Catastrophe Unfolding in Southeastern Texas

As Bands of Rain Continue to Pour In Houston Area, Historic Flood Builds

Over the past several days, I have woken up in the middle of the night, but at about 3:00 AM this morning, there was a different feeling that I had. Once I took a look at my Twitter and Facebook feeds on my cell phone, I saw that many forecasters fears were being realized along much of coastal Texas including the Houston area.

I saw and retweeted or shared information from the National Weather Service office in Houston indicating that some 6 to 10 inches fell in just a matter of about four hours. Some of my Facebook friends that live in the Houston metro area and further east along the coast at Beaumont, and Southwestern Louisiana, were discussing how the flood waters were rising, and how the rain just wasn’t stopping.

Eventually falling to sleep again, I woke up again at about 7:30 AM this morning, and turned on HLN, which was formally CNN’s Headline News, and watched as the morning anchor was speaking with a resident of the Houston metro area as well as someone from the Harris County Sheriff’s Department so that they could arrange some sort of rescue from the rising flood waters in this resident’s home.

Fears have been growing that the rainfall amounts could get as high as 50 inches. Looking at the most recent rainfall amounts from around the Houston area and Southeastern Texas, those prospects are very likely. Some places have already seen close to 25 inches already, and we are only some 43 hours since Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Rockport, Texas between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor with 130 mile per hour winds and a minimum central pressure of 938 millibars.

Harvey, which is the strongest Category Four Hurricane to come ashore along the Texas coast since Hurricane Carla in 1961, did make quite an impact to the Texas coast in the area of Rockport. Many buildings were devastated if they didn’t fail completely, roofs were completely torn off homes, and large signs were torn off like sheets of paper from a notebook. The storm remained a hurricane for another 15 hours after that until about 3:00 PM on Saturday.

With the storm’s fury along the coastline now past, the real fear is now setting in, and that is the fact that Harvey has slowed to a crawl, and with its abundance of tropical moisture, and no steering currents to take it somewhere else, the result is what many feared, a catastrophe of enormous proportions with flooding that is likely to easily surpass that of Tropical Storm Allison in June 2001. Allison is the only tropical storm on record, which had its name retired.

Highways are now submerged under many feet of water. The flooding has reached the extent where large Interstate Exit Signs and highway video cameras are almost completely submerged in water. Panoramic views of the city of Houston show significant flooding nearly everywhere around the city. Cable news showing footage of people wading through the high flood waters in order to find refuge wherever they can find it. With the storm forecast to linger in the area for the next several days at least, rainfall amounts around the affected area could easily be doubled.

In addition, the Houston Metro area as well as much of Southeastern Texas has been pummeled by the onslaught of rotational thunderstorms and tornadoes caused by the friction between the landfalling Harvey and the Texas landmass. The National Weather Service in the Houston area has had to issue at least 60 Tornado Warnings since Harvey made landfall on Friday night. Now, usually, these twisters are not of the EF3, EF4, or EF5 variety, but they’ve easily piled on to the misery that is unfolding.

As of the most recent advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, Harvey remained a minimal tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour, and a minimum central pressure of 1000 millibars, or 29.53 inches of Hg. Tropical Storm Harvey continues to move slowly, and now to the Southeast at 2 miles per hour. Harvey is located some 25 miles to the Northwest of Victoria, Texas, which also received a tremendous amount of rainfall.

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Port O’Connor to Sargent along the Texas coast while a Tropical Storm Watch has just been issued from North of Sargent to San Luis Pass. Tropical storm force winds still extend some 140 miles from the center of Harvey. Isolated storm totals could reach 50 inches along the upper Texas coast including the Houston and Galveston area. Residents of Southwestern Louisiana should also be wary of Harvey. The NHC urges residents not to travel in the affected area if you are in a safe place, and not to drive onto flooded roadways.

The Federal Government has been constantly monitoring the situation, and helping Texas officials with search and rescue operations. Texas Governor, Greg Abbott said in a news conference earlier today that the main priority is to save lives. President Donald Trump has indicated that he will be traveling down to Texas to assess the situation on Tuesday. Abbott has been quite happy with the federal response saying that he gives “FEMA a grade of A+.” FEMA director, Brock Long is not only focused on the current situation and getting the proper response out, but also focusing on the long term help as well according to NBC’s Dallas/Fort Worth affiliate.

Speaking of television, Harvey’s rains have also impacted some of the coverage by local TV stations in the Houston metro area. Earlier on Sunday, CBS affiliate, KHOU-TV in Houston had to go off the air after flood waters began to move in on the first floor of their studios. The storm is not done yet, we are still at the very beginning of this weather driven drama.