Officials in Houston warned Tuesday that the death toll from Tropical Storm Harvey could increase dramatically once flooding from the storm begins to recede later this week.
Houstonians should expect 2 more feet of rain on top of the 30-plus inches seen in some parts of southeastern Texas, authorities noted, adding that the worst could be yet to come. Rescue crews have already plucked 3,000 people from the rising waters.
“We know in these kind of events that, sadly, the death toll goes up historically,” Houston police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters. “I’m really worried about how many bodies we’re going to find.”
Forecasters believe the storm system will continue to hover over the Gulf of Mexico’s warm waters and carry with it 45 mph winds during the next two days before traveling up the East Coast. It will eventually lose strength but not before stopping in Louisiana.
Parts of the Houston area will likely shatter the nearly 40-year-old U.S. record Tropical Storm Amelia in 1978 made in Texas for the biggest rainfall from a tropical system — 48 inches. The massive flooding has led some to question why the city’s mayor never issued a mandatory evacuation notice.
But Mayor Sylvester Turner has repeatedly knocked down such criticisms, insisting that a mass evacuation of Houston’s 2 million citizens would create mass chaos and potentially threaten more lives than the storm itself.
“Both the county judge and I sat down together and decided that we were not in direct path of the storm, of the hurricane, and the safest thing to do was for people to stay put, make the necessary preparations,” he told reporters Monday. “I have no doubt that the decision we made was the right decision.”
He added: “Can you imagine if millions of people had left the city of Houston and then tried to come back in right now?”
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