Harvey Update-Releasing Reservoirs Creates Ghost Towns

National Security
Harvey Update: Releasing Reservoirs Creates Ghost Towns

The scope of Hurricane Harvey's impact on the southern United States is hard to grasp, and the end is still far from sight. Since its landfall Friday night, the storm has dropped more than two feet of water in some areas, and the U.S. National Weather Service expects Houston and south Texas will receive up to 50 inches by the time the storm dissipates.

Houston—the fourth largest city in the United States—has seen devastating flooding, forcing residents to leave their homes and seek shelter. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that 30,000 people will be displaced from their homes, and that the $3 billion disaster fund will be enough to help with immediate aid—for now.

Here's what we know so far about the storm's impact:

  • Eight people are confirmed dead in Texas from Harvey.

  • U.S. President Trump is planning to travel to Texas tomorrow to survey the damage.

  • All schools in Houston are closed, as well as several retailers, hospitals, and the U.S. postal service.

  • Both of Houston's airports will remain closed to the public until at least Wednesday.

  • Houston 911 received 56,000 calls for help over 15 hours. The average number of calls for a typical day is 8,000. 

Although Houston has been in the spotlight, cities south of Houston are struggling as well—and are facing a surge of floodwater from Houston. Two dams in the Houston area are being released to control the overflow and provide relief for the city, but officials say it will affect thousands of homes along the reservoirs.

The dams were released earlier than expected due to rapidly-rising waters that threatened to overflow the reservoirs. "If we don't begin releasing now, the volume of uncontrolled water around the dams will be higher and have a greater impact on the surrounding communities," said Galveston District Commander Col. Lars Zetterstrom around 2:30 a.m. on Monday. "It's going to be better to release the water through the gates directly into Buffalo Bayou as opposed to letting it go around the end and through additional neighborhoods and ultimately into the bayou."

Cities such as La Grange and Bay City implemented mandatory evacuations Monday morning due to the surge, which could add up to 10 feet of water to the already-flooded streets. Officials warned remaining residents that roads out of the city would be closed, and first response, utility, and other services will be shuttered.

"This means there will be absolutely no emergency response, including law enforcement, fire, and EMS services, in all areas of the county," the Matagorda County Emergency Operations Center warned residents in a statement. "Basic services, such as food and water, will not be available. Mandatory Evacuations MUST be completed before this deadline."

The Bay City Police Department posted on its Facebook page that dispatch centers are completely out of service and encouraged residents to call on nearby counties for assistance.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has warned of an increase in phishing attacks by cyber criminals posing as charities or insurance agencies.