Tag: Texas

Iowan’s Heart Still Heavy After More Than Two Weeks of Hurricane Relief

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Seeing the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey was not easy to stomach.

"I cry a lot, I feel bad for all of them. I just feel bad for all of them," said Iowa Red Cross volunteer Brenda Kamish.

For 16 days, Brenda provided relief support at a mega shelter in Dallas. "I was on concrete all day setting up 5,000 cots for people and feeding them with the Salvation Army," she said.

Texans who left their homes behind with just a bag of belongings.

"The people from Beaumont were picked up on boats from their homes because the water rose so fast they couldn't get out," Brenda said.

The overflow of displaced residents took its toll.

"The toilets got all stopped up, we couldn't use toilets inside. They brought in portable bathrooms and showers were in a semi-truck, but they went through far more than what I experienced."

Brenda was in charge of seven rows of 72 beds, and she was also attempting to provide empathy and comfort daily to over 500 people.

"Everything you went through during the day was there. The tears you shed for those people was there and the hurt in your heart."

She was a shoulder to cry on even as more bad news piled on for the victims. "Some of the apartment landlords were telling them they had five days to get stuff out, and they are six hours away."

A total of 74 Iowans have provided help for victims of Hurricane Harvey and Irma.  Brenda is one of 23 who recently returned after more than two weeks away from her Moravia home.

"People don't realize how hard it is for these people and how much help they need," she said.

It's help that is now stretched thin after Hurricane Irma barreled into Florida.  Brenda said, "I feel guilty leaving and coming back because they still need help."

The Iowa Red Cross says 75 more people attended volunteer information sessions across the state last week.  Because of the increased interest, two more sessions have been added on Thursday, September 14th at 6 p.m. in Sioux City and Dubuque.  Another session will be held on Tuesday, September 19th in Cedar Rapids.

Houston Natives Living in Des Moines Talk About Hurricane Harvey

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  The effects of Hurricane Harvey will last in Houston for quite some time, and they have already impacted those who live and work in Des Moines but were raised in southern Texas.

“To see, like, family, friends and where their homes are, like, underwater, it's unreal,” said Chloe Rudison.

Rudison moved to Des Moines just six months ago.  Still with her Houston driver’s license, her thoughts are with her native city.

“I'm not there to witness it, but at the same time I am because my family's there. Been talking to my mom about every hour,” she said.

Her mother is luckily in one of the lesser flooded areas, but Rudison has seen her fair share of destruction. She volunteered with FEMA during Hurricane Katrina, and recalls what some of the residents of Houston are going through today.

“I saw homes and everything just gone, like, somebody's whole house moved. Emotionally, I could say it's gut wrenching, that feeling to know that you've worked so hard for something and then it's gone,” said Rudison.

Rudison plans to head to Huston as soon as she can to help once again.

Another person raised in the city--Iowa Barnstormers Head Coach Dixie Wooten--is already there.

“It's tough, man, because you have friends and you have family around that are stuck in those situations where they can’t get out. I had a couple of friends that had to crawl on their roof and have boats come pick them up,” said Wooten.

As Coach Wooten helps family and friends, he also speaks to the spirit of the city.

“One thing about Houston is that when things happen to us out here we come together to make it a better life for a lot of people that lost a lot of things,” he said.

Coach Wooten's son plays football for the university of Houston. The team has relocated in Austin and is practicing at the University of Texas.

Central Iowa Mission Team Bringing Boat to Houston

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  A central Iowa mission group is heading into Houston’s flooded waters.

On Tuesday, the group left Des Moines with a boat, fuel, and tools. Once they arrive in Texas, they plan to buy supplies to hand out to people in need. The local nonprofit organization, Disaster Relief Missions, say it will also meet up with a local pastor who will help coordinate their relief efforts.

Paul Wilson Jr. says he’s helped with hurricane relief before, but says this one might be the most devastating.

“We're always looking for opportunities to be able to help and serve people, so seeing something like this, sometimes when hurricanes come through, they don’t end up doing much damage, but this one is just unbelievable. It looks like it’s as bad a Katrina, if not worse."

