Over 1,000 High Water Rescues Carried Out in Houston; People Urged to Go On Roofs to be Saved; 5 Dead

Housing surrounded by flood waters caused by Hurricane Harvey is seen from a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter during an overflight from Port Aransas to Port O'Connor, Texas, Aug. 26, 2017. (U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd Class Johanna Strickland/Reuters)
Housing surrounded by flood waters caused by Hurricane Harvey is seen from a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter during an overflight from Port Aransas to Port O’Connor, Texas, Aug. 26, 2017. (U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd Class Johanna Strickland/Reuters)

Though Hurricane Harvey weakened to a tropical storm by Saturday afternoon, southeast Texas — particularly the Houston area — continued to be hammered by the storm on Sunday morning.

One person died in flooding in Houston, the city’s police chief, Art Acevedo, confirmed late Saturday. It’s the second confirmed death from Harvey.

“Sadly we have lost one female member of our community who encountered floodwaters in her vehicle, got out and was swept away,” Acevedo said. “We also have reports of one other brutality but have not confirmed it.”

More than 1,000 people were also rescued overnight from the treacherous flooding in the Houston area, the National Weather Service (NWS) reported.

On Sunday morning, the NWS announced flash flood emergency situations for 12 counties in southeast Texas. At 4:39 a.m., an NWS bulletin said, “rainfall amounts in the last 24 hours of 14 to 28 inches has fallen in portions of the emergency area.”

The bulletin continued, “This is a flash flood emergency from the Bay City area to Wharton to Waller across the Houston Metro area to Stafford to Friendswood to League City and Santa Fe. Travel across the area is severely hampered if not impossible. Over 1,000 high water rescues have been performed and in some places emergency crews cannot reach the worst hit areas.”

The NWS urged residents Sunday morning, “Move to higher ground now. This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation. Do not attempt to travel unless you are fleeing an area subject to flooding or under an evacuation order.”

Emergency services in Houston are being pushed to the limit. The city tweeted, “911 services at capacity. If u can shelter in place do so, a few inches in your home is not imminent danger. Only call if in imminent danger.”

ABC affiliate KTRK tweeted a photo, below, of a viewer stuck in an attic with their children.

At a press conference Saturday night, Houston mayor Sylvester Turner said, “It’s a serious storm. It’s going to last four or five days — and today is day one.” He urged residents to refrain from driving.

“Heavy rain band stalled over city for several hours, get off the roadways now,” Acevedo tweeted Saturday night. “Use extreme caution flooding is widespread on roads.”

And those who did not heed the aforementioned warning found themselves stranded. “In the last 10 mins we have gotten several calls of people stranded on the roads,” Turner tweeted Saturday night. “Please help us keep you safe and help 1st responders.”

Because of heavy rainfall, Sylvester at the press conference said several rivers were rising above banks. Homes in the west part of the city were also experiencing flooding, he said.

The city’s public transportation agency announced Saturday night that it was suspending all bus and rail service.

Flooding was also reported in the area around Hobby Airport.

The devastating scene in Houston did not comes as surprise to residents, though. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Saturday warned of additional downpours forecast to drench already flooded communities in the coming days.

“Our biggest concern is between 20 and 30 more inches of rain in areas ranging from Corpus Christi over to Houston,” Abbott said at a press conference. “We want to do everything we possibly can to keep people out of rising water.”

Abbott said search-and-rescue missions and cleanup efforts have already begun in some parts of Texas, after Harvey slammed into the state’s Gulf Coast Friday night as a Category 4 hurricane, unleashing a dangerous wrath of torrential rain and 130 mph winds. By Saturday afternoon, Harvey had gradually downgraded to a tropical storm as maximum sustained winds dropped to 60 mph by the evening, but the National Weather Service still warned of a “serious flooding event unfolding” inland over Texas, as well as “torrential rains.”

Abbott, who visited with evacuees from the Corpus Christi area in San Antonio, said the displaced residents he met are in “strong” spirits despite the damage done and the ominous forecast.

“They are what I call typical Texans. They were resilient, they were strong, they were strong-spirited, they were happy,” he told reporters at the press conference Saturday afternoon. “They were just happy to be there and be alive.”

But Harvey has already proven to be deadly. In the Texas coastal city of Rockport, one person was confirmed dead Saturday afternoon as a result of the storm. More victims are likely, officials there said.

Although Harvey is projected to churn over southeastern Texas through the weekend, residents in hard-hit communities re-emerged Saturday to assess the damage and risk their lives to save others after a tumultuous night of rain, wind and reported tornadoes.

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ABC News