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Home | Tag Archives: hurricane harvey

Tag Archives: hurricane harvey

Analysis: A Storm Brings Distinct Changes in the Political Winds

Politics can change as fast as the weather. Hurricane Harvey proved it.

The breadth of the storm’s effect was evident at this past weekend’s Texas Tribune Festival — three days of on- and off-stage conversations about politics, policy and government. The plans for the gathering were in place well before the storm, but Harvey leaked into almost every subject under discussion.

Heck, the storm might have even bridged the abyss between U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas, whose differences kept the two Republicans from endorsing each other in past elections. Cornyn said Sunday that their differences were based more on tactics than on ideology, and said he will, in fact, be supporting the junior senator in next year’s elections. “I think it’s really important, particularly in light of the challenges brought by this huge natural disaster, that we stand together as a Texas delegation and there’s no space between Sen. Cruz and me when it comes to doing work for our state,” Cornyn said.

Nearly everything that would have been on the state’s plate between now and the next scheduled legislative session in 2019 has been marked by the disaster. School finance is dependent on property taxes. More to the point, it’s dependent on taxes on properties that are now worth a lot less than they were four weeks ago. Debates over what should be included and paid for in public and higher education now have to include conversations about how to serve students affected by the storm.

A 2017 legislative debate over insurance — spurred by wind and water claims after previous storms — is now in high relief as insured property owners make their Harvey claims and dicker with insurance adjusters and lawyers.

Prisoners have been moved around. Social services have been stretched. People in government and politics who never think about the weather outside of their own towns are now thinking about it every day at the office, trying to sort through Harvey’s work. Lawmakers who were talking about limiting state spending a few months ago are now scheming about how to tap the state’s $10.3 billion savings account, known popularly as the Rainy Day Fund.

“Harvey has changed everything,” House speaker Joe Straus in a Tribune Festival interview. The issues of the next session, he said, “are going to be overtaken by Mother Nature.”

At another festival event on Saturday, the state’s top finance official — Comptroller Glenn Hegar — talked about Harvey’s effect on state revenue, spending, school finance and the Rainy Day Fund. He said the storm would affect the state’s cash flow, but probably won’t change his official forecast for state revenue over the next two years. He was asked whether the Rainy Day Fund ought to be used  for storm costs. “Absolutely,” he said. “What else would you use it for?”

Several issues that dominated this year’s regular and special sessions of the Legislature look different through the Harvey filter. The biggest — and there was more conversation about this at the Tribune Festival, too — might be the relationship between the state and local governments.

Over the last year, the tension between those two levels of government has escalated. Gov. Greg Abbott has asserted the state’s primacy on a number of fronts, contending uniform state regulations should prevail over what he calls a patchwork of local laws when it comes to issues like texting-while-driving, how fast local taxes can rise, local zoning and permitting rules, and so on.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick put a political spin on that debate in a television interview last month: “Our cities are still controlled by Democrats. And where do we have all our problems in America? Not at the state level run by Republicans, but in our cities that are mostly controlled by Democrat mayors and Democrat city council men and women. That’s where you see liberal policies. That’s where you see high taxes. That’s where you see street crime.”

The response to Harvey has been locally driven. In the storm’s wake, the Austin antagonists have quieted. The storm probably didn’t change anyone’s ideology, but state officials are listening to the people on the ground, largely taking their cues from the locals. An easy example was the governor’s initial call for a Houston evacuation, quickly countermanded by local officials from both parties. The state backed off.

Abbott’s decision to put Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp in front on the recovery effort diffuses that tension, too; Sharp has been all over Texas politics for the last 30 years, but he’s a non-combatant in the state-local fight. That debate can wait for another day.

The recovery is part of the federal budget, too. It already put most members of the Texas delegation in an awkward spot, as they asked colleagues for aid after voting to deny it to areas hit by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Four Texans voted against Harvey aid because the legislation triggered a rise in the federal debt ceiling. None live in areas hit by Harvey, but they earned some ire from colleagues who do; U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, an Austin Republican whose district extends into Harris County, called those votes “unconscionable.” He’s putting down his markers for coming arguments over federal recovery aid sure to be sought by local and state officials.

The physical damage from the storm is relatively easy to spot, assess and catalog. But it’s becoming more evident that the storm also seeped into every corner of government policy and politics. State leaders who were preoccupied with social and cultural standards and ideas about the role of government a month ago are now bound to more tangible things: Roads, prisons, schools and other buildings, hospitals and shelters.

The winds changed.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • The tempestuous president has been trumped by a tempest: Texas politics and government is all about Hurricane Harvey now, and Donald Trump might not be the most important outsider in the state’s 2018 elections after all. [Full story]
  • Hurricane Harvey presents the state of Texas with a set of problems that are bigger than politics, a turn of fortune that could be a political boon to Gov. Greg Abbott. [Full story]
  • The races at the top of the 2018 Republican primary ballot don’t look very competitive. That might be good news for the party’s most conservative down-ballot candidates. [Full story]

Author:  ROSS RAMSEY – The Texas Tribune

Hurd Stands by Texans to Provide Much-Needed Relief

WASHINGTON, DC – On Thursday, U.S. Representative Will Hurd supported emergency disaster relief and recovery needs in response to Hurricane Harvey’s unprecedented flooding.

The bill will allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to continue response and recovery efforts, and be prepared for any additional recovery efforts that may arise. It also includes funding to support the Small Business Administration’s disaster loan program to assist small businesses and homeowners as they begin to rebuild.

In addition, it provides funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Fund to support relief and restoration for housing and infrastructure in the disaster areas.

Rep. Hurd released the following statement regarding the relief and needs:

“To recover from lives lost, thousands displaced, and billions of dollars in damage, Texas needs all hands on deck. Additionally as Irma heads towards Florida, we must be sure that our disaster response agencies have sufficient resources to save lives and minimize damage. We have a long road ahead and I am doing my part to provide much-needed relief to survivors, first responders, and all of those affected during this tremendous time of need.”

In Harvey Response, Gov. Greg Abbott Finds a Hospitable Spotlight

Just three weeks ago, Gov. Greg Abbott was making the rounds in the media, faulting state House Republican leaders for the failure of half his agenda in a summer special session and planting the seeds for a bruising 2018 primary season.

Then Harvey hit.

The hurricane, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm on Aug. 25 near Corpus Christi, has cast a decisively new kind of spotlight on Abbott after a summer of political battles under the pink dome — that of Texas’ crisis-commander-in-chief. By all appearances, Abbott is embracing the role, using the trappings of his office to project the image of a governor in charge during a potentially unprecedented crisis — and winning positive reviews in the process.

That was on full display Thursday, when Abbott held a news conference at the state Capitol to unveil a the newly formed Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas. Abbott named John Sharp, the chancellor of Texas A&M University, to lead the commission, elevating a longtime moderate Democrat to effectively serve as Texas’ Harvey recovery czar.

Speaking with reporters after the news conference, Sharp said he was “minding my own business” when Abbott called him roughly a week ago to discuss the new job.

Did Sharp have any hesitation in accepting the job, a likely years-long commitment?

“I don’t think he asked,” Sharp said of Abbott.

That no-nonsense assertiveness is among the reasons Abbott has won plaudits for his leading role in the Harvey response. There was an early dustup with Houston officials over whether the city should evacuate, but since then, Abbott’s received generally high marks for being measured, engaged and visible. 

“Abbott has performed flawlessly in the wake of what appears to be the worst natural disaster in U.S. history,” said Ray Sullivan, a former chief of staff to ex-Gov. Rick Perry. “It really is not as easy as it looks. He struck the exact right balance of being very visible, very much in command, and someone offering comfort and support for the victims of the storm.” 

Officials who have worked with Abbott in Harvey’s aftermath have been particularly struck by how hands-on the governor has been. State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, a Brenham Republican whose district was directly in Harvey’s path when it made landfall, recalled in an interview how she recently texted Abbott’s chief of staff and immediately got a call back — from the governor himself.

“He’s 24/7,” said Nim Kidd, Texas’ top emergency management official. “I like to think I’m a 24/7 guy. He’s up before I am, and I think he’s awake while I’m trying to get rest. He’s always present.”

Abbott’s been particularly visible at the State Operations Center, where he’s made near-daily appearances for briefings and news conferences since the storm struck. He even created a video offering words of encouragement to members of the night shift, which goes from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., Kidd said.

Abbott has also basked in praise from President Donald Trump, who has visited Texas twice since the storm struck — each time with Abbott by his side throughout the trip. Trump has taken to calling Abbott by his first name, and during the president’s trip to Houston on Saturday, he delivered a seemingly endless stream of compliments to Abbott.

“The cameras are blazing, I have to say it,” the optics-obsessed Trump said, addressing a crowd of volunteers at a Pearland church. “You have a great, great governor.”

Abbott’s time in the post-Harvey spotlight has not been without a few less flattering moments, though. His suggestion before the storm that Houstonians should consider evacuating riled some leaders there who had been urging residents to stay put. Abbott’s message “was a mistake, there’s no way around it,” Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, a fellow Republican, said at the time.

Then there were the explosions at a Crosby chemical plant following the storm, which have renewed a debate over safety and transparency in Texas’ petrochemical industry. In 2014, when Abbott was attorney general, he ruled that the state no longer has to give citizens data about dangerous chemical locations — the same kind of information the company that operates the Crosby plant declined to provide after the explosions began.

Some Democrats have pounced on Abbott in the wake of the explosions for the 2014 ruling, which was a big issue in the governor’s race that year. “Harvey Cleanup Hampered by Abbott’s Chemical Negligence,” read one news release issued Thursday by the Lone Star Project, a Democratic political research group.

Democrats have yet to find a serious candidate to run next year against Abbott, who is sitting on a massive $41 million war chest. Before Harvey, Abbott had made clear he planned to devote some of his time in the 2018 election cycle to helping legislative incumbents who were supportive of his special session agenda, potentially getting involved in primaries.

In Abbott’s world, the Harvey response has been an all-hands-on-deck effort, putting on hold what was expected to be a transition to campaign mode after the special session that ended in mid-August. Staffers who were thought to be stepping away from the office are sticking around for the time being to see through the storm response.

Abbott’s has shown little tolerance for some of the more politically charged issues that have arisen in Harvey’s wake. Asked at a news conference last week if he was worried politics would get in the way of Congress passing Harvey aid, Abbott offered a two-word response: “I don’t.” And on Thursday, Abbott swatted away a question from a reporter asking him to square his vocal aversion to some local regulations — a major theme of the special session — with the storm response in Houston.

“I think it’s pretty clear that tree ordinances don’t have anything to do with what happened” with Harvey, Abbott said at the news conference with Sharp.

To many, the launch of Sharp’s commission Thursday morning marked the beginning of a second, much longer stage of the Harvey recovery. In a way, the new chapter provides bigger challenges for a governor, Sullivan and others agreed, pointing to undertaking of a longer-term aid package in Congress, the short- and middle-term impact on the Texas economy and the growing impatience of displaced citizens. There are also thorny questions of whether the state’s largest city should restrict or temper development in some areas to reduce future flooding events.

Also on the horizon is increased debate over what kind of financial assistance the state can provide. The Legislature is not scheduled to meet again until 2019. Abbott has said the storm will not require his calling a special session but some lawmakers have raised the possibility of doing so so in order to tap some of the roughly $10 billion in the state’s savings account, officially called the Texas Economic Stabilization Fund but better known as the Rainy Day Fund.

On Tuesday, Abbott expressed openness to dipping into the Rainy Day Fund — only once the state completes an assessment of the storm’s impact and what other funding sources can be used to address it.

“As it concerns needing to tap into the ESF, the right approach is for us to take in all the information that we need to gather, to find out what the needs are, what needs are not yet satisfied, to what extent does the governor’s disaster fund provide resources to cover that and if we’re short, then consider the necessity to tap into the ESF,” Abbott told reporters while visiting Wharton to meet with local official about the Harvey response. “But you don’t dip into it without knowing exactly what your needs are, so we need to first determine what your needs are.”

Officials like Kolhorst say they have faith in Abbott to make the right decision when the time comes.

“For now I think it’s a wise decision to realize what the impact is, what the federal government is going to and not going to pay for,” Kolkhorst said. As for any final decisions, she added, “I’m going to leave that up to him.”

