HOUSTON, Texas – Tropical Storm Harvey was set to dump more rain on Houston on Monday, worsening flooding that has paralysed the country’s fourth biggest city, forced thousands to flee surrounding counties and swollen rivers to levels not seen in centuries.
Harvey, the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in more than 50 years, first hit land late on Friday and has killed at least two people. It has since stayed around Texas’ Gulf of Mexico Coast where it is forecast to remain for several more days, drenching parts with a year’s worth of rain in the span of a week.
Schools, airports and office buildings in Houston, home to about 2.3 million people, were ordered shut on Monday as scores of roads turned into rivers and chest-high water filled neighborhoods in the low-lying city.
Torrential rain also hit areas more than 150 miles (240 km) away, swelling rivers upstream and causing a surge that was heading toward the Houston area.
Authorities ordered more than 50,000 people to leave parts of Fort Bend County, about 35 miles (55 km) southwest of Houston as the Brazos River was set to crest at a record high of 59 feet (18 m) this week, 14 feet above its flood stage.
Brazos County Judge Robert Hebert told reporters the forecast crest represents a high not seen in at least 800 years.
“What we’re seeing is the most devastating flood event in Houston’s recorded history,” said Steve Bowen, chief meteorologist at reinsurance firm Aon Benfield.
Total precipitation could reach 50 inches (127 cm) in some coastal areas of Texas by the end of the week, or the average rainfall for an entire year, forecasters said. Nearly 24 inches fell in a span of 24 hours in Baytown, a city home to major refineries about 30 miles east of Houston, the National Weather Service said early on Monday.
“Water started flooding our house and by last night we were unable to leave,” said Maria Davila, one of about 1,000 people in a makeshift shelter at Houston’s sprawling convention center.
Dallas will set up a “mega shelter” it its convention center to house 5,000 evacuees, the city said in a statement.
US President Donald Trump plans to go to Texas on Tuesday to survey damage from the storm, a White House spokeswoman said on Sunday.