Hurricane Harvey continues to take more lives as it spun across southeast Texas into Louisiana on Wednesday.
Harvey has already forced 32,000 people into shelters since coming ashore last Friday and is been seen as the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in half a century. On Wednesday, it pummeled the coast from Port Arthur, Texas, to Lake Charles, Louisiana.
While Harvey has weakened to a tropical depression on Wednesday night, the US National Hurricane Center continues to warn people that “catastrophic and life threatening flooding will continue in and around Houston, Beaumont/Port Arthur, eastward into southwest Louisiana for the rest of the week.”
Busloads of people fleeing floodwaters around Port Arthur arrived in Lake Charles, joining residents who had packed into shelters to escape waterlogged homes. About 250,000 homes and businesses were without power in Texas and Louisiana, figures from four utilities showed.
Harvey was forecast to drop a further 4 to 8 inches ( 10 to 20 cms) of rain on Wednesday, with a storm surge of up to 4 feet (1.2 m) along the western part of Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, although the Houston area was finally expected to get a break, with no rain forecast for Thursday or Friday.
The floods shut the nation’s largest oil refinery in Port Arthur in the latest hit to US energy infrastructure that has sent gasoline prices climbing and disrupted global fuel supplies.
Moody’s Analytics is estimating the economic cost from Harvey for southeast Texas at $51 billion to $75 billion, ranking it among the costliest storms in US history.
At least $23 billion worth of property has been affected by flooding from Harvey just in parts of Texas’ Harris and Galveston counties, a Reuters analysis of satellite imagery and property data showed.
“The worst is not yet over for southeast Texas, as far as the rain is concerned,” Governor Greg Abbott said.
He warned residents of storm-hit areas to expect floodwaters to linger for up to a week and said the area affected was larger than that hit by 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,800 people in New Orleans, and 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, which killed 132 around New York and New Jersey.
Houston’s metropolitan area, with an economy about as large as Argentina’s, has a population of about 6.5 million, far greater than New Orleans’ at the time of Katrina. Abbott asked that the federal government spend more on rebuilding Texas’ Gulf Coast than it did after the earlier storms.
A day after visiting Texas to survey the damage, US President Donald Trump pledged on Wednesday to stand by the people of Texas and Louisiana.
“We are here with you today … and we will be with you every single day after to restore, recover and rebuild,” he said during an appearance in Springfield, Missouri.
Clear skies in Houston on Wednesday brought relief to the energy hub and fourth-largest US city after five days of catastrophic downpours. The first flight out of Houston since the storm hit had boarded, city officials said on Wednesday evening. Mayor Sylvester Turner said he hoped the port of Houston would reopen soon. But disruptions lingered and even some of the people helping evacuees in Houston said they had lost their homes.