Hurricane Harvey General Advice & Updates: Texas
*Disclaimer - I’m not in Texas. I don’t have access to any information that isn’t public. This is just my advice based on what I see government officials posting, my experience in emergency management, and my experience with hurricanes in the gulf. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS LISTEN TO LOCAL OFFICIALS AND VERIFY INFORMATION THROUGH OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT SOURCES*
LAST UPDATED: Sunday 8 AM EST
BASIC STORM UPDATE
No good news this morning for Texas. I'm going to stay focused on Houston (and surrounding areas) because that's where I know the most people and am most familiar with.
Things are as bad and worse, in some places, than forecasted. For some perspective, last night a "Flash Flood Emergency" was not a severe enough warning so the NWS in Houston issued a "Flash Flood Emergency For Catastrophic LIfe Threating Flooding" which was a thing they literally just made up because people were not paying attention.
Quick new information
- Emergency management officials have requested that people escaping flood waters as a last resort do not stay in the attic. If the highest floor of your home becomes dangerous, get on the roof and call 911. 911 services in the city of Houston are at capacity. ONLY call if you are in IMMINENT danger.
- Stay off the Harris County Flood Warning System website if you are not local. It keeps crashing from high traffic.
- Double check that your emergency alert notifications are set to "ON" in your phone.
THIS IS NOT OVER HOUSTON - Harvey is moving ONLY 100 miles in the next FIVE days. That's less than 1mph. It is going to KEEP raining. Just because you're okay now does not mean that you're going to still be okay on Wednesday.
Some quick facts to try and demonstrate the severity and seriousness of this situation.
- Neighborhoods that flooded in April 2016 are now flooded. If they're not already, within the next few hours all neighborhoods that flooded in the 2015 Memorial Day floods will be flooded. After that, your guess is as good as mine.
- Overnight there were more than 1000 high water rescues (which is actually not an unusual number for flooding in Houston).
- Last night there were rainfall rates of up to 6 inches per hour which is nearly unheard of... As of now, the 7-day rainfall forecast is the highest the NWS has *ever* issued.
- Last night there were over 2.3 million people under the flash flood emergency. The only other Flash Flood Emergency ever declared in Houston was the Memorial Day Floods in 2015.
- In Houston, the average rainfall for the entire month of August is 3.8 inches... They received FOUR times that in the span of three hours.
One slightly positive thing:
- As of now Addicks, though filling, is still looking okay. (This is the part of the flood control system that protects *downtown* Houston). It doesn't mean it will remain okay, but for now, it's still looking okay.
I strongly recommend following @EricHolthaus and @mattlanza which is where most of this info. came from.
For many parts of Texas, including Houston, this is just getting started.
Harvey made landfall last night as a Category 4 hurricane (the strongest since Charley in 2004) in Texas. As it has stalled over land it has been downgraded to a Category 1.
I would caution everyone to not get too wrapped up in the "category" designation. The category is determined by storm surge and wind speed. It does not include rainfall. This storm, now, is all about rain fall. Rain fall totals are starting to increase.
NOAA’s forecast as of this afternoon is to expect up to 77 river stations at major or moderate flood stage over the next few days.
Buffalo Bayou (south of Houston) is forecasted to crest at 64ft, which is 4 feet higher than it takes to flood homes.
Almost every single river and stream between San Antonio and Houston are going to be breaking records. - https://twitter.com/NWS/status/901536069539246081
Texas has declared 50 counties (up from 30 yesterday)
Forecast For The Next Few Days
If you're from Eastern Texas you know that just 10 inches of rain in 24 hours can cause life-threatening flooding. This storm is dumping 40 inches over the next few days. There will be flooding. I cannot say exactly where because it's such a large area and the topography varies so much. You can easily see one neighborhood flood while the one next to it is fine. The best source of information is your LOCAL NEWS. They will have the most accurate and relevant updates for where you are. You should also keep an eye on the Weather Channel (rather than CNN, etc) because they will have the most constant updates.
If you usually flood, you almost certainly will now. If you don't usually flood you might flood this time. This storm is going to be sitting on Texas for several days. Just because you're not flooding right now does not mean you won't.
This storm is cover a HUGE area... even within the city of Houston there will be large variations in impacts.
Some people need to evacuate and some do not. How do you know if you need to evacuate?
If you are told to evacuate (voluntary or mandatory) DO IT. Do not wait until it is too late. IF YOU ARE TOLD TO EVACUATE (regardless of voluntary or mandatory) YOU SHOULD DO SO IMMEDIATELY. Remember that you’re not just risking your life when you stay, you’re also risking the lives of all the people who are going to try and come save your ass.
If you’re told to evacuate and do not - write your social security number on your arm with a sharpie (yes, this is to identify your body. No, I’m not being dramatic) and put an axe in your attic so you can get out on to your roof if the water comes up too high. Really though, you should just evacuate.
On evacuations in HOUSTON specifically:
If you usually flood. You will probably flood. So, make your own decision on that. If you do not usually flood, you very well may flood this time.
