey evacuees Tuesday afternoon.

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9:45 a.m.

The elected official in charge of the county that includes Houston says Harvey could have damaged 30,000 to 40,000 homes. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett told TV station KTRK on Wednesday that it’s just an estimate officials are discussing, but that it could be even more. He says some homes have been damaged irreparably and that there will difficult months or even years ahead. Emmett says one priority in trying restore some sense of normalcy is getting kids in the region back to school. He says it won’t be easy because so many people have been displaced.

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9:35 a.m.

An official says it’s too early to say if the thousands of Houston-area homes flooded by Harvey’s torrential rains can be rebuilt. Jeff Lindner of the Harris County Flood Control District says: “When water sits in a house for several weeks, the house begins to degrade.” About 4,000 homes in the areas near the Addicks and Barker reservoirs have been flooded, some with 3 to 6 feet (90 to 180 centimeters) of water. Linder says some of those will remain flooded “for an extended period of time.” He says it’s unclear what condition those properties will be in when those residents return. Lindner says controlled water releases from the two reservoirs continue to flow into Buffalo Bayou, and that some homes in the area could be flooded again. But he expects no additional homes to take on water in the area.

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9:20 a.m.

Officials say nearly all Houston-area waterways inundated by Harvey’s record rainfall have crested, but that water levels continue to rise in two flood-control reservoirs. Jeff Lindner of the Harris County Flood Control District says river levels are going down Wednesday “for the first time in several days.” Army Corps of Engineers regional engineer Edmond Russo says water in the Barker and Addicks reservoirs in west Houston rose slightly overnight and is likely to crest Wednesday, but slightly below forecast levels. The reservoirs have received 32 to 35 inches (81 to 89 centimeters) of rain since Harvey hit last weekend, but Russo says less than an inch of rain is forecast in the coming week. Lindner says “we’re getting very close to the peak of both reservoirs.”

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8:55 a.m.

Motiva Enterprises has closed its refinery in Port Arthur, Texas – the biggest in the nation – because of floodwaters that are inundating the area east of Houston near the Louisiana border. CNN reports that company officials Wednesday opted to temporarily cease operations as Harvey continues to batter coastal regions. The tropical storm has dropped a record amount of rain on Texas. The company had just announced Tuesday that it had cut output to 40 percent. Motiva, which is owned by Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company of Saudi Arabia, said it was dealing with restrictions in the flow of crude oil coming in and products such as gasoline going out through pipelines and ports. Refineries operated by Exxon, Shell and other companies have released pollutants as torrential rains damaged storage tanks and other industrial facilities on the Texas Coast.

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8:45 a.m.

Best Buy says it is “deeply sorry” following accusations of price gouging after a photo posted online showed cases of water for sale at one of the electronic retailer’s Houston-area stores for more than $42. The photo, which was widely shared on Twitter, appeared to have been taken by a Houston resident. Best Buy says the sale was “clearly a mistake on the part of a few employees at a single store.”

The company explained in a statement that it doesn’t have pricing for cases of water in its system and employees priced the water “by multiplying the cost of one bottle by the number of bottles in a case.” The company says it’s “deeply sorry that we gave anyone even the momentary impression that we were trying to take advantage of the situation.”

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8:15 a.m.

An emergency management official east of Houston says the area bordering Louisiana is virtually isolated because primary roads are flooded and water levels are rising. Marcus McLellan, spokesman for the Jefferson County emergency management office in Beaumont, said Wednesday that Interstate 10 is flooded, as are several highways and many secondary roads.

I-10 from Houston to New Orleans is one of the most heavily traveled roads in the country, normally carrying tens of thousands of vehicles each day. McLellan says he’s stationed at the emergency operations center in downtown Beaumont and to leave the area he’d have to travel east on secondary roads toward Louisiana, which is receiving the brunt of Tropical Storm Harvey. Beaumont Mayor Becky Ames on Wednesday told NBC’s Today show that every body of water around the city is overflowing and that the rain continues to fall.