The group is already in the process of raising money and planning another trip to the Houston region. To follow their journey and find out how you can help, visit their Facebook page.

Nationwide Sending Dozens of Insurance Adjusters to Texas

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Insurance experts are predicting Harvey will be one of the costliest ever for the industry.

So far, Nationwide has sent close to 40 insurance adjusters from its Des Moines location to Dallas and San Antonio. However, officials say that number will likely increase. They also say relief workers are struggling to get into Houston due to flood waters.

The insurance giant says it insures a large portion of southeast Texas and is working to help ease customers' concerns. As a result, the company has deployed its catastrophe response unit to help reach more people faster.

“We have a couple of response units. One is a semi-trailer. It comes fully equipped with communication efforts and we'll stage our humanitarian efforts there. People can come there and report a first notice of loss. We'll handle their claims,” says Dick Clinard, a Nationwide spokesperson.

Officials say until flood waters recede, they won't be able to make damage assessments.

Iowa Volunteers Ready to Rescue Animals From Texas Floods

TEXAS  --  Some Iowans are traveling to Texas to help with hurricane relief efforts, including volunteers from AHeinz57 Pet Rescue & Transport.

The volunteers will drive to Texas on Tuesday to bring van loads of homeless dogs back to Iowa. The local rescue is working with shelters hit by Harvey to free up space for family pets who were flooded from their homes. Organizers have room to bring back around 70 dogs.

"We don't want to take people's pets that are in shelters right now because they need to be reunited with their pets when everything dries up, so we're working really hard with the rural shelters around the Houston area," said Amy Heinz.

Volunteers are scrambling to get supplies to take with them to Texas. If you want to make a donation, items can be dropped off at PetSakes in Des Moines and at Bone-A-Patreat in West Des Moines.

Central Iowa Man Braces for Tropical Storm Harvey’s Resurgence Along Texas Coast

GALVESTON, Texas  --  A central Iowa man now living in Texas says the worst of tropical storm Harvey has yet to come for him.

Forecasters predict Harvey will make its way back over the gulf and then return to the coast line, hitting cities later this week.

“It’s like the worst blizzard you've ever seen in your life, but with rain,” says Cory Elkin.

Elkin is from Iowa but lives part time in Galveston, just feet away from the Gulf of Mexico. The storm's severity in that area doesn’t come close to the flooding in Houston, but that could change later this week.

“I don't trust Harvey,” Elkin joked.

Instead, he's putting his trust in Galveston’s infrastructure. Since Hurricane Ike in 2008, homes there must now be built under a new "hurricane and flood-proof" code that requires windows to be able to withstand 130 miles per hour wind speeds. It also requires homes to be built tall enough to avoid high flood waters.

“The bottom of my house is 20 feet off the ground, so I have to go down two flights of stairs just to get to the ground level,” he says. “You're safer in here than you are out on the roads, I mean that's the truth.”

Officials say Houston is prone to severe flooding due to the lack of natural landscape to absorb storm waters. Elkin says Galveston doesn’t have that problem, which is one of the reasons he says he feels safe.

“We’re just going to ride it out and we have plenty of water and plenty of food. We'll be good.”

Houston Inundated by Water as Harvey Pummels Texas

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Around 13 million people are under flood watches and warnings stretching from Corpus Christi to New Orleans as the remnants of Hurricane Harvey menace drenched Texas and Louisiana.

“Catastrophic and life-threatening flooding” continues in southeastern Texas, where bands of storm have been repeatedly pummeling the same areas.

Over the next few days, Tropical Storm Harvey is forecast to head back into the Gulf of Mexico, where it will pick up moisture before moving back over Galveston and into Houston again, CNN meteorologist Karen Maginnis says, meaning at least four more days of rain.

The National Weather Service (NWS) warns that flash flood emergencies are in effect for some areas and the rain — which can be measured by feet rather than inches — is not letting up.

It says that up to 25 inches of rain (2 feet) could fall through Friday over the upper Texas coast, while “isolated storm totals may reach 50 inches over the upper Texas coast, including the Houston Galveston metropolitan area.”

