Across the state of Texas, 5,000 federal employees and 3,000 state and National Guard troops — with more on the way — are trying to handle the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Harvey. Now, the federal government is adding another layer to its response: crowdsourcing.
The administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) called on Americans on Monday to donate their money and time to search and rescue efforts in the wake of the storm. While thousands of people have already been displaced by the unprecedented flooding — and at least five were reportedly killed — 30,000 or more will still need shelter, according to the agency’s director, Brock Long. And the flooding could get even worse.
“I’m asking for all citizens to get involved here,” Long told the New York Times. “Donate your money, figure out how you can get involved as we help Texas find a new normal going forward after this devastating disaster.” In separate comments, Long said he expects FEMA to be in Texas “for years.“
Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall Friday night and was downgraded to a tropical storm on Saturday, has already stretched emergency services to their limits. For example, the Office of Emergency Management in Houston, which has weathered the worst of the storm, received roughly 48,000 more calls between Saturday and Sunday than it handles on an average day. By Sunday, a Harris County judge called on citizens with boats to evacuate trapped residents and get them to high ground.
Mandatory evacuation orders also went out for residents of Fort Bend County and over a dozen communities in the flood path of the Lake Conroe Dam. The city of Dallas is housing 5,000 evacuees in a “mega-shelter” in its convention center.
On the ground, people in areas affected by Harvey took to social media to try to coordinate their rescues as 911 lines reached capacity. But the Houston Police Department urged residents in a Facebook post to use 911 lines instead of social media for life-threatening cases, and directed them toward other emergency services for lower-risk ones.
The photos below, which show the extent of the devastation, help explain why FEMA needs some extra hands.