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Hurricane Harvey photos show why Texas could need FEMA “for years”

FEMA's administrator said he expects the agency to be in Texas "for years."

by Josh Marcus
Aug 28 2017, 2:20pm

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.

People view the flooded highways in Houston on August 27, 2017.
Damaged boats in a multi-level storage facility are seen following passage of Hurricane Harvey at Rockport, Texas on August 26, 2017.
Texas National Guardsmen assist residents affected by flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey onto a military vehicle August 27, 2017 in Houston, Texas.
Houston Police SWAT officer Daryl Hudeck carries Connie Pham and her 13-month-old son Aiden after rescuing them from their home surrounded by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, in Houston, Texas.
People are rescued from flood waters from Hurricane Harvey on an air boat in Dickinson, Texas August 27, 2017.
The bread section of a Walmart store is empty as people prepare for the possible arrival of Hurricane Harvey on August 24, 2017 in Houston, Texas.
Residents pick through needed items at a make-shift aid station, Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, in Rockport, Texas.
Flood victims gather for food at a shelter in the George R. Brown Convention Center during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas.
Red Cross
tropical storm
Brock Long