Latest developments

— Over two days, Houston got 25 inches of rain — more than half of its annual rainfall.

— 11 p.m curfews were introduced Sunday in the City of Alvin, City of Friendswood, League City, City of Pasadena, City of Pearland, City of Seabrook and City of Webster.

— A mandatory evacuation order was issued for areas along the Brazos River in Fort Bend County.

— Several states and the US military are sending emergency workers and equipment to Texas.

— Dallas is opening a “mega-shelter” capable of accommodating 5,000 evacuees at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center by Tuesday morning.

— The Houston Independent School District has canceled school for the week.

— President Donald Trump will travel to Texas on Tuesday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

— 316,000 customers had lost electricity across the state.

Follow live updates

Houston volunteers

Flooding continued in and around Houston on Sunday night as citizens with boats assisted authorities in search and rescue efforts on roads turned rivers.

A CNN crew was with one such volunteer when he used his vessel to rescue an elderly couple, their daughter and two dogs in Dickinson, Texas.

The family became trapped upstairs when flood waters came through the garage, filling the house with about three feet of water.

“It was shocking,” Pam Jones said. “It just creeped up.”

Houston resident Louise Walker told CNN she was trapped in her neighbor’s apartment.

“Our bottom level is waist-deep in water. We have helicopters that are flying over us rescuing people, we have people who are living in these first-floor apartments like I have. They have been breaking into empty second level apartments just to have somewhere to go because we can’t get out. We’re simply completely surrounded with water,” she said, adding that the helicopters were only rescuing people who were in immediate danger.

“My only plan at this point is to stay out of the water. I’ve been keeping in contact with family and friends, but other than that we can’t do anything. We are literally stuck here,” Walker said.

Officials say they have executed over 250 water rescues and rescued over 1,000 people from floods. The US Coast Guard’s Captain Kevin Odditt says 19 Coast Guard helicopters are also involved in relief efforts.

As of Sunday evening, between 800 and 1,200 people had been rescued from their homes in Galveston County, County Judge Mark Henry said.

One thousand additional National Guard members are being called in to help Houston flood victims affected by flooding, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced via Twitter Sunday evening.

The governor is expected to tour the Texas Coastal Bend region Monday with Senator John Cornyn.

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Dam releases

The US Army Corps of Engineers began the controlled release of water from the Addicks and Barker Dams in Galveston early Monday, after water levels began rising quickly, according to Harris County Flood Control District Meteorologist Jeff Linder.

This is ahead of schedule because the water levels at the dam began to rise quickly, Linder says. The engineers are expecting spillways and roads in the area to be impacted, according to a release from the agency.

“Residents adjacent to the reservoirs need to be vigilant because the water in the reservoirs is rising rapidly,” said Col. Lars Zetterstrom, Galveston District commander. “Both reservoirs are rising more than half a foot per hour.”

The City of Conroe says record levels of water are also being released from Lake Conroe Dam and flooding is imminent in some areas.

“The City of Conroe will be evacuating McDade Estates. Other neighborhoods will be evacuated by the County,” it said.” Public Safety Officials have been overwhelmed by the number of calls and are currently prioritizing calls as they come in.”

Evacuation orders

The rainfall threatens to exacerbate an already dangerous situation, as Harvey’s rains have left many east Texas rivers and bayous swollen to their banks or beyond.

Harrowing tales from Houston

“The breadth and intensity of this rainfall are beyond anything experienced before,” the NWS said. “Catastrophic flooding is now underway and expected to continue for days.”

In Fort Bend County, a voluntary evacuation order was made mandatory for areas along the Brazos River, with the NWS predicting river levels of 56.1 feet — nearly two feet above the record during flooding last year.

“Harvey continues to batter Fort Bend County,” said County Judge Robert Hebert. “Residents who flooded last year know how serious this situation is.”

Fort Bend had worked with the Red Cross to establish shelters for residents, Herbert said.