Disclosure: Texas A&M University has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors is available here.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has chosen John Sharp, chancellor of Texas A&M University and a former longtime Democratic elected official, to lead the rebuilding effort in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. [Full story]
  • In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, an exploding chemical plant has highlighted how little the public knows about potential dangers from the oil and chemical industries. Critics say one reason for the darkness: tons of campaign money. [Full story]
  • The 38 Texans in Congress aim to take advantage of their delegation’s size and seniority to usher large amounts of federal aid and resources to the state following Hurricane Harvey. The Senate approved $15.25 billion in short-term relief Thursday. [Full story]

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Video+Comments: Cornyn – Senate Passes $15 Billion in New Disaster Aid

WASHINGTON – Thursday the U.S. Senate passed legislation 80-17 to keep the government funded and raise the debt ceiling through December, including $15.25 billion in new disaster relief funding available for Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) urged his colleagues to keep Texans recovering from Hurricane Harvey in mind ahead of the vote. Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s remarks are below, and video of his remarks can be found here.

“It’s hard to believe, but not even two weeks have passed since the storm first tore through our towns great and small. And of course, communities are still reeling from the devastation.”  

“The fourth-largest city in the country is known for energy, and that’s what we here in Washington must devote to ensuring that aid is expedited.”

“These [funds] will be available to Texas families that, like the woman I met in Meyerland, are removing the rugs, the furniture, and rebuilding the very walls of their home.”

“I hope my colleagues will keep in mind the scope of this catastrophe and deliver this funding to those whom Harvey has caused much more than just dollars.”

Joint Hurricane Harvey Military Operations Enter New Phase of Relief Efforts

AUSTIN –The Texas Military Department, alongside National Guard personnel from across the country and our active duty military partners, is transitioning to the critical life support and logistics support phase of Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

“As search and rescue operations slow, the Texas Military Department will continue to assist local, state and federal agencies in this new phase of operations,” said Texas Adjutant General Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols. “Along with our National Guard and active duty partners, we’re bringing in new resources to bear for the critical life support and logistics support mission.”

The Texas National Guard has set up approximately 30 points of distribution (PODs) for food, water and other vital commodities between Beaumont and Corpus Christi, with many more opening in the days ahead. Additionally, 35 active Texas State Guard Shelter Teams are sheltering more than 8,000 evacuees at 13 shelters across the state and the Texas National Guard has three evacuation hubs. Our National Guard partners from other states are also playing a central role in this new mission.

“The array of military forces on the ground demonstrates the joint nature of this relief effort,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, the Dual Status Commander of the Hurricane Harvey relief effort. “We are working closely with our DoD partners to ensure we have the National Guard and active duty resources we need in every phase of the operation.”

Some of the active duty resources on the ground in direct support of the mission include approximately 200 Army high water vehicles who are supporting the Red Cross and moving personnel and patients. The Air Force is providing strategic airlift, fixed-wing airlift, medical evacuation and helicopters to transport people and supplies.

The Defense Logistics Agency has provided fuel, sandbags, generators and incident support bases and is delivering meals to dislocated citizens.

Finally, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has deployed experts to the state and FEMA response nodes to help with power restoration, as well as the monitoring for flood controls of dams and levees.

At this time, approximately 16,000 military personnel are currently on the ground. Search and rescue operations continue to be ongoing with the Texas National Guard performing more than 16,000 rescues and evacuating more than 7,400 people and 1,000 animals, since Hurricane Harvey made landfall last month. Our partners have performed thousands of additional evacuations and rescue operations.

City Not Receiving Hurricane Harvey Evacuees

The City-County’s Emergency Management Coordinator was contacted by Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) and advised El Paso will not be receiving any evacuees at this time.

“I am impressed and thankful to the El Paso community for their generosity and concern for their fellow Texans,” said Mayor Dee Margo. “I know we will continue to assist in any way we can.”

The City of El Paso and its partners continue to assist with emergency relief efforts from the devastating flooding in Southeast Texas and were prepared to receive evacuees since first being notified of the potential need for assistance.

“I am proud and grateful of City staff and all of the area partners for how prepared they all were during this time,” stated City Manager Tommy Gonzalez. “El Paso really demonstrated their “can do” attitude by stepping up in a big way with fundraising efforts and their readiness to help.”

TDEM stated they were appreciative of El Paso stepping up and being ready to help, but the situation seems to be calming down and there is plenty of room in the shelters that have been setup.

The City will continue to track all costs related to personnel who have been deployed in order to receive reimbursement from the State.

Goodwill, Western Tech Partner to Support Hurricane Harvey Victims

As the City of Houston and Southeastern Texas continues to battle one of the worst storms to hit the state in decades, Goodwill Industries of El Paso, in conjunction with Western Technical College, is transporting donations of clothes, shoes, and linens to aid in relief efforts.

“We are very appreciative of the El Paso and Las Cruces communities that donate to us regularly to help us fulfill our mission to provide training, skills and services for people with barriers to employment,” says Melinda Jordan, CEO of Goodwill, El Paso,  “However, there comes a time when these donations need to be used to help those that have lost everything as a result of this historic storm.”

“We are also thankful to Western Technical College for transporting the donations to Houston showing how caring and compassionate our cities are — cities we are proud to be a part of,” Jordan added.

Goodwill Industries of El Paso, Inc. serves Far West Texas and Southern New Mexico, and Western Technical College – Founded in 1970 – has been a family-owned and operated nationally accredited institution of higher education for four generations in El Paso.

WHO:                   Goodwill Industries of El Paso and Western Technical College

WHAT:                 Hurricane Harvey Relief Donation

WHEN:                 Friday September 1st, 2017

City of El Paso Continues to Assist with Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts

The City of El Paso and its partners continue to assist with emergency relief efforts from the devastating flooding in Southeast Texas.

At this point, El Paso is preparing to house evacuees but their arrival has not yet been confirmed. Emergency Management has not yet confirmed the temporary shelter locations as they are pending information related to the needs of evacuees.

In response to the disaster the El Paso community has:

  • Deployed:
    • Six El Paso Fire Department divers, a rescue boat and two marked ton trucks to various Southeast Texas communities
    • Two El Paso Fire Department paramedics to the Houston area
    • Thirty-six officers, four sergeants, one lieutenant, 11 unmarked patrol vehicles, 2 marked police trucks, one unmarked ¾ ton truck, and one 25-foot utility trailer to assist with security at temporary shelters in Houston area
    • Six El Paso County Sheriff’s deputies with vehicles and a boat to Houston area
    • The BorderRAC ambulance strike team and mobile hospital to Southeast Texas
    • Three El Paso Constables with patrol vehicles to Southeast Texas
    • Five Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Team members and a trailer to Galveston
    • Fifty-four U.S. Border Patrol Agents to Corpus Christi
    • Ten Federal Bureau of Investigation agents to Southeast Texas
    • Twenty-five special agents from El Paso’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Rapid Response Team to Houston with 10 heavy-duty trucks and trailers where they will coordinate with other response teams

 

  • Assisted through the 2-1-1 Texas Information and Referral Network (TIRN) and the City’s Health Department with receiving 2-1-1 calls from throughout the state related to emergency relief

Additionally, Texas Gas Service and El Paso Electric are on standby to deploy to assist with emergency relief efforts.

The El Paso community has shown its support for those affected by Hurricane Harvey by expressing their eagerness to donate to the relief efforts. We thank the community for their support and donations, but at this time monetary donations are being encouraged by many of the relief organizations.

American Red Cross and the Salvation Army are encouraging monetary donations because supply vehicles are having difficulty reaching the affected area. Monetary donations allow relief organizations to directly address current and future needs.

The Salvation Army’s focus is feeding evacuees and first responders. The American Red Cross is concentrating on necessary supplies and needs for the shelters.

It is also important to note that donations cannot be received at any City of El Paso facility.

Emergency officials are also asking those interested in volunteering to not self-deploy but volunteer locally with relief agencies.

HOW TO DONATE:

American Red Cross

Monetary – https://www.redcross.org/donate/hurricane-harvey?campname=Harvey&campmedium=aspot

Salvation Army

Monetary – https://give.salvationarmyusa.org/site/Donation2?df_id=27651&mfc_pref=T&27651.donation=form1

El Pasoans Fighting Hunger

Monetary – http://elpasoansfightinghunger.org     |    Items – 9541 Plaza Circle, El Paso, TX 79927

 

HOW TO DONATE TO ANIMAL-RELATED RELIEF EFFORTS:  

Best Friends Animal Society    Monetary – https://bestfriends.org/hurricaneharvey

Human Society of the United States:  Monetary – https://goo.gl/nbMByY

Ysleta ISD to Aid Flood Victims with ‘Jeans for Texans’ Fundraiser

In a show of support and solidarity with the victims of widespread flooding in the southeast Texas area, the Ysleta Independent School District will hold a district-wide “Jeans for Texans” fundraiser on Thursday, August 31, to help raise funds for those suffering the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.

To participate in “Jeans for Texans,” YISD employees and students were asked to donate $5 per employee or $1 per student – in exchange, they will be allowed to wear jeans to work and school on Thursday.

All proceeds will be donated to the American Red Cross El Paso and Southern New Mexico chapter, which is helping provide shelter and supplies to Gulf Coast residents affected by Hurricane Harvey.

By and large, the YISD “jeans” fundraiser is one of the district’s most successful campaigns to raise money – it routinely brings in donations of more than $20,000 in a matter of days, and has been used in the past to support those who have suffered devastating, tragic, or catastrophic losses.

“YISD employees are second to none when it comes to helping those in need,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Xavier De La Torre. “It gives me great pride to see the kind of care, compassion, and generosity that is consistently demonstrated by our employees, students, and families.

“By working collectively with our stakeholders, as well as relief agencies such as the Red Cross, there is much we can accomplish to help our fellow Texans in need,” De La Torre said.

The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the public’s generosity to help perform its mission to help shelter, feed, and provide emotional support to disaster victims. It also supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood, teaches skills that save lives, provides international humanitarian aid, and supports military members and their families.

The Red Cross has a massive relief response underway in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Those who would like to help people affected by Hurricane Harvey should visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS, or text the word HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Texas Tribune Coverage: Houston’s Recovery

Texas Tribune: It’s been one week since Harvey hit Texas. Here’s what you need to know.

It’s been one week since Hurricane Harvey — which was downgraded to a tropical depression on Wednesday — hit the Texas coast. While the rainfall may be in decline, the floodwaters are only beginning to recede, and it’ll be weeks, if not months, before Houston resembles itself.

Evacuees flee flooding in a boat with a nearly submerged Houston sign behind them, on Aug, 29, 2017.
Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune

In a statement Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced he had sent a letter to county judges outlining the types of assistance counties can receive, and he also provided information about aid eligibility for areas affected by Harvey. “I want all Texans to know that Texas is committed to helping them through the recovery process, and we will be with them every step of the way,” Abbott wrote.

Here’s what you need to know:

A morning explosion

Thursday morning started with an explosion at a flooded-out chemical plant in Crosby, Texas. Arkema Inc. said the Harris County Emergency Operations Center notified the company at 2 a.m. of two explosions and black smoke coming from its Crosby plant, which was inundated by floodwater.

Thursday morning started with a reported explosion at a flooded-out chemical plant in Crosby, Texas. Arkema Inc. said the Harris County Emergency Operations Center notified the company at 2 a.m. of two explosions and black smoke coming from its Crosby plant.

Following the explosion, a Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management spokesman tweeted that there was a mandatory evacuation in place for those living 1.5 miles around the facility.

On Thursday morning, the Harris County sheriff described the incident as a chemical reaction, not an explosion. The Harris County Fire Marshal’s office and the Harris County Sheriff’s Department downplayed environmental and public health risks from the plant.

The fires might not fizzle out soon, however. Officials say they expect more fires as a result of the flooding chemical plant. Richard Rennard, an Arkema spokesman, added that people who were exposed to smoke or fumes from the plant should seek medical attention, according to reports from USA Today. Ten to 15 people have already gone to the hospital as a precaution, though many were released.

Areas east of Houston are currently getting hit the hardest

  • On Wednesday evening, Jasper County Judge Mark Allen issued a mandatory evacuation for residents living along the Neches River, which is expected to crest more than six feet above its previous record. According to the Beaumont Enterprise, the local reservoir is expected to release 44,100 cubic feet of water per second. This could lead to extreme floods, which could be life-threatening when coupled with the heavy rainfall Harvey has already brought to the region.
  • The city of Beaumont  — which is home to roughly 120,000 people — has lost its water supply, according to a news release issued by the city Thursday morning. Officials say they have to wait until the floodwaters recede before assessing the extent of the damage to their water pump; they have no idea how long that will take.

