HOUSTON: Tropical Storm Harvey unleashed flooding in Houston on Sunday, turning streets in Texas’ largest city into raging rivers as trapped residents climbed to higher floors and the death toll rose.
Overwhelmed emergency services warned residents to head for high ground or climb onto rooftops — not into attics — so they could be seen by rescue helicopters.
“It is bad and growing worse,” said Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who said the storm had inflicted billions of dollars in damage in the state.
At least two people have died since Harvey crashed ashore late on Friday as a Category 4 hurricane, spawning tornadoes and lashing east and central Texas with torrential rains.
In Houston, a woman drowned when she left a car which had stalled in high water, local media reported, citing police.
Local officials said one person was killed when a house caught fire in the Rockport area, where Harvey made landfall with sustained winds of 130 miles per hour.
The National Weather Service said more than two feet of rain fell in Houston in a 24-hour period, and flooding was expected to worsen as the most powerful storm to hit the United States since 2005 lingers over the area.
Harvey slowly weakened as it advanced, but it had the power to rip off roofs, flip mobile homes and leave hundreds of thousands of people in the dark on the Gulf Coast, home to some of the country’s most important oil refineries.
More than a dozen tornado warnings were issued overnight for southeast Texas, including several in the Houston area.
In Houston, a city of 2.3 million, streets turned into fast-moving rivers with officials warning residents to stay home.
“If the highest floor of your home becomes dangerous… get on the roof,” the city’s emergency management agency warned in a bulletin.
Abbott said National Guard troops were deployed overnight in the city, using high-clearance vehicles to help with rescue work in inundated areas.
Boats and helicopters also were being deployed throughout the area for swift rescues, he said.
Hobby International, one of Houston’s two airports, announced that all flights had been cancelled “due to standing water on runways”, while George Bush International was operating at limited capacity.
Houston officials said their 911 phone system was overwhelmed with emergency calls, mostly from stranded motorists.