Stuck in the Texas floods? Here’s what to do

911 overwhelmed

The storm killed two people in Texas, authorities said, and the death toll will likely rise. A woman who drove her vehicle into high water in Houston was killed, and fire killed a man in Rockport.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner warned that some 911 calls are going unanswered as operators “give preference to life-threatening calls.”

The 911 dispatchers in the nation’s fourth-most populous city have received 2,000 requests for rescue, Mayor Turner said. Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said his department had responded to 2,500 calls and have about 1,000 more waiting to be serviced.

People are also taking to social media to announce their locations and ask for help.

How social media is helping

Many roads impassable

In a Sunday news conference, Gov. Abbott said, “We want to stress when there is heavy rainfall and flooding, the importance of staying off the road. If you drive into water, you’re taking your life into your own hands.”

Portions of major highways, including Interstates 10, 45 and 610, were submerged and unnavigable. Houston resident Dion Laurent said the White Oak Bayou flooded I-10 and I-45.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said he understands the compulsion to find safer ground, but urged people to think twice before venturing out into high water and to consider unforeseen dangers, such as manhole covers being lifted from their holes.

In Brazoria County, south of Houston, officials set up an evacuation route for all residents living west of State Highway 288 and south of State Highway 6, ordering them to “LEAVE NOW!” under a mandatory evacuation order. Those in need of shelter can take refuge in the Bell County Expo Center in Belton, officials said.

Louisiana in Harvey’s sights

Meantime, Louisiana Gov John Bel Edwards wrote to President Trump requesting that he declare an Emergency Disaster for the state.

“The National Weather Service forecasts that remnants of Hurricane Harvey will bring heavy rainfall to Louisiana posing serious danger to life and property of the citizens of our state. Significant lifesaving efforts such as search and rescue, transportation to shelters, logistical support, and shelter operations are particularly needed in Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jefferson Davis, and Vermillion parishes,” Edwards wrote. The NWS predicted 10 to 20 inches of rain between Sunday night and Monday, he said, with “major river flooding” anticipated.

Harvey blasted ashore as a Category 4 hurricane on Friday night, making landfall just north of Corpus Christi before quickly being downgraded to a tropical storm.

Keep track of Harvey

“What is unique in Harvey is that as the storm moved inland, a large high pressure built in to the north and, basically, the steering currents, which guide Harvey, collapsed,” said CNN senior meterologist Dave Hennen. “This has caused the extremely slow movement of the storm, moving only around 60 miles, less than 2 miles per hour. This has allowed the bands of storms to move over the same areas over and over.”

Houston Residents Reel as Water Levels Continue to Rise

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HOUSTON, Texas  —  Residents of Houston, Texas, woke Sunday to flooded streets and homes, submerged cars and news of high water rescues after Harvey dumped between 15 and 30 inches of rain on the city overnight. The National Weather Service predicted that the city could see as much as 50 inches of rain.

More than 1,000 people had to be rescued overnight, according to Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District.

And the calls didn’t show any sign of stopping.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a press conference Sunday morning that there had been more than 2,000 calls to 911 for rescue.

First responders were reportedly inundated with pleas for help while officials asked them to stay put and take shelter so they could focus on helping people in life-threatening situations.

Here’s what it’s like on the ground in Houston right now.


“I just woke up an hour ago and stepped out of the bed into ankle-deep water,” said Jake Lewis, who was visiting Houston for work and found himself stranded in a hotel Sunday morning.

“I’m not going to go out there and get in a bind,” he told CNN. “It’s been madness around here. The water keeps rising.”

Forecasts predict the rain will continue through at least Wednesday as Harvey lingers over southeast Texas, raising the threat of devastating flooding.

FEMA administrator: We’re ‘going to be there for years’

‘Truly devastating’

Ify Echetebu took to Instagram to post photos of her aunt’s house in Dickinson, Texas, southeast of Houston.

“The severity of the situation just hit me,” she wrote. “I’m overcome with grief due to how helpless I feel in all of this. This is truly devastating.”

The water had risen to her waist, she said.

“National Guard is only responding to emergencies and 911 said do not call them.”