  • On Wednesday evening, the Corps of Engineers issued a warning to Jefferson County — home to about 660,000 residents — regarding massive flooding. According to officials, water from the Neches River was spilling into Steinhagen Lake faster than they could release it.

  • Tyler County gave its constituents north of Beaumont a strong message: Evacuate immediately or die. In a Facebook post late Wednesday, the Tyler County Emergency Management department wrote that the floodgates were opened to 100 feet and that river levels would continue to rise. The post warned that residents living in Mt. Neches, Barlow Lake Estates, Works Bluff and Sheffield Ferry must evacuate “immediately” and that those who didn’t “cannot expect to be rescued and should write their social security numbers in permanent marker on their arm so their bodies can be identified.”

  • Overnight, Fort Bend County Emergency Management changed a voluntary evacuation to a mandatory order for several subdivisions in the Barker reservoir area in Houston, according to KHOU.

Note: The counties highlighted are eligible for individual assistance and public assistance under the disaster declaration. Additional counties included in the declaration are eligible for just public assistance because they are sheltering evacuees. Those counties have been omitted.
Source: Governor’s Office
Credit: Chris Essig

U.S. leaders make their rounds in Texas

  • Federal officials are still looking for ways to help the storm-ravaged coast. President Donald Trump visited Texas Tuesday and, according to multiple reports, will likely return to the state this weekend to visit the harder-hit Houston area.
  • White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday evening that the Trumps are “looking into some different options” for making personal donations for Harvey relief. Sanders also noted that Trump has talked “extensively” with Abbott as well as mayors from several cities that were hit the hardest.

  • Speaking of Trump: The President spoke by phone with Abbott Wednesday evening while aboard Air Force One with Chief of Staff John Kelly.

  • Vice President Mike Pence is headed to Corpus Christi International Airport Thursday  morning to assess Harvey’s destruction and meet with families who were impacted by the floods. Pence will be joined by Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and Secretary of Energy and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the White House announced. Pence’s arrival comes just a few days after Trump visited Austin and Corpus Christi.

The storm is backing off, but the damage isn’t done

  • Overnight, six more fatalities were confirmed, putting Harvey’s death toll at 31 so far. According to the Associated Press, the most recent deaths include a man who stepped on a live electrical wire in floodwater and an evacuee who was found unresponsive on a charter bus. Most other deaths were a result of drowning.
  • Despite these tragedies, Houston is trying to move forward. Bus service and the city’s light rail system resumed on a limited basis starting Thursday and the city’s trash collection began Wednesday evening.

  • Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner tweeted Thursday morning that Houston Police made water rescues of 18 people overnight. “Crisis ebbing but far from over,” Turner tweeted. “Our first responders [are] saving lives every hour.”

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • A flooded-out chemical plant in Crosby that was expected to explode has reportedly done just that, its owner said early Thursday. [Full story]
  • Hurricane Harvey did more than transform cityscape by turning highways into rivers; it also upended life for farmers and ranchers across dozens of counties that Gov. Greg Abbott declared disaster zones. [Full story]
  • After Hurricane Harvey hit, Texans from near and far heeded calls from law enforcement to rescue trapped neighbors, rallying kayaks, canoes and fishing boats. In Houston, Chris Ginter took it to a whole new level — with a monster truck. [Full story]

Author: ALEX SAMUELS – The Texas Tribune

***previous story 8/30  1130p

Texas Tribune: Here’s how much rain Harvey has dropped on Texas

Harvey has dropped more than 50 inches of rain on parts of Southeast Texas in less than a week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Here’s what you need to know about filing Harvey-related insurance claims [Full story]
  • Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Texas Coast, and has left Houston grappling with unprecedented flooding. Do you need help? Or do you want to help those in need? Check out these resources. [Full story]

Authors: ANNIE DANIEL AND RYAN MURPHY

***previous story 8/30 105p

Texas Tribune: In Harvey-Swamped Houston, Rescues by Canoe, Kayak — Even Monster Truck

HOUSTON — Chris Ginter propelled the monster truck cautiously but purposefully through feet-high green-brown floodwaters, past submerged mansions.

Chris Ginter, right, helps a family into his truck in Houston on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017. Ginter is helping evacuate people from their flooded neighborhood near Buffalo Bayou.
Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune

Families were surely still inside, huddled on the second story prepared to wait it out until the water receded. But as the water continued to rise and word of a mandatory evacuation began to spread, many had decided it was time to leave.

And when they did, they turned not to law enforcement or government emergency response teams but to neighbors and citizen volunteers, people who had rallied kayaks, canoes and fishing boats and formed informal bureaucracies to organize rescue missions.

Ginter’s monster truck — his brother’s, actually — was perhaps the most glorious rescue vessel of all, rivaled only by an imposing air boat that sent up an impressive spray from its fan as it accelerated back into the neighborhood to pick up more people. Other rescuers — mostly male — wolf-whistled at Ginter’s truck as it glided through the water, its 55-inch tires creating a wake that angered other rescuers in smaller watercraft. “You’re making me look bad, man!” enthused another rescuer with a slightly smaller truck.

After days of punishing rain from Tropical Storm Harvey, the sprawling metropolis was so waterlogged — it’s being called the worst flood in U.S. history — that stretched-thin law enforcement had urged residents to use whatever means they had to rescue their neighbors. (A Harris County Flood Control District official said that as much as 30 percent of the county, home to the 600-square-mile city, was flooded by Tuesday afternoon.)

Good samaritans like Ginter, a 34-year-old commercial real estate developer and Houston native, gladly heeded the call, and by Tuesday — his third day on the job — he was clearly high on the good karma that come with repeatedly rescuing people. Strangers had gotten his cellphone number through word of mouth and called him seeking help. One caller was familiar.

Chris Ginter, center, tries to convince a resident of a flooded neighborhood near Buffalo Bayou in Houston to evacuate in his monster truck on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017.
Chris Ginter, center, tries to convince a resident of a flooded neighborhood near Buffalo Bayou in Houston to evacuate in his monster truck on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017.  Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune

“Hey, mom,” said Ginter, covered in a subtle sheen of sweat, quickly informing her he had a news reporter in his truck.

“I have to make mom proud,” he said, only half joking, after hanging up.

There weren’t that many people left in the neighborhood who wanted to leave, Ginter said. A man standing with his family on a narrow strip of dry land between the flooded street and his garage door turned away Ginter’s help, saying he was waiting for his father.

Ginter had two front seat companions — his childhood friend Robert Maguire, 34, a bar manager, and his girlfriend Gina Dyrda, 28, a bartender at a steakhouse, who Maguire had brought home from Chicago three months ago.

Ginter had borrowed his brother’s truck over the weekend to rescue the couple from their swamped bayou-side townhome and they had collectively decided to keep picking people up. As of Tuesday evening, they had rescued at least 50 people, said Dyrda, a petite and enthusiastic brunette with a cupcake tattoo behind her right ear. There were lots of dogs and babies, including twin girls screaming their heads off, she said. The crew had been out until 10 p.m. the night before.

“Last night was sad — very sad — because we couldn’t fit everyone,” Maguire said. They had been worried about getting stuck in one of the prolific manholes whose covers had floated away, but didn’t think they had encountered one yet. They weren’t sure if even the monster tires could traverse them.

A load of evacuees in the back of Chris Ginter monster truck where he is volunteering to evacuate people from their flooded neighborhood near Buffalo Bayou on Tuesday, Aug 29, 2017.
A load of evacuees in the back of Chris Ginter’s monster truck on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017. Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune

They dropped their evacuees on the dry end of a boulevard abutting the neighborhood, wedged between a strip mall with a dentist’s office and a Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen, where citizen volunteers helped evacuees down from the truck with a step ladder. Others waded out into knee-deep water to pull in smaller boats.

Dozens of onlookers had gathered there by Tuesday evening, a crowd representative of the most racially and ethnically diverse major city in the U.S. — black, white, Latino, east and southeast Asian. A young South American couple casually sipped yerba mate from a stainless steel straw and mug.

Many of them lived nearby and were wondering if the rising waters would eventually reach their own homes. Even though the rain had let up and nagging gray clouds had moved aside, revealing bright blue skies, water levels were continuing to rise with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers releasing water from upstream reservoirs to help minimize flooding of homes around the detention ponds. They had upped the release rate, and were considering releasing even more into an already swollen Buffalo Bayou, which many of the homes in the neighborhood backed up to.

Evacuees flee flooding in a boat with a nearly submerged Houston sign behind them, on Aug, 29, 2017.
Evacuees flee flooding in a boat with a nearly submerged Houston sign behind them, on Aug, 29, 2017.  Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune

The onlookers gawked somberly as boats arrived filled with blank-faced senior citizens — hovered over by worried adult children — and families with teary-eyed mothers. They carried rolling suitcases, trash bags stuffed with clothes and pet carriers with anxious dogs and cats.

Some were calm, or maybe just in shock. Others even looked annoyed. Many had never flooded before.

And many hadn’t wanted to leave — even a woman caring for her father who needed dialysis the next day.

Emily, who teaches math at a private Christian school and refused to give her last name, said she had been “prepared to live on beans, indefinitely,” even as water steadily flowed into her garage. The power had been out and she was all alone — her husband was on a business trip and her two kids were away at college. Then a neighbor arrived and told her there was a mandatory evacuation for the area and citizen rescuers were starting to leave the neighborhood, having scooped up almost everyone who wanted to leave.

“Every house was like its own island,” Emily said.

While poorer areas were surely harder hit, the scene that played out near the posh neighborhood was evidence that Harvey did not discriminate. Still, Dyrdra said many evacuees told her they had no place to go. Surely some would hitch a ride to a hotel. Others with fewer means would head to one of several shelters that had popped up around the city. They had at least made it this far.

In retrospect, it would be a good thing. By the next day, floodwaters had risen in the neighborhood by several more feet.

Neena Satija contributed to this report.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Here’s what local leaders could have done to protect the Houston region from Harvey-related flooding — and what they must do to prevent such disasters in the future. [Full story]
  • Stephanie Goodman, the Texas Department of Insurance’s deputy commissioner for public affairs, talks about what policyholders need to know about filing property damage claims before a new insurance law takes effect Friday. [Full story]

Author: KIAH COLLIER – The Texas Tribune

***previous story 8/30 130a

Texas Tribune: Harvey Delays Opening of Several Texas Schools; Some Become Shelters

Families affected by flood waters start arriving at a Red Cross shelter set up at the convention center in Houston on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017.
Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune

Last Thursday, Superintendent Wanda Bamberg honored Aldine ISD students who took extra classes this summer to graduate. The next morning, she and her teachers were putting library books on higher shelves, where they would be less likely to be inundated by flooding.

“We were celebrating for the kids Thursday and then trying to protect the rest of them on Friday,” she said.

Instead of overseeing the Houston-area school district this week, Bamberg is helping oversee relief efforts at two Aldine ISD buildings being used to shelter evacuees as Hurricane Harvey continues to flood Southeast Texas. According to a state tally, all 51 school districts across the Houston area have postponed the start of classes until next Tuesday, affecting more than 1 million students, as they figure out how their infrastructure will recover from the unprecedented volume of water now blocking highways and destroying homes.

More than 200 school districts experienced delays due to the storm, by the state’s estimated count. Those ranged from a couple of hours in nearly 10 Central Texas districts to indefinite closures in four smaller school districts farther south on the Gulf Coast.

With coastal schools sustaining major physical damage and Houston-area and eastern Texas schools bracing for another blow from Harvey this week, no one knows when students will be able to start classes again. In the meantime, school buildings that weathered early parts of the storm are being put to use.

The American Red Cross is using the Aldine ISD’s M.O. Campbell Center, just north of Houston, to provide shelter for people displaced by flooding. Normally a multipurpose facility hosting graduations and banquets, the center is now a temporary home for about 1,400 people, Bamberg said.

Aldine ISD cafeterias were already stocked with food this week, awaiting tens of thousands of students expected to start their second week of school. Teachers and administrators are lending helping hands, making sandwiches and carting supplies.

Bamberg estimated that water seeped into about five of Aldine’s buildings, leaving them with minor damage. But no one knows when the floodwater will recede.

