Federal officials are saying they are expecting a multiple year recovery process in Texas and across the south as Tropical Storm Harvey continues to make its way across parts of Louisiana, the death toll has risen to 20 people, sheriff’s said Wednesday.
Bryan Carlisle, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Captain, said two more Harvey–related deaths were reported at an area north of Houston, Texas. One of them found while trying to get around a barricade and into standing water on Monday, while the other apparently attempted to swim across a flooded road, the sheriff said.
Officials expect the death toll to rise further as the waters receded and they are able to take full inventory of the death and damage wrought by the catastrophic Harvey storm.
Wednesday morning, acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said federal government agencies would help those who have had their lives affected for as long as was needed.
“We expect a many-year recovery in Texas and the federal government is in this for the long haul,” Elaine Duke said. “We will help the people of Texas for as long as they need.”
Duke added: “This particular storm was unprecedented in terms of volume, of rain, and that’s what we’re focusing on now.”
The acting HHS said while officials were monitoring the tropical storm situation in Louisiana, the focus still remained on the greater Houston area, which saw more than 50 inches of rain after Harvey made landfall Saturday, setting a record for total rainfall in the United States in one area.
“Catastrophic flooding is likely to persist days after the rain stops,” Duke added.
There have been over 10,000 rescued throughout the Houston area and surrounding coastal cities and counties, and more people are still trying to escape from their destroyed and submerged homes.
Brock Long, FEMA administrator, said more than 230 shelters are operating in Texas, and those shelters are currently housing more than 30,000 people.
“We’re also calling on other states through emergency management assistance compacts,” Long said. “We’re still in lifesaving, life sustaining mode.”
The FEMA admin added: “Shelters are obviously not ideal and unfortunately people are going to be there for quite some time.”
— NWS Houston (@NWSHouston) August 30, 2017
Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters began to lower across a portion of the Houston area, emergency heads noted Wednesday, offering a ray of hope to the storm’s victims.
“The water levels are going down. And that’s for the first time in several days,” said Jeff Lindner, who serves as a meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District. (Related: Watch: Weather Channel Anchor Drops Everything to Make a Very American Rescue)
Meanwhile, some areas around Houston are still in danger as a levee along Cypress Creek in the northern part of the county could fail and swamp a home subdivision where some residents did not follow the mandatory evacuation that was ordered.
Two reservoirs hold water that shield downtown Houston from flooding is likely to crest Wednesday at levels slightly below those that were forecast, officials said.
Meanwhile, the Texas area of Port Arthur became increasingly isolated Wednesday as Harvey’s downpour flooded most major streets out of the city, and inundated a shelter for victims fleeing from Harvey, which decimated the Houston area.
The catastrophe deepened in the coastal city after Tropical Storm Harvey moved ashore over the night for the second time in just six days, this time hitting southwestern Louisiana on the heels of the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katerina that caused so much damage.
The city’s mayor, Derrick Freeman, told its residents to get to higher ground and to avoid becoming stuck in attics. (Related: Hurricane Criminal Looters FIRE GUN SHOTS at Harvey Rescue Team)
“The city is underwater right now but we are coming!” Freeman wrote on Facebook.
Throughout Louisiana, meteorologists warned of possible tornadoes forming in northeast part of the Louisiana and across southern and central areas of Mississippi.
Governor John Edwards of Louisiana told “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday morning the “worst case scenario has not happened” and they were hopeful they would get through the next 24 hours without severe damage.
“We need to get this storm moving, get it overland and let it dissipate,” the governor said. “Thus far, things are not going as we had feared.”
Before it finally stops completely, Harvey could creep as far as Mississippi by Thursday, meaning New Orleans, where Hurricane Katrina unleashed its full wrath in 2005, is in Harvey’s forecasted path. (Related: Jim Acosta of CNN Attacks President Trump After Upbeat Speech To Texans)
— NOAAHurricaneHunters (@NOAA_HurrHunter) August 26, 2017
Nostalgic images of Harvey lit up weather screens Tuesday on the 12th anniversary of the day Katrina made landfall.
Even though it has been more than a decade between major storms, New Orleans is still hurting from a pump system that is not working properly, and the city has been working around-the-clock to make fixes. Earlier this August, New Orleans’ pump system stopped after fewer than just 10 inches of rain fell. (Related: WATCH: Emotional moment when man who lost everything to Harvey learns father is alive)
Hurricane Harvey hit Texas as a Category 4 storm late Friday evening blowing 130 mph winds. Harvey made a second landfall just three hours later before it was officially downgraded to a Category 1 storm. After HArvey’s winds dropped below 73 mph, it was eventually downgraded to a tropical storm.
The Associated Press and Fox News and The New York Times contributed as source material for this report.