‘I’m getting scared’

Darakniqueca La’Shay Burns took to Facebook Live to show how she and her family were stranded inside their flooded home.

Their belongings are piled high on furniture and countertops as the water rises, filled with floating debris.

Burns and her family said they’re trying to keep a positive attitude.

“I’m trying to laugh to keep from crying,” she said. “I don’t even know if we can get out the door it’s so high. We laughing and playing, but for real, it’s getting too high and I’m getting scared.”

The family was able to escape the home and wade through the water to safety, Burns said. She told CNN that she and her child had nowhere to go, but she was grateful they were able to get out.

This is what South Texas looks like after Harvey hit

Houston ‘completely under water’

Rey Güatzin told CNN the water in his home was rising throughout the night.

“We have about five inches of rain inside the house, and we live at the highest point of the street,” the 28-year-old said. “However, outside it’s about two to three feet of rain, perhaps more as rain is continuing throughout the day.”

“It’s scary,” Güatzin said. “I’ve been through many storms in my city, but it has never been this terrible. The city is completely under water.”

The water is still rising

Janet Castillo and her family found themselves walking through knee-deep water Sunday morning. Her husband Luis posted a video to Facebook of the water collecting in their home.

“Send some boats over here,” he can be heard saying in the video.

“We are still stranded in our home with little kids, and the water keeps rising,” Janet Castillo told CNN. “We have called already to several numbers, but no luck.”

The lines were all busy and phone operators didn’t answer, she said.

Dangerous Hurricane Harvey Hours From Landfall, Upgraded to Category 4 Storm

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TEXAS  —  [Breaking news update, published at 7:06 p.m. ET] 

Hurricane Harvey, just hours from making landfall on the Texas coast, has intensified into a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in a 7 p.m. ET update.

[Breaking news update, published at 7 p.m. ET]

Rockport, Texas, officials are advising residents who refuse to evacuate to write their names and Social Security number on a forearm, Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Rios told CNN. Rios said it will “help out first responders should they find a body.”

[Previous story, published at 6:43 p.m. ET]

The outer bands of Harvey began to pummel the Texas coast Friday as one of the most powerful hurricanes in years moved closer to landfall and threatened to douse as much as 40 inches of rain on residents in some areas along the Gulf of Mexico.

Harvey, a Category 3 hurricane, was expected to make landfall by early Saturday, but the heavy rains and strong storm surge that worry forecasters and government officials arrived during the afternoon.

The combination of wind and water could leave wide swaths of South Texas “uninhabitable for weeks or months,” the National Weather Service in Houston said.

Such daunting language hasn’t been seen by CNN’s experts since Hurricane Katrina, which left more than 1,800 people dead in 2005.

Harvey strengthened to a major hurricane Friday afternoon, with maximum sustained winds reaching 125 mph. The storm is expected to make landfall around Corpus Christi.

A hurricane warning is in effect for about 1.5 million people, with another 16 million under a tropical storm warning, the weather service said.

“Texas is about to have a very significant disaster,” said Brock Long, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Gov. Greg Abbott warned of record-setting flooding and called on people to flee the area before the storm hits.

“My top goal is to be able to make it through this storm in a way in which we lose no lives,” Abbott said. “Put your life first and your property second.”


Residents were urged to evacuate. A mass exodus from the coast caused extensive traffic jams along the state’s highways, while other people boarded up windows and stocked up on food and water ahead of the storm, the effects of which are expected to last for days.

The storm will stall and dump rain on South Texas and parts of Louisiana into the middle of next week, forecasters predicted.

“All indications from the hurricane center are that this is going to be the first major hurricane the nation has dealt with since 2005,” Long said.

Latest developments

— Harvey strengthened to a Category 3 hurricane with winds up to 125 mph.

— The NWS in Corpus Christi issued an extreme wind warning for portions of the coast through 7 p.m. in Texas. “Widespread destructive winds of 115 to 145 mph will produce swaths of tornado-like damage,” the agency said.

— Texas’ governor requested additional federal help with a presidential disaster declaration. The White House is considering the declaration.

— The White House said President Donald Trump plans to visit Texas next week.