“You have to think about not only whether your kids will be able to make it, but also will you have your staff members able to come in and work?” she said.

After brainstorming internally and with various school districts earlier in the week, the Texas Education Agency on Tuesday published a basic list of resources and guidelines for school officials working to manage the displacement of families and rebuild their classrooms in the 58 counties cited in Gov. Greg Abbott’s disaster proclamation. It will also provide waivers for school districts in those counties that were forced to cancel classes so they do not have to make up those days on the calendar.

“We’re doing our best to get as much out there that is as certain as possible, but it is a fluid situation,” said Lauren Callahan, agency spokeswoman. Agency officials hope to have a better idea next week of when schools hit by the disaster will be able to start running, dealing with the long-term damage on a “case-by-case” basis.

School districts are continually providing updated information to families through social media.

The Texas Department of Agriculture issued a release Tuesday pledging to allow schools to feed any students affected by the hurricane for free.

Cypress-Fairbanks ISD Superintendent Mark Henry estimated that 10 to 12 of the district’s buildings have suffered significant water damage. Unable to physically survey some of the buildings, officials are using their camera systems to assess the damage.

“We expect when this is all said and done, this will be a multimillion-dollar damage claim to our facilities,” he said.

The district’s Berry Educational Support Center, about 30 miles northwest of Houston, opened Monday to provide temporary shelter for people waiting to be evacuated. The 9,000-seat sports arena and conference center has a commercial kitchen on-site, as well as several bathrooms and showers. The food that was supposed to be sold at the concession stand in the football stadium is now feeding those fleeing the storm. Local officials are using Cypress-Fairbanks ISD school buses to transport people to shelters. Individuals and organizations donated cots and blankets for people to sleep on.

Henry said it’s important to get kids back into a school routine as soon as possible, but he doesn’t know if classes will start again next Tuesday as currently scheduled.

“We’ve lost students at least temporarily to Dallas and Austin and other places,” he said. “We want to get up and running as soon as possible. I wish I could say what date.”

He wishes he had been more prepared for a potential 50 inches of rain. He would have asked for donations earlier and made different decisions about which facilities to open for shelter. “Moving forward, we’re going to make a disaster plan for something as traumatic as this one,” he said. “If we plan for something like this, I think everything else will seem minor.”

Schools in Houston ISD also opened to help displaced families over the weekend, but the city shut them down by Monday because of safety concerns.

In Klein ISD, 30 miles north of Houston, pens used for livestock shows in the multipurpose center now serve as temporary homes for dozens of pets accompanying their owners out of the brunt of the storm. Continued flooding Monday night resulted in another round of evacuations, so district officials opened Klein Oak High School.

They put more than 250 inflatable mattresses in the two competition gymnasiums attached to the high school, turned the office space into a command center, started a nurse’s clinic in one section, and provided four computers for people to fill out their disaster assistance paperwork, according to Thomas Hensley, principal of the high school. “All day long, people have shown up in droves, saying, ‘What can I do? Give me anything. How can I help?'” he said.

“Being able to run a shelter right here in part of our community as part of the community has been, honestly, it’s been heartbreaking. These are people we teach. These are people we teach with,” said Superintendent Bret Champion.

District officials are in communication through social media and phone calls with parents and students, and with other school districts, to figure out each step. Though Klein ISD schools are scheduled to open next Tuesday, they realistically will open whenever it’s safe again for people to travel through their communities.

“Every kid and employee will be walking into a safe environment in Klein ISD when we make the decision to open,” Champion said.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Hurricane Harvey’s direct — and seemingly endless — hit on Southeast Texas has left a path of destruction and unprecedented flooding. Take a look at what the region’s residents and first responders are facing. [Full story]
  • As Tropical Storm Harvey continues to pummel an already devastated Houston, many residents are terrified that the dams on two of the region’s massive reservoirs will fail. Here’s why government officials say that is not going to happen. [Full story]
  • Nearly five days after Hurricane Harvey first touched Texas soil, residents are desperate for an end to the storm. Here’s where things stand. [Full story]

Author: ALIYYA SWABY – The Texas Tribune

***previous story 8/29 550pm

Texas Tribune: Five days after Harvey, here’s where things stand in Texas

A family makes their way across the waters of Buffalo Bayou rushing across Highway 6 under the Barker reservoir in Houston on Aug 28, 2017. |
Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune

Nearly five days after the hurricane-turned-tropical storm first touched Texas soil, Harvey has broken state rainfall records and sparked unprecedented flooding across Southeast Texas and the city of Houston, where residents are desperate for relief.

Here’s where things stand:

A presidential visit

President Donald Trump is in Texas today, meeting with state leaders and receiving briefings on Harvey recovery efforts. Trump was in Corpus Christi earlier this morning, and has wrapped up a briefing in Austin, where he was joined by federal officials and multiple members of Congress. He’s en route back to Washington, but mentioned during a press conference Monday he may return to the state later this week.

During his visit, Trump said while recovery “will be a long and difficult road,” the federal government plans to work hand-in-hand with Gov. Greg Abbott and the state to provide resources and support.

“Nobody’s ever seen anything like this, and I just want to say that working with the governor and his entire team has been an honor for us,” Trump said. We’ve pledged our full support as Texas and Louisiana recover from this devastating and historic storm.”

Rescue and relief efforts

  • Rescue efforts remain underway throughout Houston and other affected areas as flooding has overwhelmed the area. According to recent reports, the death toll for Hurricane Harvey victims has risen to more than 10 people. A veteran Houston police officer drowned in flood waters as he was driving his patrol car to work on Sunday morning.
  • Brazoria County, an area south of Houston, appears to be experiencing high levels of flooding. Officials in that county, which has a population of more than 300,000 people, tweeted Tuesday morning that the levee at Columbia Lakes had been breached. Residents are being told to evacuate.
  • Several major cities have opened their doors to those fleeing Hurricane Harvey, including San Antonio, Austin and Dallas, which are all operating shelters for evacuees. And Lakewood Church in Houston, the largest in Texas, tweeted on Tuesday that it is receiving evacuees and and also working with Houston “as a collection site for distribution.”

More rain is in the forecast

Harvey has made its way back to the Gulf of Mexico for now, but it’s expected to make a second landfall in East Texas and Louisiana later this week, dumping between 6 to 12 inches of rain in those areas through Friday.

Rain, rain, go away

  • In an email to supporters Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, announced he was cancelling several campaign events due to Hurricane Harvey. He was set to visit Abilene, Lubbock, Big Spring, Odessa and Van Horn, but those stops weren’t listed on his Facebook page as of Tuesday morning. “We have decided to cancel or postpone a handful of our Town Haulin’ Across Texas tour stops so that Beto can be on the ground, volunteering with communities affected by Hurricane Harvey,” the O’Rourke campaign said in an email to supporters.
  • The Supreme Court of Texas on Monday reminded courts statewide that Harvey may impact cases and issued a 30-day emergency order telling all courts — even those not included in Abbott’s disaster declaration — to consider disaster-caused delays as “good cause” for adjusting deadlines and timelines for proceedings.
  • The storm has also brought gas shortages to several parts of Texas. According to KERA, around 15 percent of U.S. oil refining capacity was put offline by Hurricane Harvey. That’s because some oil pipes are in Corpus Christi — where cities like Austin receive most of its gasoline supplies.
  • ExxonMobil said Tuesday that two of its refineries — one in Beaumont and another in Baytown, a city within Harris County — were damaged as a result of the storm, which resulted in the release of hazardous pollutants.
  • People have also been warned to watch for scammers if they’re trying to donate to Harvey-related relief, and on social media, there’s already been a few instances of the spreading of rumors. The San Jacinto River Authority said on Tuesday their Twitter account had been hacked and that someone had posted false information, confusing local officials and residents in the area.
  • Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton‘s office confirmed to The Texas Tribune on Tuesday that they had received 600 complaints — including scams, price gouging and fraud — between Aug. 25 and 29 related to Harvey. Kayleigh Lovvorn, a spokeswoman for Paxton, said the office had received complains from “$99 [for a] case of water” to “one Houston convenience store charging $20/gallon of gas” in a statement.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Several members of Congress from New York and New Jersey remain resentful over Texas Republicans that voted against a Hurricane Sandy aid package in 2013. [Full story]
  • Colleges in Houston and along the coast canceled classes and suffered minor damage from Hurricane Harvey. But major disaster has so far been averted. Take a look at how your university fared. [Full story]
  • A new law, set to take effect Friday, aims to crack down on frivolous insurance lawsuits. But House Bill 1774 also reduces the penalty fees that insurance companies face for late payments if the policyholder files a lawsuit. [Full story]

Authors:  CASSANDRA POLLOCK AND ALEX SAMUELS – The Texas Tribune

***previous story 1145a 8/29

Texas Tribune:  Trump visiting Corpus Christi, Austin to see Harvey recovery

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive in Corpus Christi on Air force One to survey damage from Hurricane Harvey.
Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

President Donald Trump is visiting Texas on Tuesday to see the recovery efforts underway in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Air Force One touched down at about 11:15 a.m. in Corpus Christi, the city along the Central Texas coast near where Harvey made landfall Friday as a Category 4 storm. The president is set to get an update there on relief efforts with state leaders and relief groups.

Trump will then head to Austin, where he will tour the Emergency Operations Center and receive a briefing with state leaders, according to the White House.

Trump’s schedule in Texas does not appear to be entirely finalized. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, told reporters aboard Air Force One that Trump’s schedule is “a little bit more fluid today than a normal travel day” due to the weather and other storm-related circumstances, according to a pool report.

“The president wants to be very cautious about making sure that any activity doesn’t disrupt any of the recovery efforts that are still ongoing, which is the reason for the locations we are going here today,” Huckabee Sanders said. “As of right now, I don’t know that we will be able to get to some of the really damaged areas.”

First Lady Melania Trump is joining her husband for the trip. Gov. Greg Abbott, who greeted Trump at the Corpus Christi airport, is also expected to accompany the president throughout the day in Texas, as are U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.

“Weather permitting,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick will join Trump in Corpus Christi, according to Patrick’s office.

A number of Cabinet and other administration officials are set to attend the briefings in Corpus Christi and Austin, according to the White House. They include Elaine Duke, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Ben Carson, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development; and Tom Price, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The briefing in Austin is expected to include 14 members of Congress from Texas.

Trump’s trip Tuesday may not be the only time he visits Texas this week. He suggested Monday he could return this weekend while also traveling to Louisiana.

Vice President Mike Pence, in a radio interview Tuesday morning, said he and his wife will visit southeast Texas later this week.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Several members of Congress from New York and New Jersey remain resentful over Texas Republicans that voted against a Hurricane Sandy aid package in 2013. [Full story]
  • Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Texas Coast, and has left Houston — the nation’s fourth-largest city — grappling with unprecedented flooding. Do you need help? Or do you want to help those in need? Check out these resources. [Full story]
  • A new law, set to take effect Friday, aims to crack down on frivolous insurance lawsuits. But House Bill 1774 also reduces the penalty fees that insurance companies face for late payments if the policyholder files a lawsuit. [Full story

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

***previous story 9:30am 8/29

Texas Tribune:  Amid Harvey havoc, northeastern politicos sourly recall Texas “no” votes on Sandy aid

WASHINGTON – Many New Yorkers and New Jerseyans serving in Congress have, for nearly five years now, kept a list of names handy to roll out at a moment’s notice. They call it “the Comeuppance Caucus.”

For some, the list is on a physical paper or bookmarked on a computer. For others, it’s merely tattooed into their brains. It consists of which colleagues voted against Hurricane Sandy funding back in 2013, and it’s chock full of Texas Republicans.

In fact, nearly every Texas Republican who was serving in Congress at the time voted against the $50.5 billion aid bill. And now their own constituents are facing the biggest natural disaster in state history.

“There is deep and lingering resentment by members of Congress who needed help in their districts when Sandy just ravaged their constituents,” said former U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, a Democrat who represented Long Island until he retired last January. “[U.S. Sen] Ted Cruz and others led the fight against that aid, and a lot of people said there would be a day of reckoning.”

Israel served in the Democratic House leadership in 2013, and his comments reflect numerous conversations happening within both the New Jersey and New York delegations since Harvey landed in Southeast Texas over the weekend, sparking widespread devastation and flooding.

Back in early 2013, Congress easily passed a massive funding package to support the victims of Hurricane Sandy, a storm that hammered the northern Eastern Seaboard just before the 2012 election.