- Mayor Turner has not issued evacuation orders for Houston at this time. This conflicted with statements from the Governor which suggested that Houston residents might consider evacuating. Conflicting information from government officials is frustrating. Ultimately, though, there is no evacuation orders for Houston, at this time. If there is they will be posted here.
- That being said, the advice I give to anyone who is in the path of any disaster stands true here: If you have a newborn baby, if you have life-threatening medical needs, if you are elderly, if you have some type of disability or illness and need electricity, if you do not know how to swim (yes, I’m serious), or are in some other way not able-bodied enough to get out of your house and to safety without assistance, you should STRONGLY consider evacuating. At least have a very detailed plan, at this point.
- Gas stations with and without gas.
By detailed evacuation plan I mean:
- What is the address of the place you are going to go (Are you staying in a shelter? Where is it? How do you know it is open? Are you staying with friends and family - are they expecting you? Are you staying at a hotel - do you have a reservation). Do you have the actual directions to get to this place? Do you have alternate routes to take in case of traffic/ obstructed roads? Is where you are going also in the path of the storm???
- What are you doing with your pets? Don't have a plan for them? Here's pet shelter information.
- - How are you getting there? Do you have a car? Does it work? What if it floods before you leave? Do you have gas? Where will you get more gas on your way? Is there enough room for everyone in the car? Do you have access to some type of public transportation - is it still running? Do you have a ticket? Do you have money to buy a ticket/ gas? Do you have cash? What if the power is out along the way?
- Are you physically able to sit in a car through evacuation traffic? If not, sometimes it actually is better to shelter in place or close by to your house at a public shelter.
- How long might you be gone for? Do you have everything you'll need/ want? How will you get back to your house (transportation/ route)? How long can you stay at where you're evacuating to? Have you left your house/ apartment in the best possible condition for surviving the storm?
- Need help evacuating? Evacuation is expensive and requires transportation - if you do not have these things there are organizations, churches, and local government agencies who can help you. If you want to evacuate and don’t have the means start calling around.
Remember - it’s not just whether your house floods - it’s if the electricity is out for a week, if the roads around you are flooded and you can’t get out, if the businesses around you are flooded and shut down for an extended period of time. As a general rule, it is better to have evacuated and not needed to than not evacuate and have needed to.
If you are undocumented and want to evacuate or need help in some way GO TO YOUR CHURCH. Besides your friends and family who you already know churches tend to be the best place to get help in these situations. You do not need to belong to a church for them to help you. There are underground networks of people and organizations who will help you.
You can also find a list of open Red Cross Shelters on this map.
You should also check with local officials. Unofficial shelters often open - these can be found through your local news, on social media. Look for local churches or community shelters.
Life-Saving Tips/ Getting Through Response
- DO NOT DRIVE THROUGH FLOODED STREETS. THIS IS HOW PEOPLE DROWN. HERE IS AN EXPLAINER ABOUT WHY PEOPLE DROWN WHEN THEY DRIVE THROUGH FLOOD STREETS.
- Do what your LOCAL officials tell you to do. If you get conflicting information go with the person who has the most disaster experience.
- Keep your phone charged. Have an external battery.
- Have several days of food and water... the typical recommendation is 3 days but for this storm, I would personally have 7-10 days.
- Clean and fill bathtub with water (tips on disinfecting water can be found at cdc.gov)
- Charge electronic devices
- Make ice (plastic storage bags and bowls with lids may be used)
- Elevate important items (i.e., food, important papers, medicine)
- Secure all outdoor items
- Move vehicles to higher ground
- Check on neighbors, especially the elderly
- Contact family, review rescue plans
- Ensure gutters and storm drains are clear
Get yourself ready for recovery
- Have copies of important documents ready to go. See a list of what documents you should have here.
More Information/ Who To Follow
- Me! I update most frequently on twitter
- Sign up for weather updates from the National Weather Service for where you live.
- Matt Lanza (meteorologist based in Houston)
- Here’s an entire list of meteorologists to follow on Twitter:
- List of people to follow for information on Corpus Christi
- Search on Facebook for any neighborhood/ city Facebook groups. Most neighborhoods in Texas even have specific flood related ones. Search [your town/ city/ neighborhood/ county name] + Flood] into Facebook. Your neighbors are an excellent source of information. They will post if water starts rising down your street, if someone nearby needs help, if someone has extra food, what local officials are saying, which stores are still open and have water, etc. Some of these groups have some kind of moderator with some insight into emergency management, etc but do try to verify as much as possible what they say through an official source.
- For general updates this running list on Buzzfeed that is quick and accurate
- Brock Long, the new FEMA administrator
- Texas department of public safety
- National Hurricane Center
Houston- specific sources
- Houston office of emergency management
- Mayor Turner
- Houston Emergency Management
- Harris County Flood Warning System - You should watch this closely if you live in Houston, they have a running update on rainfall totals.
***IF YOU SEE OUTDATED OR INCORRECT INFORMATION HERE PLEASE COMMENT BELOW SO I CAN UPDATE IT***