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8 a.m.

New Orleans is bustling again – with parents packing kids off to school under partly cloudy skies – after yet another night of intermittent rain from Tropical Storm Harvey. There were still on-and-off showers occurring. And the city remained under a flash flood watch Wednesday after Harvey moved over the southwest part of Louisiana. But improving conditions led the city’s officials to reopen schools and government buildings that had closed a day earlier. While Harvey’s rains have caused some minor street flooding in recent days, there hasn’t been a repeat of flash flooding that plagued homes and businesses during an unexpected downpour on Aug. 5. Those floods revealed problems with the city’s drainage pump system, which remains under repair.

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7:25 a.m.

Officials in southwestern Louisiana are saying Tropical Storm Harvey appears to have produced little damage overnight. Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso said Wednesday that while he’s still cautious, things are “looking much better,” as Harvey’s main rains continued to stay west of Louisiana, just across the Sabine River in Texas. Lake Charles recorded only about 1 inch of rain overnight. Sheriff’s spokeswoman Kim Myers says deputies rescued a few people on the far western edge of the parish, where rainfall has been heavier. Cameron Parish Administrator Ryan Bourriaque says storm surge appears to have caused little damage along Louisiana’s southwestern coast, although some water remains on roadways in parts of the parish. He says officials are likely to consider lifting a mandatory evacuation order for the southern end of the parish once damage assessments are complete.

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7 a.m.

Strong winds from Tropical Storm Harvey are causing power outages in southwest Louisiana. Entergy Corp. reports about 5,000 customers without power in Calcasieu and Cameron parishes, while Beauregard Electric reports about 2,700 of the cooperative’s customers have seen their electricity cut. The National Weather Service has reported steady winds of about 25 mph in both Lake Charles and on the coast in Cameron, with gusts of up to 35 mph. The storm returned to land about 5 miles west of Cameron, with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph.

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6:30 a.m.

Forecasters say there’s a risk of tornadoes across a large part of the South after Harvey made landfall again Wednesday and trudged northeast toward northern Louisiana. The national Storm Prediction Center said a few tornadoes are expected to develop in northeast Louisiana and across southern and central portions of Mississippi. Forecasters say tornadoes also will be possible across parts of southern and central Alabama, near the eastern edge of Harvey’s rain bands. The storm returned to land about 5 miles west of Cameron, Louisiana, with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph.

As dawn broke Wednesday, heavy rain was pounding the Mobile area in south Alabama, and some parts of western Louisiana. Some of the strongest storms early Wednesday were just west of Louisiana, especially over the Texas cities of Beaumont and Port Arthur.

___

4 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center says Harvey is back on land after coming ashore early Wednesday just west of Cameron, Louisiana.

The tropical storm is expected to weaken and continue to the north. The storm returned to land about 5 miles west of Cameron with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph. Center meteorologist Dennis Feltgen said Tuesday that when Harvey came back to shore, “it’s the end of the beginning.” Harvey is forecast to drop substantial amounts of rain on Louisiana before moving on to Arkansas, Tennessee and parts of Missouri, which could also see flooding. Feltgen said there’s still a lot of residents in multiple states “who are going to feel the impacts of the storm.” Harvey first made landfall Friday in Texas as a Category 4 hurricane.

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2:30 a.m.

Western Louisiana residents are bracing for more wind and water as Tropical Storm Harvey heads their way after dumping record rainfall on Texas. National Weather Service meteorologists say officials expect Harvey will make another landfall near the two states’ border early Wednesday, after hitting Texas and meandering back into the Gulf of Mexico. Forecasters say another 5 to 10 inches of rain could fall in western Louisiana. Meteorologist Roger Erickson warns that some coastal rivers won’t be able to drain rains effectively because Harvey’s winds are pushing in storm surge, aggravating flooding in areas already drenched by more than 20 inches of rain. Cameron Parish’s Office of Emergency Preparedness says a curfew is in effect until the threat has passed.

Read more stories about Harvey here


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