Yet it galled many members from the region at the time  that Republicans representing coastal states like Texas that are also susceptible to hurricanes would not back the bill, citing spending in it viewed by some as pork-barrel spending.

“Hurricane Sandy inflicted devastating damage on the East Coast, and Congress appropriately responded with hurricane relief,” said Cruz in a statement at the time. “Unfortunately, cynical politicians in Washington could not resist loading up this relief bill with billions in new spending utterly unrelated to Sandy.”

Both Cruz and his fellow senator from Texas, John Cornyn, as well as every Texas Republican in the U.S. House save for John Culberson of Houston, ultimately voted against the Disaster Relief Act of 2013.

Yet Cruz – often viewed as the most brash of the Texas delegation – has become the favorite target in recent days of current and former Northeast members gleefully noting that the shoe is now on the other foot.

U.S. Rep Peter King, a Long Island Republican, took the biggest shot at the delegation on Saturday, tweeting, “Ted Cruz & Texas cohorts voted vs NY/NJ aid after Sandy but I’ll vote 4 Harvey aid. NY wont abandon Texas. 1 bad turn doesnt deserve another.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, concurred with her Long Island neighbor an hour later on Twitter.

And then on Monday, U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, a New Jersey moderate Republican, added to the dogpile, calling the Texans who voted against Sandy relief “hypocritical based on geography.

Even New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie joined in.

“The congressional members in Texas are hypocrites,” Christie told reporters Monday. “Even though I’m sure there’s going to be some temptation by New Jersey House members in particular to drag their feet a little bit based upon what these folks in Texas did to us during Sandy, I’m going to be urging all our members to rise above that and provide the aid as quickly as possible.”

That U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell offered some of the more measured criticism of the Texas delegation, remarkable considering the fiery New Jersey Democrat’s reputation for rumbling with Republicans at any opportunity.

Cruz called the commentary “political sniping” in a Fox News interview Monday.

“I have been spending day and night … trying to marshal federal assets to save lives,” he said. “That needs to be the priority. The silliness of Washington, we can worry about that a different time.”

When asked if Hurricane Harvey had changed his mind about his stance in 2013, Cruz stood by his vote.

“Of course not,” he said. “As I said at the time, hurricane funding is a very important federal responsibility, and I would have eagerly supported funding for that, but I didn’t think it was appropriate to engage in pork-barrel spending, where two-thirds of that bill was unrelated spending that had nothing to do with Sandy.”

“It was simply politicians wasting money,” he added. “That shouldn’t happen.”

But Israel countered that what Cruz and others might consider as pork “was significantly vital to rebuilding our region.”

The Washington Post’s Fact Checker dug into Cruz’s latest remarks on Monday and ruled that “it is wildly incorrect to claim that the bill was ‘filled with unrelated pork.’ The bill was largely aimed at dealing with Sandy, along with relatively minor items to address other or future disasters.”

Privately, several sources close to Texas Republican members echoed Cruz’s comments about wasteful spending but did not want to speak publicly about the issue.

But also, there was a sense that many in Texas were startled to see such anger from Northeast members of Congress while the rain still fell in Houston. And some northeastern sources in Congress bristled some at the timing of the angry tweets and comments, given the suffering in Texas.

And not everyone is mad at the Texas GOP delegation.

U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance, R-New Jersey, had no interest on Monday in engaging in the regional political war.

“I want to make clear and be as emphatic as possible: I do not approach with this a sense of anger,” he told the Tribune. “I supported funding for Sandy and will for this horrible situation.”

And U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York City Democrat, tweeted: “I’m praying for anyone suffering from Hurricane Harvey & stand ready to support any federal assistance needed.”

Congress returns on Tuesday and will have a whole host of new problems to sort out, on top of a slew of budget deadlines barreling toward the two chambers. Is there a chance that the Sandy vote will come back to haunt Texas?

The bipartisan message blowing in from the Northeast: Congress will deliver the funds to Texas. While there is no interest in punishing fellow Americans, these members do want those in Congress from Texas to know just how personally they took those “no” vote when their own constituents were in trouble four and a half years ago.

“New Yorkers made the argument that when a storm strikes, it’s not striking one region, it’s striking the whole country, and I think my colleagues will be faithful to put their [voting] cards in and pushing the button,” said Israel.

“Until then, I think they’re enjoying making a point.”

Patrick Svitek contributed to this report. 

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Texas Coast, and has left Houston — the nation’s fourth-largest city — grappling with unprecedented flooding. Do you need help? Or do you want to help those in need? Check out these resources. [Full story]
  • A new Texas law means Harvey victims have good reason to file insurance claims by Friday. [Full story]

Author:  ABBY LIVINGSTON – The Texas Tribune

***previous story 8/28 1145pm

Texas Tribune:  Trump to visit Corpus Christi, Austin to see Harvey Recovery

President Trump leads a video teleconference monitoring current tropical storm conditions and damage assessments in southeastern Texas on Sunday, August 27, 2017, from a conference room at Camp David, near Thurmont, MD.
Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

President Donald Trump is coming to Texas on Tuesday to see the recovery efforts underway in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Trump is scheduled to first visit Corpus Christi, the city along the Central Texas coast near where Harvey made landfall Friday as a Category 4 storm. The president will get an update there on relief efforts with state leaders and relief groups.

Trump will then head to Austin, where he will tour the Emergency Operations Center and receive a briefing with state leaders, according to the White House.

First Lady Melania Trump is set to join her husband for the trip, the White House said. Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to also accompany Trump on the swing through Texas.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Several members of Congress from New York and New Jersey remain resentful over Texas Republicans that voted against a Hurricane Sandy aid package in 2013. [Full story]
  • Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Texas Coast, and has left Houston — the nation’s fourth-largest city — grappling with unprecedented flooding. Do you need help? Or do you want to help those in need? Check out these resources. [Full story]
  • A new law, set to take effect Friday, aims to crack down on frivolous insurance lawsuits. But House Bill 1774 also reduces the penalty fees that insurance companies face for late payments if the policyholder files a lawsuit. [Full story]

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

***previous story 8/28  5:15pm

Texas Tribune: Governor activates full Texas National Guard as Harvey rescue efforts continue

Nearly three days after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, more statewide resources were deployed to address rescue efforts in Southeast Texas Monday.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced he has activated the entire Texas National Guard in response to Harvey, bringing the total number of deployed personnel for rescue efforts to 12,000. “It is imperative that we do everything possible to protect the lives and safety of people across the state of Texas as we continue to face the aftermath of this storm,” the governor said in a released statement.

President Donald Trump is set to visit the city of Corpus Christi and possibly surrounding areas affected by the storm on Tuesday. During a press conference Monday afternoon, Trump promised Texans would receive federal funding for rebuilding efforts, and also mentioned he may revisit the state again on Saturday.

“The rebuilding will begin, and in the end, it will be something very special,” said Trump, adding he had just spoken with Abbott. “They’re saying [Harvey is] like the biggest ever. It’s historic. It’s like Texas. It’s really like Texas, if you think about it.

Meanwhile, in Houston, first responders are focusing first on helping the elderly, disabled and those in life threatening situations, Mayor Sylvester Turner said during a news conference Monday. He added, “Our goal is to try to reach everyone today and get them out of stressful situations.”

A family of six was believed to have drowned in a van while trying to escape Hurricane Harvey in Harris County, Houston-based KHOU reported Monday. The news was confirmed to KHOU by three family members but had not yet been verified by local officials. The victims included four children — all of who were younger than 16 — and their great-grandparents, according to KHOU, which reported that the driver of the vehicle managed to escape before the van was swept up in the flood current.

Houston, the fourth largest city in the nation, was one of the many areas in Texas devastated over the weekend — and some parts of the state may receive more than 50 inches of rain in the coming days, which would break state records.

After receiving a briefing on the storm Monday afternoon in Corpus Christi, state officials braced Texans for a potentially years-long recovery.

“There is a reality we have to come to grips with: We are just beginning the process of responding to this storm,” Abbott told reporters.

“This is going to be a long haul,” added U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

Abbott and Cornyn were joined at a news conference by FEMA administrator Brock Long, who said the agency is prepared to spend “several years” in Texas helping with the recovery.

Back in Houston, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told reporters at a Red Cross shelter he had spoken Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and several over federal officials about Harvey over the past several days.

“What we’re hearing consistently is a commitment to provide every resource needed,” he said. “I spoke with the president — he just said, ‘Ted, what do you need, what does the state need? The answer is yes.'”

For a glimpse into the scope of Harvey’s impact in Texas, the 54 counties included in Abbott’s Texas disaster declaration make up 41 percent of the state’s 27.9 million population. On top of that, the Insurance Council of Texas has estimated Harvey-related damages will top Hurricane Ike’s $12 billion clean up in 2008.

Relief efforts are continuing around the state, too. Volunteer firefighters in smaller Texas towns are rescuing people trapped by the floods, and shelters in San Antonio and Austin are filling up.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Border Patrol said in a joint statement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement Monday that the agencies had deployed several marine vessels and agents to aid in related Harvey rescue missions, adding they would prioritize “life-saving and life-sustaining” operations, maintaining order and the prevention of loss of property.

The border patrol also said it would not conduct noncriminal immigration enforcement investigations at evacuation sites or other assistance centers but would stay “vigilant against any effort by criminals to exploit disruptions caused by the storm.”   

In Dallas, Mayor Mike Rawlings announced Monday that the city — home to more than 1.3 million people — would begin receiving evacuees affected by the storm that afternoon.

AUTHOR: CASSANDRA POLLOCK – The Texas Tribune

***previous story 257pm 8/28

Tx Militar:y Dept: Domestic Operations Commander Named Texas Dual Status Command for Hurricane Harvey Recovery Efforts

AUSTIN – Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the Adjutant General of Texas, is pleased to announce Brig. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, of Round Rock, has been named Commander of the Dual Status Command for Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts.

He will lead the approximately 12,000 military men and women from the Texas Army and Air National Guards, Texas State Guard and other federal entities supporting these efforts.

The request made by Governor Greg Abbott, for Texas National Guard Dual Status Command, was granted, today, by Secretary of Defense General James Mattis. Through a Memo of Agreement, Secretary Mattis granted Governor Abbott’s request, which allows for a centralized command and control operation, as well as allows federal and state troops a singular chain of command.

“I am grateful for the quick action of the Secretary Mattis and the White House for providing Texas the recourses and flexibility we need to respond to the devastation caused by this storm,” said Governor Abbott. “My top priority is the safety and security of Texans and this DSC will allow us to make sure people get the help they need especially those in life-threatening danger. I also thank Brigadier General Hamilton for his leadership during this trying time, and all our brave first responders for their countless acts of bravery and selflessness.”

Currently, Hamilton currently serves as the Director, Joint Staff of the Texas Joint Force Headquarters and Commander of the Domestic Operations Task Force. The Domestic Operations Task Force is comprised of over 4,000 Soldiers and Airmen and provides defense support to civil authorities across the state of Texas, to include border security operations, counterdrug operations, as well as hurricanes, floods, wildfires and winter storms.

“This agreement will allow General Hamilton to serve as the direct link between both the state and federal counterparts, allowing for a quicker more efficient response that enables us get the much needed help to the citizens of Texas,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, Texas Adjutant General. “Gen. Hamilton’s leadership and his ability to command is a testament to why he was selected for this position.”

Hamilton is a highly experienced and decorated leader with an extensive career of military service.  He commissioned from Texas A&M University in 1985, is a career Armored Cavalry officer and has commanded at all levels, from platoon through brigade. Hamilton earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Education, and holds a Master of Strategic Studies degree from the United States Army War College.

***previous story 8/28 905am

TxTrib: Why not evacuate before Harvey? Houston leaders defend their calls to stay put

Walking the soggy streets of her League City neighborhood, Diane Alston said she was “heartbroken” that so many people waited out Harvey’s steady rains from inside their flooding homes, following instructions from local officials.

Alston, 23, looked like one of the lucky ones in this community about 25 miles southeast of Houston, even if she spent most of Friday night moving furniture in her two-story home to reduce the chances any of it gets ruined by floodwater. On Sunday, her family still had electricity and their street wasn’t completely under water.

But the others?

“Now they’re having to be rescued,” Alston said. “If we had known it would be like this, I think we would’ve left.”

