Washington (August 31, 2017): While countless Houstonians are still waiting for rescue, Tropical Storm Harvey has now swallowed another Texas city.
“Our whole city is underwater right now but we are coming!” Port Arthur Mayor Derrick Freeman posted Wednesday morning on Facebook. “If you called, we are coming. Please get to higher ground if you can, but please try stay out of attics.”
At least 24 deaths related to Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath have been reported in Texas. One of them, Houston police Sgt. Steve Perez, drowned while trying to get to work.
In Beaumont, rescuers Tuesday afternoon came upon a toddler in a pink backpack clinging to her mother’s body in floodwaters about a half mile from their car. The girl was in stable condition with hypothermia.
“Had we been a few moments later, they would have been swept underneath (a trestle) and our boats wouldn’t have been able to get them,” Haley Morrow, spokeswoman for the Beaumont Emergency Management Office said. He said “A true testament of a mother who put her own life at risk and sacrificed her life to save her child. That was devastating.”
In Port Arthur — about 90 miles east of the devastated Houston area — the deluge was so severe that floodwaters overwhelmed the Bob Bowers Civic Center, which was serving as a shelter. It was evacuated Wednesday after taking on water overnight, according to volunteer Ana Platero.
Cots where people slept the night before floated on 2 feet of water Wednesday as people waited on tables or sat on elevated bleachers to be evacuated to a nearby middle school. Police made an appeal for volunteers to bring boats and help.
“Rescue boats welcome in Port Arthur to assist emergency personnel,” the police department posted on Facebook. The city is asking anyone trapped to hang a white towel, sheet or shirt outside to alert rescuers.
The disaster in Port Arthur is part of Tropical Storm Harvey’s devastating encore. Harvey made landfall once again Wednesday morning, slamming into the Louisiana coast near the Texas border. Harvey has now broken the US record for rainfall from a single storm. It has dumped almost 52 inches of rain in parts of Texas.
The coastal cities of Beaumont and Port Arthur got pummeled with 26 inches of rain in 24 hours — and it’s still raining. “Life-threatening flash flooding continues in far east Texas around Beaumont and Port Arthur,” Hennen said.
Port Arthur, a city of about 55,000, is in exceptional danger because water from Beaumont is expected to flow toward it.
Emergency workers and throngs of volunteers are going door to door for a fifth day Wednesday, trying to rescue victims of the flood. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said authorities have received 60,000 to 70,000 calls for help. “We just pray that the body count … won’t rise significantly.” Acevedo said.