Tropical Storm Harvey caused widespread flooding in Houston, America’s fourth largest city, inundating homes and submerging highways on Sunday as residents hunkered down in anticipation of several more days of “unprecedented” rainfall.
The images on Twitter and networks evoked memories of the unforgettable flooding of Lagos on 8 July, when many parts of Victoria Island and Lekki were water-logged and movement on Ahmadu Bello Way was done with canoe.
Similar images were reported from Houston Sunday.
“The incessant rain covered much of Houston in turbid, gray-green water and turned streets into rivers navigable only by boat. In a rescue effort that recalled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, helicopters landed near flooded freeways, airboats buzzed across submerged neighbourhoods and high-wheel vehicles plowed through water-logged intersections. Some people managed with kayaks or canoes or swam”, reported AP.
The storm known as Harvey came ashore late on Friday as the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in more than 50 years and has killed at least two persons. The death toll is expected to rise as the storm triggers additional tidal surges and tornadoes, with parts of the region expected to see a year’s worth of rainfall in the space of a week.
According to Reuters, the storm has caused chest-deep flooding on some streets in Houston as rivers and channels overflow their banks. More than 25 inches (64 cm) of rain have fallen in some parts of the city, the National Weather Service said, forcing some residents onto their rooftops, while others sought refuge at emergency shelters.
Scenes of rising floodwaters in the sprawling metropolis recalled the devastation that struck New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.
Total precipitation could reach 50 inches (127 cm) in some coastal areas of Texas by the end of the week, or the average rainfall for an entire year.
“What we’re seeing is the most devastating flood event in Houston’s recorded history. We’re seeing levels of rainfall that are unprecedented,” said Steve Bowen, chief meteorologist at reinsurance firm Aon Benfield.The center of Harvey was still 125 miles (200 km) from Houston and was forecast to arc slowly toward the city through Wednesday. Harvey was downgraded to a tropical storm on Saturday because its winds had slowed, but days of torrential rain are forecast. Texas Governor Greg Abbott told a news conference that new tornado warnings were expected later on Sunday.
President Donald Trump plans to go to Texas on Tuesday to survey damage from the storm, a White House spokeswoman said on Sunday.
The storm struck at the heart of the country’s oil and gas industry, forcing operators to close several refineries and evacuate and close offshore platforms. The Gulf is home to about nearly half of the nation’s refining capacity, and the reduced supply could affect gasoline supplies across the U.S. Southeast and other parts of the country.
The swift rise of floodwaters surprised authorities, and Houston residents with boats were asked to help with rescues. Emergency services told the city’s 2.3 million inhabitants to climb onto the roofs of houses, if necessary, to escape the water. People in Houston and other areas of Texas were asked not to leave their homes, even if they flooded, as roads were impassable.
“This event is unprecedented and all impacts are unknown and beyond anything experienced,” the National Weather Service said on Twitter.
Harvey slammed into Texas as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 130 miles per hour (210 kph), making it the strongest storm to hit the state since 1961. Harvey ripped off roofs, destroyed buildings, flooded coastal towns and had cut off power to about 280,000 people in Texas as of Sunday.
“Within less than a half hour, we had 7 to 8 inches of water in our first floor,” said Brian Hoskins, 25, a petroleum engineer who lives in Houston.
Many people were stuck in vehicles on raised highway sections with dips in the roads ahead of them flooded.
The Twitter account of the sheriff of Harris County, which includes most of Houston, was inundated with rescue requests and his team was unable to respond quickly to all of them. The Twitter account for Harris County 911 said people should not call if their lives were not threatened.
“There are a number of stranded people on our streets, calling 911, exhausting needed resources. You can help by staying off the streets,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said on Twitter.