At least five people have already been reported dead as Harvey, previously a hurricane and now a slow-moving tropical storm, continues to feed rising waters across the nation’s fourth largest city and its surrounding communities. As the waters strand thousands of folks in their homes and send some onto rooftops — a chorus of onlookers have asked: Why didn’t local officials order mandatory evacuations, as more than a dozen other smaller Texas cities and counties did?

Such a decision is thorny in any community, and only grows more so in such a sprawling metropolitan area.

On Friday, with the hurricane-turned tropical storm approaching the Gulf Coast, Gov. Greg Abbott told folks in Corpus Christi and Houston, the two largest cities in the storm’s path, to “strongly consider evacuating” northward. While Corpus Christi issued a voluntary evacuation, neither Houston nor Harris County issued any such evacuation order at all.

Ultimately, mayors and county judges are charged with making such decisions. Leaders in Houston and Harris County told residents to stay put ahead of the storm and have since defended those decisions — even as bayous spill into the streets in what might be the worst flood event the area has ever seen.

“To suggest that we should have evacuated 2 million people is an outrageous statement,” Harris County Judge Emmett told CNN on Sunday.

Emmett and others have offered a litany of reasons for hunkering down. That includes the reality that such a mass evacuation can turn into logistical nightmare with huge safety risks of its own.

“People disproportionately die in cars from floods, so evacuation is not as straightforward a call as seems,” Marshall Shepherd, a program director in atmospheric sciences at the University of Georgia, tweeted Sunday.

Shepherd pointed to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showing that drivers accounted for 66 percent of U.S. flood fatalities in 2014.

For a vivid example of what can go wrong in a large-scale evacuation, Texans can look twelve years back to Hurricane Rita, when more than 3 million people from south and southeast Texas set off on one of the largest evacuations in U.S. history.

The backdrop of that blistering summer in 2005: Just three weeks earlier, Hurricane Katrina had submerged New Orleans and killed 1,200 people when Rita barreled toward the coastline. Texans didn’t want to stick around to see how Rita would compare, so they bolted — or tried to.

Traffic jams stretched across hundreds of miles over two days, and many people ran out of gas. Dozens died from accidents and heat-related illnesses, all before Rita even made landfall.

Of the 139 deaths that the state linked to Hurricane Rita, 73 occurred before the storm hit Texas. Twenty-three people died in a bus fire. Ten others died from hyperthermia due to heat exposure. In the years since Rita, state and local officials say new laws and better planning would help the state’s next evacuation go more smoothly, but Houston mayor Sylvester Turner this weekend indicated Rita’s legacy factored into his decision.

“You cannot put, in the city of Houston, 2.3 million people on the road…That is dangerous,” he said in a press conference Sunday. “If you think the situation right now is bad — you give an order to evacuate, you create a nightmare.”

Emmett, the Harris County Judge, has pointed to additional factors in defense of calls to stay, drawing distinctions between danger from Harvey — primarily rainfall — and the hurricanes that struck before it.

“When we have hurricanes, we know who to evacuate, because you have a storm surge coming, and we have that down to a very fine art,” he told CNN Sunday. “In this case, we have a rain event. Unless you know where the rain is going to fall, we don’t know who to evacuate.”

While ordering a hurricane evacuation is common, telling residents to flee a rainstorm is rare, if not unprecedented. “We’ve had three major rain events in the past two years. This is now the fourth,” Emmett said.

Emmett, in the CNN interview, bristled at those who were pushing conflicting messages. That included retired Lt. General Russel Honoré, who commanded a joint task force that responded to Hurricane Katrina.

“If you are living in an area that’s flooded before, you need to evacuate,” he told CNBC Friday. “Because it’s going to flood, and the roads are going to close and when the roads are going to close, the power is going to go out, and you’re going to be isolated in that home alone.”

Alston, who said she didn’t realize the full scope of the storm until the day before it struck, said it was “mind boggling to see the conflicting messages from city and state officials.”

Abbott, for his part, said he’s not spending his time second-guessing local officials.

“As far as the evacuation, now’s not the time to second guess the decisions that were made,” he said at a news conference Sunday. “What’s important is that everybody work together to ensure that we are going to first save lives and then second help people across the state rebuild.”

Harris County wasn’t the only Harvey-hit community where residents were told to stay in place. Corpus Christi and Nueces County refrained from calling for mandatory evacuations before the storm took aim Friday.

Corpus Christi was largely spared from massive property damage and life-threatening destruction when the storm hit farther east along the coast, killing at least one person in Aransas County, where an evacuation order was mandatory.

“I think we made the right decision,” Corpus Christi Mayor Joe McComb said Friday, before the storm hit. “That was after a lot of conversation, a lot of dialogue.”

Alana Rocha, Edgar Walters and Neena Satija contributed to this report. 

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • This is already Houston’s “worst flood.” It’s only going to get worse. [Full story]
  • As Hurricane Harvey made landfall, no area felt the impact as harshly as Aransas County. [Full story]
  • Before Hurricane Rita hit the Texas coast in 2005, there was an evacuation marked by a traffic disaster. [Full story]

Authors: JIM MALEWITZ AND BRANDON FORMBY – The Texas Tribune

***previous story below – 8/27 1045pm

TxTrib: This is already Houston’s “worst flood.” It’s Only Going to Get Worse

Clip courtesy KHOU/WFAA

As the sun set Sunday on a flood-ravaged Houston, a nagging uncertainty surrounding Tropical Storm Harvey’s next move persisted.

Even 24 hours earlier, no one knew exactly how much rain the storm would bring to the sprawling metropolitan area.

But meteorologists’ worst case scenario ended up coming true: Harvey strengthened and dumped as much as 22 inches of rain in certain areas throughout the night and into Sunday evening, flooding countless homes, stranding families on rooftops and killing at least five people.

Scientists say the storm is likely to be the most devastating flood the Houston region has ever seen — even more so than Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, which was the worst rainstorm to ever befall an American city in modern history.

“The economic impact should be greater than any other flood event we’ve ever experienced,” said Sam Brody, a scientist at a Texas A&M University at Galveston who specializes in natural hazards mitigation. “And it’s going to take years for these residential communities to recover.”

***previous story below 8/27

Houston and other parts of southeast Texas are experiencing “catastrophic, life-threatening flooding,” federal officials said Sunday, as Harvey, now a slow-moving tropical storm, hovers over the region, dumping rainfall.

At least five people in the Houston area are dead, the Houston Chronicle reported. Across the region, rising waters stranded people in their homes and on rooftops, and entire stretches of freeway were submerged. Officials believed the first fatality to be a woman who was found dead near her car, in which she had likely been trapped during a flood, according to the Washington Post.

“We’re urging people to stay off the streets,” Gary Norman, a spokesman for Houston’s emergency management system, told the Post. “We’re still very much in rescue mode.”

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner wrote on Twitter that Houston 911 was being overwhelmed with calls but was still functional.

“There are a number of stranded people on our streets calling 911 exhausting needed resources,” he wrote. “You can help by staying off the streets.”

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo told people in flooding areas to consider climbing on top of the roof of their homes.

“Reports of people getting into attic to escape floodwater – do not do so unless you have an ax or means to break through onto your roof,” Acevedo wrote on Twitter.

Between Saturday and Sunday morning, Houston and Galveston received about two feet of measured rainfall, the National Weather Service said. The region is expected to receive up to two more feet of rainfall over the coming days.

“I know for a fact this is the worst flood Houston has ever experienced,” Patrick Blood, a National Weather Service meteorologist, told the Chronicle.

“Worse than Allison,” the 2001 tropical storm that sat over Houston, causing nearly two dozen deaths and extreme flooding, Blood said. “It’s so widespread.”

With emergency resources strapped, social media became a channel where pleas for rescue were issued for those trapped by flood waters that are expected to keep rising. The posts gave glimpses of the unfolding crisis and included exact addresses, names and pictures of southeast Texas’ stranded residents.

One woman asked for help for a 70-year-old man trapped in a one-story house without an attic on S. Braeswood Boulevard in Houston. Another asked for help for a couple and their two cats in Dickinson, Texas.

“Please help if you can or get this information to authorities,” claimed a postfrom twitter user Alicia Stepp. “The entire street of Colony Creek Drive needs rescue.”

Yet another asked for help for 10 people, 3 dogs and two cats stuck on a roof in Dickinson. One post about a Houston family, which included a sick child, came with a picture of the people standing on their rain-soaked roof.

Harvey made landfall late Friday as a Category 4 hurricane that left one person dead in Rockport and wreaked havoc on buildings along the Texas coast. Over time, as the storm crept inland, its wind speeds diminished and meteorologists downgraded it to a tropical storm. Once inland, the storm slowed to a crawl and dropped hours of torrential rain across southeast Texas, which caused officials to warn of catastrophic flooding for days to come.

At a Sunday press conference, Turner defended his earlier advice encouraging Houstonians not to evacuate.

“You cannot put, in the city of Houston, 2.3 million people on the road,” he said. “That is dangerous.” 

Added Turner: “If you think the situation right now is bad — you give an order to evacuate, you create a nightmare.”

On Friday, a White House spokeswoman said the president would soon travel to Texas. But by Sunday morning, the president appeared to be delaying the trip, citing a need to stay out of the way as rescue efforts continue.

“I will be going to Texas as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption. The focus must be life and safety,” Trump tweeted Sunday morning.

Additional reporting by Abby Livingston and Brandon Formby

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • The storm wreaked havoc on buildings along the Texas coast and continued to dump heavy rainfall on the region, prompting concerns of possibly disastrous flooding, while widespread power outages hampered the state’s relief efforts. [Full story]
  • Nowhere was Hurricane Harvey’s devastation felt more than Aransas County, which has had one storm-related death and has had many buildings severely damaged. The region’s difficult physical — and emotional — recovery is underway. [Full story]
  • Last year, The Texas Tribune and ProPublica investigated Houston’s vulnerability to hurricanes and torrential rainstorms. The nation’s fourth-largest city is sure to see the latter in the coming days. Here’s what we know about what could happen. [Full story]

Author:  EDGAR WALTERS – The Texas Tribune

***previous story 8/27 via Texas Military Department

More than 2,000 Texas Guardsmen Activated for Hurricane Harvey Operations

AUSTIN – At the direction of Gov. Greg Abbott more than 2,000 members of the Texas Military Department’s Army National Guard, Air National Guard and Texas State Guard are assisting in recovery efforts following landfall of Hurricane Harvey.

Soldiers and Airmen are currently providing support to flooding regions of Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast. Partnering with local first responders Guardsmen are assisting in search and rescue operations, swift water rescues and evacuations of flooding areas.

Members of the Texas State Guard are mobilized to provide local shelter operations and provide a tracking system that helps evacuees locate loved ones checking into shelters

Additional Guardsmen are on standby and will join operations as requested by the Texas Department of Emergency Management.

“We are here to help our communities,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick M. Hamilton, Commander of Domestic Operations Task Force. “working alongside our partner agencies, and local first responders, we are focused on deploying Guardsmen and resources where they are needed to save lives.”

Hurricane Harvey is the first hurricane to make a direct landfall on the Texas coast since 2008.

“Nothing is more important to our Guardsmen that the chance to serve their local community.” Hamilton said. “Helping our neighbors when they need us most is the heart of The Guard, and why we choose to become Citizen Soldiers and Airmen

***previous story  8/27 1230a via Texas Tribune

ROCKPORT — As Ruben Sazon waited out Hurricane Harvey in his apartment Friday, he was certain that his roof was going to be ripped off.

“The howl of the wind was amazing,” he said, adding that “it came in with a roar.”

The roof stayed in place. But the Category 4 hurricane did enough structural damage to make his home uninhabitable, leaving Sazon with no place of his own and uncertainty about what he’ll do next.

“This is the history-making hurricane,” Sazon said Saturday of the storm that pummeled the area he has called home for more than two decades. “This the one people will always be talking about.”

Across this battered nook of the Texas coastline, Aransas County and its residents are beginning the difficult work of installing order and a sense of normalcy after Hurricane Harvey’s brutal arrival the night before. But unrelenting rain and wind from the massive storm are muddling those initial efforts.

Emergency personnel poured into Aransas County on Saturday and began assessing this normally laid-back coastal community’s damage, which included complete loss of power, hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage and an untold number of impassable roads.

The seemingly random scattershot of destruction — decimated buildings, snapped power poles, downed trees — alongside completely intact structures leads officials to believe that tornadoes came with the storm.