— “We are prepared; we are not panicking,” Galveston Mayor James Yarbrough said.

— The ports of Corpus Christi and Galveston are closed. Three Galveston-based cruise ships in the Gulf of Mexico diverted to safer water.

FEMA prepared for ‘significant disaster’

Those who stay should “elevate and get into a structure that can withstand potentially Category 3 winds from a hurricane,” said Long, the FEMA director.

“The bottom line message is, right now, if people have not heeded the warning, again, their window to do so is closing,” Long said. “If they refuse to heed the warning, that’s on them.”

Long said he is “very worried” about storm surge, or “wind-driven water,” slamming coastal areas, saying it has the “highest potential to kill the most amount of people and cause the most amount of damage.”

“Over the next five days, we’re going to see copious amounts of rainfall, up to 25 inches, possibly, in some areas, with isolated higher amounts,” he said. “This is going to be a slow-developing major disaster event for the state of Texas.”

FEMA has pre-positioned incident management teams, as well as life-saving and life-sustaining commodities, and search-and-rescue teams in Texas, Long said.

Trump tweeted that he has spoken with the governors of Texas and Louisiana, saying he is “closely monitoring Hurricane Harvey developments and here to assist as needed.”

Abbott requested a presidential disaster declaration, which triggers additional help from the federal government.

White House homeland security adviser Thomas Bossert said the declaration is “being contemplated.”

“I would stress that this is a serious storm,” Bossert said. “This could remain a dangerous storm for several days.”

Record flooding expected

Officials worried that Harvey’s abundant rain will drench Texas and the region for several days.

“We could see this storm park for almost five days in some places, and we hear three feet of rain,” said Bill Read, the former director of the National Hurricane Center. “That’s just going to be a huge problem for these areas.”

Abbott said the state could see record-setting flooding from Corpus Christi to Houston. He encouraged residents to leave now before it’s too late.

“This is going to be a very major disaster,” he said.

“The water is going to be the issue,” Corpus Christi Mayor Joe McComb said. “We’ve never had anything like this.”

Harvey is also causing concern in New Orleans, where heavy rain could usher in as much as 20 inches of rain through early next week and overwhelm the city’s already-compromised drainage system.

Storm nears shore

Bands of rain and wind began to reach the Texas shoreline on Friday afternoon.

Joey Walker, 25, works with the Galveston Island Beach Patrol and is riding out the storm from a house on Galveston Island. He posted video of near-white out conditions overlooking Stewart Beach.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said anyone not leaving should plan to stay off the roads once the storm starts.

“People need to know, this is not a one-, two-day event and done,” Turner said. “Even though it may seem like it will get better, this is a four- or five-day event, starting tomorrow evening, going through Monday or Tuesday.”

‘I’m trying to be strong’

The threat of Harvey became evident Thursday when several coastal Texas counties issued evacuation orders, leading to hordes of residents sitting bumper to bumper for miles.

Rose Yepez told CNN it took her twice as long as usual to drive 140 miles from Corpus Christi to San Antonio, en route to Texas Hill Country.

Private vehicles — along with city buses packed with adults and children carrying backpacks — jammed roads for hours.

“I’m shaking inside, but for them, I’m trying to be strong,” a Corpus Christi woman who was waiting with her two daughters to board a bus out of town told CNN affiliate KRIS.

Workers at 39 offshore petroleum production platforms and an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico also evacuated Thursday, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said.

First responders such as Brittany Fowler stayed behind and waited for the storm.

“Hopefully it doesn’t do any damage, but if it does, we’ve prepared,” Fowler, a firefighter in Corpus Christi, wrote on Instagram.

Fowler’s family helped by boarding up windows and doors at her home, and she bought plenty of water, food and a small power generator.

Despite the warnings, Elsie and David Reichenbacher prepped supplies and plan to stay put in Corpus Christi.

“I’ve gone through a lot of hurricanes. I’ve lived here most of my life,” Elsie Reichenbacher said. “I’d rather take care of my home and my animals and be safe here. I’m on high ground with my house.”