Houston floodwaters are beginning to drop across much of the Houston area, emergency officials said Wednesday, offering a glimmer of hope to the hurricane’s victims.
“The water levels are going down. And that’s for the first time in several days,” said Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District.
The number of confirmed deaths rose to 20 when authorities reported that two men died in separate drownings. One of them around a barricade and into standing water on Monday, while the other tried to swim across a flooded road.
Authorities expect the death toll to rise as the waters recede and they are able to take full stock of the death and destruction wrought by the catastrophic storm.
Some neighborhoods were still in danger of more flooding. Linder said a levee along Cypress Creek in the northern part of the county could fail and swamp a subdivision where some residents ignored a mandatory evacuation order.
The water in two reservoirs that protect downtown Houston from flooding was likely to crest Wednesday at levels slightly below those that were forecast, officials said.
Meanwhile, the Texas community of Port Arthur found itself increasingly isolated Wednesday as Harvey’s rains flooded most major roads out of the city and swamped a shelter for victims fleeing the storm that ravaged the Houston area.
The crisis deepened in the coastal city after Harvey rolled ashore overnight for the second time in six days, this time hitting southwestern Louisiana, about 45 miles from Port Arthur.
Jefferson County sheriff’s Deputy Marcus McLellan said he wasn’t sure where the 100 or so evacuees at the civic center in Port Arthur would be sent. Most were perched on bleacher seats to stay dry, their belongings left mostly on the floor under about a foot (30 centimeters) of water, he said.
“People started coming to the shelter on Monday,” McLellan said. “And now it’s just all the rainfall that’s coming in, and there’s a canal by there also that’s overflowing.”
In the Houston area, meanwhile, some sunshine was finally in the forecast after five straight days of rain that totaled close to 52 inches, the heaviest tropical downpour ever recorded in the continental United States.
The dead include a former football and track coach in suburban Houston and a woman who died after she and her young daughter were swept into a rain-swollen drainage canal in Beaumont. The child was rescued clinging to her dead mother, authorities said.
Some 13,000 people have been rescued in the Houston area, and more than 17,000 have sought refuge in Texas shelters. With the water still high in places and many hard-hit areas still inaccessible, those numbers seemed certain to increase.
Harvey initially came ashore as a Category 4 hurricane in Texas on Friday, then executed a U-turn and lingered off the coast as a tropical storm for days, inundating flood-prone Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city.
Early Wednesday, Harvey paid a return visit, coming ashore near Cameron, Louisiana, and bringing with it 45 mph winds and a heavy dose of rain.
Houston’s largest shelter housed 10,000 of the displaced — twice its initial intended capacity — and two additional mega-shelters opened Tuesday for the overflow.