“It’s evident the way the damage is,” Aransas County Judge C.H. “Burt” Mills Jr. said Saturday.

At least one person died in a house fire that officials didn’t discover until after Harvey moved through. Emergency calls couldn’t be made or answered during the brunt of the storm’s impact. About 40 percent of the 24,500 people who call Aransas County home defied a mandatory evacuation order and stayed behind. So far, only 12 to 14 people with non-life-threatening injuries required medical attention. But local, state and federal officials on Saturday had just started arduous search-and-rescue efforts to aid anyone trapped.

They plan to evacuate those in damaged homes who can’t leave on their own.

“We don’t have a place to put them,” Mills said. “We can’t take care of them.”

Despite a calvary of regional, state and federal responders, the county’s inundated infrastructure and lack of power left local leaders unable to estimate when the tens of thousands who fled in a highway-clogged exodus ahead of the storm will be able to return home.

For now, officials want them to stay out. Expectations that the rain will last days forebode worsening conditions. And as the county’s tiny beach towns begin the early stages of recovery, Harvey’s large size and slow movement will continue to threaten other parts of the state with flood damage likely to require great demand for response resources.

Still, county leaders remained optimistic that the area will be restored and rebuilt. Fulton Mayor Jimmy Kendrick said residents love their community. As he surveyed damage early in the day, he stumbled across parishioners of a damaged church already cleaning up.

“We are one,” he said.

On Saturday morning, Sazon headed to downtown Rockport to check on the studio where he paints, makes jewelry and sells his work. What had been a small, waterfront building with a turquoise awning facing the town’s shop-lined Austin Street was essentially nothing more than an intact roof sitting atop a pile of collapsed rubble.

Texas state troopers are shown in Rockport on Aug. 26, 2017, the day after the town sustained heavy damage from Hurricane Harvey.
Texas state troopers are shown in Rockport on Aug. 26, 2017, the day after the town sustained heavy damage from Hurricane Harvey. | Brandon Formby

“Devastating”

Ahead of the storm, Sazon, an artist and jeweler, placed his sofa upright to block the doorway to his living room, where mattress box springs blocked a sliding glass door to his second-floor apartment’s balcony.

Harvey’s merciless winds broke every window in his apartment.

“All you could hear was things hitting, glass breaking,” Toni Castillo, Sazon’s girlfriend, said of the storm.

Sazon, who rented his apartment and the building where he ran Sazon Studio and Gallery, didn’t have insurance for either. With no cellphone service, Sazon and his girlfriend didn’t have a way to call relatives or friends. They planned to drive about 30 miles west to Corpus Christi and stay with his daughter. From there, they hoped to figure out what to do next.

“It’s devastating to me,” he said from his car in front of what had been the studio.

Hope amid concern

Troy and Laurie Rodgers had retired to a condo on Aransas Bay after spending decades vacationing in the small town. As Harvey approached, they decided to leave. Troy Rodgers left Friday, hours before Harvey made landfall. But Laurie Rodgers headed out the night before. The drive to Austin, where her sister lives, took eight hours, more than double the time it usually does. Cars were bumper to bumper for the first hour out of town.

“Every gas station was packed,” she said. “The traffic was terrible.”

Hurricane Harvey decimated Cove Harbor Marina & Drystack in Rockport, tearing apart buildings and tossing boats on top of each other.
Hurricane Harvey decimated Cove Harbor Marina & Drystack in Rockport, tearing apart buildings and tossing boats on top of each other. | Brandon Formby

Their condo is a block from downtown, where a spattering of satellite trucks was parked Saturday so television reporters could do national broadcasts. The couple, like others who fled ahead of the storm, spent Saturday watching the coverage in shock over the damage reports.

“We kind of joke around and then all of a sudden something will hit and I’m just trying not to cry,” Laurie Rodgers said. “The reality of it is kind of overwhelming.”

Like local leaders, Laurie Rodgers is hopeful despite the continuing waves of concern.

“I think it will be fine,” she said. “I think people will … choose to stay and rebuild.”

Shannon Najmabadi contributed to this report.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • The storm wreaked havoc on buildings along the Texas coast and continued to dump heavy rainfall on the region, prompting concerns of possibly disastrous flooding, while widespread power outages hampered the state’s relief efforts. [Full story]
  • Last year, The Texas Tribune and ProPublica investigated Houston’s vulnerability to hurricanes and torrential rainstorms. The nation’s fourth-largest city is sure to see the latter in the coming days. Here’s what we know about what could happen. [Full story]
  • In the hours before Hurricane Harvey hits Texas, some local leaders told residents to flee their homes, while others urged them to stay in place and wait out the storm. [Full story]

Author: BRANDON FORMBY – The Texas Tribune

***previous story 8/26

Hurricane Harvey, the most powerful storm to strike Texas since 1961, slammed the Texas coastline late Friday and early Saturday, leaving thousands without power, damaging buildings and pouring down rain that is expected to cause catastrophic flooding in coming days.

The storm was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane — with sustained winds of 85 miles per hour — Saturday morning after making landfall near Rockport as a Category 4 storm and heading inland.

As wind speeds diminished, however, the slow-moving storm continued to deluge wide swaths of coastal Texas, and the National Hurricane Center predicts catastrophic flooding over the coming days. The National Weather Service has issued flash-flood warnings for Houston and its surrounding areas.

As of Saturday morning, more than 200,000 Texans had lost power, according to the Electric Reliability Council, which operates the state’s power grid.

The storm first made landfall around 10 p.m. Friday with wind speeds around 130 miles per hour. Local news reports from Rockport indicated many buildings were damaged overnight. After a roof collapsed at a senior housing complex, at least 10 people there were taken to a nearby jail for treatment. A portion of Rockport High School caved in.

In Fort Bend County, near Houston, county officials said a possible tornado damaged homes and downed trees, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Friday night that President Donald Trump and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, had approved the state’s request for a disaster declaration, which includes funding to provide “individual assistance, public assistance and hazard mitigation” in Texas.

“The White House is fully engaged, very helpful and very concerned about the people of Texas,” Abbott told Fox News late Friday. “Texas has received everything that we asked for from the White House.”

The governor is scheduled to give an update on the storm Saturday afternoon in Austin. Check back here for updates.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • In the hours before Hurricane Harvey hits Texas, some local leaders told residents to flee their homes, while others urged them to stay in place and wait out the storm. [Full story]

Authors: BY EDGAR WALTERS AND BOBBY BLANCHARD – The Texas Tribune

*** Previous story below 8/26 1am

After making landfall between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor around 10 p.m. Friday night as a Category 4 hurricane, Hurricane Harvey was downgraded to a Category 3, with winds of up to 125 miles per hour, at 1 a.m. Saturday, the National Weather Service reported.

As Texans braced for extreme flooding and potential damage to their communities, President Donald Trump announced on Twitter he had signed a presidential disaster declaration, which will open up additional federal resources and support to the state government.

A hurricane hasn’t hit Texas soil since 2008, and the coastal region’s surging population and booming oil industry — coupled with past weather events — are raising concerns that the state is unprepared.

Here’s what you need to know:

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Friday afternoon that President Donald Trump planned to visit the state next week. “It looks like the president will try to make plans to go to Texas early next week,” she said, “and we’ll keep you posted on details on those as they’re firmed up.”

White House officials went to great effort on Friday to appear prepared for a worst-case natural disaster and to urge those in the path of the storm to heed the guidance of local authorities.

Gov. Greg Abbott, who’s declared a state of disaster for 30 Texas counties and has directed the Texas Department of Public Safety’s State Operations Center to up its readiness level before Harvey hits, was briefed Friday on the hurricane and held a press conference afterward.

Abbott announced at the conference he requested a presidential disaster declaration related to the storm and encouraged Texans in coastal areas to evacuate their homes. But he stressed that whether to call for mandatory evacuations was a decision best left to local leaders, who he said can make better judgements for their areas.

“I can be suggestive of what I would do,” Abbott said when asked if he could put pressure on local officials to encourage more evacuations, “and that is, if I were living in the Houston region as I once did, I would decide to head to areas north of there.”

However, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner appeared to take a different stance in a tweet Friday afternoon: “Please think twice before trying to leave Houston en masse. No evacuation orders have been issued for the city.”

The governor also said the state has 41,000 shelter beds available for evacuees and more than 200 buses available to transport Texans out of coastal areas such as Corpus Christi, where storm surge and flooding are expected to pose the greatest risks. Texas state parks, Abbott added, are also available for evacuees to stay at no cost.

“We are going to be dealing with immense, really record-setting flooding,” he said.

***previous story 8/24 12:30a

Harvey is currently a Category 1 hurricane, with winds around 80 miles per hour — but it could become nearly a Category 4 hurricane, with winds of 125 miles per hour, by the time it makes landfall this weekend.

A hurricane hasn’t hit Texas soil since 2008, and the coastal region’s surging population and booming oil industry — coupled with past weather events — are raising concerns that the state is unprepared. Here’s what you need to know:

What’s happened so far 

Gov. Greg Abbott has declared a state of disaster for 30 Texas counties and has directed the Texas Department of Public Safety’s State Operations Center to up its readiness level before Harvey hits. Abbott has also announced he’s getting briefed on the hurricane at the center on Friday morning.

Some Texans along the coast have been asked to move inland or seek higher ground ahead of this weekend; on South Padre Island, people are loading up on water and filling sandbags to protect vulnerable homes and businesses.

The city of Port Aransas issued a mandatory evacuation Thursday, and so did Calhoun County — a strip of land along the coast that more than 20,000 people call home. Brazoria County, which has a population of around 340,000 residents, has ordered a mandatory evacuation as well — but only for people living on the Gulf side of the Intracoastal Canal. The cities of Galveston and Corpus Christi called for voluntary evacuations Thursday afternoon.

As of Thursday afternoon, the U.S. Border Patrol said it is not planning to close its roadside immigration checkpoints north of the Rio Grande Valley unless there is a danger to travelers or its agents.

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi issued one of its own on Wednesday, and the University of Houston has announced it’s closing campus for the weekend. School districts in Houston are considering canceling the first day of classes Monday, and New Braunfels ISD just announced it was delaying its first day of school due to Harvey.

Some are already comparing Harvey to Allison, a 2001 tropical storm whose heavy and prolonged rainfall made for one of the most expensive and deadly weather events in recent Southeast Texas history.

Is the Texas coast ready?

The Texas Tribune and ProPublica asked this same question for a major investigative project last year — and found some uncomfortable answers. Houston, the largest city in the state, is seriously ill-prepared.

If a hurricane hits the thousands of storage tanks — ones that hold the world’s largest concentrations of oil, gases and chemicals — that line the Houston Ship Channel just right, more than 25 feet of water could shoot up the channel. And if even one tank ruptured because of it, hundreds of thousands of people could be impacted.

When Hurricane Katrina made landfall in 2005, gushing floods caused one Houston Ship Channel refinery’s oil tank to rupture — and sent oil into more than 1,700 homes a mile away. The Houston area has schools and neighborhoods that are less than a mile from large refineries and oil storage terminals.

On top of those Ship Channel fears, unchecked development has continued in Houston, creating economic success for some — but upping the flood risk for everyone.

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush asked local and state leaders in Juneto urge the Trump administration to fund a coastal barrier system for Texas. Protecting the state’s coast was his agency’s no. 1 priority this year, he said, adding, “We are just as vulnerable to a major storm today as we were in 2008 — and that’s bad news.”

With voluntary evacuations beginning, traffic could be a nightmare

Southeast Texas’ booming population, paired with mandatory evacuations, could bring the state back to the Hurricane Rita and Ike days, when traffic jams filled some of Texas’ busiest highways as people sought safer ground. It’s possible that another traffic nightmare could precede what’s in store this weekend, especially as people along the coast head up to Dallas, Austin or San Antonio.

As of Thursday afternoon, the Texas Department of Transportation said it hadn’t yet turned some highways in the state into one-way roads to speed evacuations. The agency will only do so once there are mandatory evacuations.

“The time to leave is during voluntary evacuations because once it becomes mandatory, there’s going to be a lot of traffic,” said TxDOT spokeswoman Veronica Beyer. “If it does get to the point where we are having mandatory evacuations and we have to implement contraflow, it is going to take a good length of time.”

Officials were encouraging people to fill up gas tanks in case local officials began mandatory clearings. The transportation agency plans to end all ferry service to and from Port Aransas on Friday morning.

