Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner had different ideas over whether Houston should have been evacuated. This is raising questions about officials’ response to damaging floodwaters as devastation continues to overwhelm the entire region.
Turner, a Democrat, and some other local officials recommended to residents that they stay in their homes as Hurricane Harvey, which has been downgraded to a tropical storm, approached Houston on Friday.
At a Friday news conference, Governor Abbott, a Republican, suggested another thought on the matter, “Even if an evacuation order hasn’t been issued by your local official, if you’re in an area between Corpus Christi and Houston, you need to strongly consider evacuating.”
As of Sunday, the storm had poured as much as 24 inches of rain in 24 hours on areas that had been soaked the day before. Five fatalities have been reported so far in the Houston area, according to the National Weather Service. Turner said on Sunday that only one in the city was confirmed as storm-related. Officials said that more than 3,000 water rescues had been performed by Sunday afternoon.
No one has responded to requests for comment.
Families were stranded on rooftops and parts of the city. Residents say those places that hadn’t flooded before were submerged.
As much as 50 inches of rain, about as much as the region gets in a year, is up from an earlier estimate of up to 40 inches.
Hurricane Rita seems to have precedence over the evacuation. In 2005 more than 100 people died while evacuating as 2.5 million people fled that storm. Stories were horrifying. As a bus, evacuating 23 nursing home patients were killed, when they caught fire and exploded near Dallas. Houston hasn’t ordered evacuations ahead of hurricanes since then.
Officials could have evacuated residents of flood-prone neighborhoods as well as other vulnerable people like the elderly and homeless.
What the mayor did, and history will prove whether they guessed right or they guessed wrong, but leaving people in a place we know is going to flood is wrong.
Abbott should have immediately mobilized the entire National Guard. So far, 3,000 guardsmen have been activated. The state would need closer to 15,000. The scale is not known for the storm.
Turner defended his decision on Sunday saying, “There is no question in my mind, the best decision and the right decision was to tell people in Houston and Harris County don’t get on the road.”
Judge Ed Emmett of Harris County, the area’s top emergency official and a Republican, insisted that the city should have evacuated.
Arguments over this have begun and probably will continue.
Abbott said, “I have spoken with County Judge Emmett on a daily basis to offer help the state of Texas can provide. We have moved beyond whether or not there should have been an evacuation and we are at the stage where we need to respond to the emergencies and necessities the people of Houston have.”
The public were distressed and reluctant to comment when entering Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center. It has been turned into a giant shelter with dozens of homeless people.
HISTORIC rainfall in Houston, and all over Texas. Floods are unprecedented, and more rain coming. Spirit of the people is incredible.Thanks!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2017
Leaving now for Texas!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2017
President Trump is handling the disaster well. He’s giving Texas all they ask for. He may be there as you read this.