Speed Reads

hurricane harvey

FEMA predicts 30,000 Texans will need shelter in Harvey aftermath

At a news conference Monday morning, FEMA Administrator Brock Long said that Tropical Storm Harvey will likely drive at least 30,000 people to temporary shelters as record floodwaters inundate Houston, America's fourth-largest city, and a widening area of Texas. "This disaster's going to be a landmark event," Long said. More than 30 inches of rain have fallen in parts of Houston and Harris County since Saturday, and some areas are expected to get up to 50 inches total over the week, exceeding the average annual rainfall in Houston. Exacerbating the flooding in parts of Houston, the Army Corps of Engineers started releasing water from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs in west Houston, to avert worse flooding if the dams failed.

The Brazos River, southwest of Houston, will rise to 59 feet by Tuesday, a new record, the National Weather Service predicted, prompting a mandatory evacuation in parts of Fort Bend County. "A flood of this magnitude is an 800-year event, and it exceeds the design specification of our levees," said County Judge Robert Hebert. So far, about 50 Texas counties are affected, and Brad Kieserman, the Red Cross official running the response to Harvey, said the floodwaters won't recede for weeks.

"We will be flooded well past Labor Day," Kieserman told NPR. "The area that's going to be flooding is about the size of Lake Michigan. Hurricane Harvey has effectively turned South and Central Texas into a lake the size of Michigan. And I don't think that's an exaggeration. Every leading indicator we're seeing — the number of people in shelters, the number of people calling for rescue, the river levels that are rising and the speed, the rainfall totals — everything is indicating that this is as catastrophic as you could possibly imagine from a Category 4 storm."