“You’ve got until tomorrow late morning to use the ferries,” Beyer said.

How Texans are reacting so far 

Some of you have shared your experience with past hurricanes and tropical storms on Twitter. @cottagelmagin said, “I remember Alicia… no power for 2 weeks, massive tree cleanup and miserable humidity.” Another user, @Comeonpurpletx, said, “Alicia destroyed my house; Ike flooded family’s; worried about flooding here in Clear Lake w/ Harvey.” @TheMermaidAg: “Ike hit 2 weeks into my freshman year at A&M Galveston. We evacuated and spent the semester in College Station during recovery.” And state Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, weighed in, too: “I remember 1 hurricane when we opened the school gym 4 pple to stay in. My dad was principal & the school was all there was.”

Tweet us your experiences and tell us how you’re preparing for Harvey this weekend with #MyTexasTake. Stay safe this weekend.

Take this information with you into the weekend 

Brandon Formby and Shannon Najmabadi contributed to this report. 

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Houston is the nation’s fourth-largest city and home to the largest refining and petrochemical complex in the United States. But many worry it’s a sitting duck when the next big hurricane comes. This multimedia project, done in partnership with ProPublica, looks at the dangers for the region. [Full story]
  • Rapid development continues in Houston, creating some economic gains but also contributing to flood risks. This project, done in partnership with ProPublica, looks at those risks and the debate over what to do. [Full story]
  • Check out our seven-part series done in partnership with The Texas Tribune and the Beaumont Enterprise on the “Road From Rita.” [Full story]

Author:  CASSANDRA POLLOCK – The Texas Tribune

Harvey Drowns Hope as Disaster Strikes Family Farm

This year was going to be different. The cotton looked good. Unbelievably good. Fat bolls loaded on compact stalks. A sea of white, as far as the eye could see. Matagorda County farmer Robby Reed was hopeful.

Until a bad boy named Harvey paid a visit.

Some say it’s the hurricane for the decades. For Robby, it’s the storm of a lifetime.

He’s 39 years old—a young farmer by most standards. He’s suffered through hard times, but 2017 may be his toughest year yet.

More than 20 inches of rain has fallen, and the family farm is completely underwater.

Half of Robby’s cotton is still in the fields. Or was. Drenched in the downpours, the cotton absorbed water like a sponge. Some fell off the stalks. Some floated away.

He drove by his fields yesterday. Bad news. The potential of a bumper crop swept away after years of low prices.

The evenings now are somber. Robby, his wife and son were forced out by rising waters. For the first time ever, water crept into their home.

But he wasn’t alone. His parents were in trouble, too. Robby hopped on a jet ski and picked them up before dawn on Monday. Floodwaters breached the levee at their farm near Bay City. Bob and Debbie Reed had been there 40 years and never had water in their barn. Until two days ago. A foot surged through it. And the worse could be yet to come.

For Debbie, it’s not the house or the barn that matter. “It’s just stuff,” she said.

Seeing her son and other young farmers suffer extreme losses, though, is more than she can bear.

“The hardest part is watching my son and daughter-in-law go through this,” she told me, voice cracking with emotion. “As a mom, you hurt for them more than you ever hurt for yourself.”

She and Bob have weathered their fair share of storms. They will do so again.

This time, they’re a little older. A lot wiser. And maybe just a little crazy—crazy for working long hours, hedging their bets and racing the weather without guarantees.

Farming is what they know. It’s what they love. It’s in their blood—a family tradition.

But Robby is looking at extreme loss—hundreds of thousands of dollars. A gamble he took on farming. With Mother Nature calling the shots. And her aim was deadly.

Author: Julie Tomascik – Texas Farm Bureau

Sun City Music Festival, Salvation Army Partner to Collect Supplies for Hurricane Harvey Relief

At this year’s Sun City Music Festival, embrace the golden rule that it’s always better to give than to receive.  Through SCMF’s official charitable partnership with The Salvation Army, festival goers can win big by giving back.

Relief efforts for those affected by Hurricane Harvey are underway, even as the storm continues to affect large parts of Texas. SCMF feels it’s more vital then ever to pitch in and help this who are displaced from Houston.

On both days of the event, September 2 & 3, fans are invited to donate non-perishable items to gain express entry to the festival through a marked Salvation Army entrance, located at festival’s main gates in Ascarate Park.

Look for the Salvation Army “entrance” and the “Express Entry / Salvation Army” entry lines.

Not only will participating attendees breeze through the festival gates with ease, they’ll feel good about helping those in need, and automatically be entered to win tickets to the 2018 festival.

Although only one item is required, SCMF organizers encourage fans to bring more. Permitted items for the food drive consists of non-perishables such as canned goods. Canned essentials include soup, beans, vegetables, fruit, meat, jars of peanut butter, bagged rice, baby formula, baby food, etc.

Additional SCMF festival information is available online or via the SCMF facebook page.

 

How to Get (and Offer) Help After Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Texas Coast, and has left Houston — the nation’s fourth-largest city — grappling with unprecedented flooding. Do you need help? Or do you want to help those in need? Check out the resources below.

If you’re a victim of Hurricane Harvey …

Rescue and evacuation

  • If you’re considering evacuating your home, the Houston Chronicle is compiling a map of flooded streets.
  • Several counties have issued mandatory or voluntary evacuations over the past several days. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is keeping a running list of those counties on his website. Keep in mind, the director of the federal Hurricane Harvey relief efforts has warned people in flooded regions not to get into their cars, which could put more lives at risk and drain resources that could be used to rescue citizens elsewhere.

Shelter and relief

  • The U.S. Department of Education activated its emergency response contact center Tuesday. Education stakeholders seeking informational resources and relief from Department-based administrative requirements are encouraged to email HarveyRelief@ed.gov.
  • Following reports that several Texans are missing in midst of the storm, the Red Cross is encouraging people to list themselves and their families as safe by clicking here. You can also receive disaster assistance from the Red Cross by calling 877-500-8645, or find a list of open shelters here.
  • Call the United Way Helpline at 211 for information on shelters and other forms of assistance.
  • To report a missing child, call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-866-908-9570.
  • For those looking for refuge, Texas State Park camping is free to hurricane evacuees.
  • Talk to a professional about emotional distress by calling the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or texting “TalkWithUs” to 66746.
  • Harris County: Call 713-308-8580 to locate your towed car.
  • Victoria: Grocery store H-E-B has a host of emergency measures in place, including a mobile kitchen serving meals today in Victoria.
  • Dallas: Mayor Mike Rawlings announced Monday that the city will start receiving people flown out of the flooded region this afternoon. The city will also open three emergency evacuation shelters at Samuell Grand Recreation Center, Walnut Hill Recreation Center and Tommie Allen Recreation Center.
  • San Antonio: Several shelters are open for storm refugees, according to the governor’s website. Both San Antonio Shelter Hub and San Antonio’s American Red Cross Shelter are hosting those who have evacuated from the floods.
  • Austin: The Austin Disaster Relief Network also activated a call center to provide both resources and information to families impacted by the storm. You can reach that hotline at 512-806-0800.

Disaster recovery

  • Lost Dogs of Texas is maintaining several active Facebook pages documenting pets they’ve found amid the storm. Here is some information (with photos included) on animals found along the Coast Bend area and those in the Houston area.
  • Also, the U.S. Department of Labor has approved a $10 million National Dislocated Worker Grant to assist with cleanup and recovery efforts in Texas.
  • If your home was ravaged by the floods or sustained any storm damage, you can register your damage with FEMA at 1-800-621-3362.
  • You can also file a personal claim with the Texas Department of Insurance’s consumer hotline at 1-800-252-3439.

If you want to help victims of Hurricane Harvey …

Help with rescue efforts

Provide shelter and supplies

  • Food banks are asking for nonperishable staples like canned meat and dry goods, as well as cleaning supplies; the Houston Food BankSoutheast Texas Food Bankin Beaumont, Central Texas Food BankGalveston County Food BankFood Bank of the Golden Crescent and Corpus Christi Food Bank all accept online donations. See the Houston Press’s list of names and contact information for more food banks here.
  • Donate food or cash to food banks in your area. Or you can donate to Feeding Texas, a network of food banks across the state. Find your local food bank here.
  • You can also open your home to disaster victims through Airbnb.
  • Make a cash or diaper donation to the Texas Diaper Bank, which is providing emergency diaper kits to displaced families.
  • In East Texas, Athens First Presbyterian Church is accepting donations — including bottled water, nonperishable food, tarps, trash bags and clean up supplies — for hurricane relief efforts. The church is also looking for volunteers to help accept donations.

Make a donation

Give blood

Several hospitals are reporting blood shortages and seeking donations in the wake of the storm. O negative and O positive donations are particularly helpful, but people of all blood types are encouraged to donate.

  • Carter BloodCare is sending donations to Southeast Texas; see where you can donate here. You can also give blood through the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center; find out more on their website or by calling 210-731-5590.
  • Living outside of Texas? You can still donate blood through the Red Cross.
  • On Tuesday, Trinity Mother Frances Health System and Carter BloodCare in Tyler are hosting a blood drive from noon until 6 p.m.

Volunteer your time

Experts expect it’ll take some time before the floodwaters drain in Houston. In the meantime, several groups are seeking volunteers to help with recovery efforts.

  • Volunteers can sign up for trips to the affected area through organizations like Samaritan’s PurseCoastal Bend Disaster Recovery Group and Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.
  • Volunteer Houston has launched a virtual Volunteer Reception Center to aid nonprofit agencies in flood relief efforts. More information here.
  • If you’re in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, you can register to help at shelters through the Mass Care Task Force.
  • Remote Area Medical is seeking medical personnel, as well as general support and supplies, to help with rescue efforts. Contact RAM at volunteers@ramusa.org or 865-579-1530.
  • The State Bar of Texas has a legal hotline to help people — specifically low-income Texans — with issues such as replacing lost documents and answering insurance questions. They also started a disaster relief volunteer form, which attorneys licensed in Texas can fill out here.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • The director of the federal Hurricane Harvey relief efforts offered guidance to Texans affected by the storm and urged citizens to help. [Full story]
  • As Harvey’s waters strand thousands of folks in their homes and send some onto rooftops — a chorus of onlookers have asked: Why didn’t more local officials order mandatory evacuations? [Full story]
  • Nowhere was Hurricane Harvey’s devastation felt more than Aransas County, which has had one storm-related death and has had many buildings severely damaged. The region’s difficult physical — and emotional — recovery is underway. [Full story]

Authors: ALEX SAMUELS AND EMMA PLATOFF – The Texas Tribune

El Paso County Sheriff’s Deputies, Constables Headed to Disaster Zone

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office has joined other law enforcement agencies from around the state and nation in offering assistance to areas hit by Hurricane Harvey.

Sheriff Richard D. Wiles and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office has sent six deputies to Katy Monday evening.

Constables from precincts 1 & 6 will also be accompanying deputies to help. The officers will be assisting area law enforcement agencies with rescues and shelter security, or as needed in the areas hit by the hurricane.

Constable Precinct 6 Javier Garcia will be leading the first team deployment along with two other Deputies for 10 days. Precinct 1 Sergeant Francisco Almada will be leading the second team for an unknown time frame and provide relief for the first team of Constables.

Both Constable Precinct 1 Oscar Ugarte and Constable Precinct 6 Javier Garcia will be monitoring the agency’s efforts in support of this operation.

Sheriff’s Deputies were prepped for the trip with supplies and gear to help them brave the harsh conditions. They will also be traveling with two rescue boats.

UMC To Send Team To Support Hurricane Victims

In response to calls for support and other assistance for victims of Hurricane Harvey, University Medical Center of El Paso is sending a contingent of physicians and nurses to San Antonio.

“The devastation brought to our State by Hurricane Harvey has us pulling together as Texas communities and hospitals to support all victims and each other,” said Jacob Cintron, President & CEO.

“I am so proud that we had so many of our staff volunteer. However, for now at least, the call is for a small group but we stand ready to send more, as well as ready and able to treat any victims of the storm, should they be sent to us here in El Paso.”

UMC on Monday received a request from hurricane relief officials seeking:

  • Doctors
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Nurses

Victims from Houston and surrounding areas have been relocated to San Antonio and other Texas cities. UMC’s team will support two large shelters in San Antonio, with each shelter providing accommodations and relief services for 2,800 people.

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