Follow this story for live updates as Houston begins to asses the damage from Hurricane Harvey. Got a Houston-related story tip? Email us at VICENewsEIC at gmail.com.
Texas hospital forced to evacuate 200 patients after running out of potable water
Administrators at the Baptist Beaumont Hospital is Southeast Texas say they are airlifting around 200 patients to other facilities because the hospital no longer has access to potable water.
The AP reports the local water supply failed due to flooding from the hurricane.
Administrators at the nearby Christus St. Elizabeth hospital, which currently has 256 patients, are holding steady thanks to well water and a store of potable water. Even so, they told U.S. News and World Report, that they’re currently operating under “extreme emergency conditions.”
Houston’s flood waters are a toxic soup of chemicals and fire ants
Houston city officials are urging residents to wash any body parts that may have come in contact with floodwater since Hurricane Harvey hit the area last Friday night.
Porfirio Villarreal, a spokesman for the Houston Health Department, told the New York Times that the water is hazardous. “There’s no need to test it,” he said. “It’s contaminated. There’s millions of contaminants.”
A city advisory published Thursday urges people with even minor cuts to get a tetanus shot as a precaution and avoid eating any food that might be contaminated by the water. “When in doubt, throw it out,” the city’s health department advised in a tweet.
Brazoria County warned residents of another hazard in the flood waters Thursday morning: fire ants.
Brazoria County has a mandatory evacuation curfew still in place from Wednesday.
Vice President Mike Pence witnesses devastation “first hand”
Vice President Mike Pence got his hands dirty in the gulf-side town of Rockport, Texas Thursday afternoon, helping locals with cleanup efforts.
“We are here today, we will be here tomorrow, and we will be here every day until this city and this state and this region rebuild bigger and better than ever before,” he said to a group of residents outside a destroyed church.
Pence’s boss caught a lot of flack for not meeting with a single Texas resident while he visited the state earlier this week, despite tweeting that he witnessed the devastation of Hurricane Harvey “first hand.” President Trump posted a photo with the same “first hand” message on Instagram of him and Governor Abbott of Texas watching a weather map inside a conference room on Wednesday.
When reporters asked Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders what the president meant by “first hand” Wednesday night, she said he met with the governor and several local mayors, somewhat missing the point.
Pence will leave Texas later this afternoon and head back to Washington.
Areas around Barker Reservoir are being evacuated
The Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management issued a new mandatory evacuation order for areas near Houston’s Barker Reservoir Thursday, after two more deaths were reported Wednesday night.
Helicopter photos show the massive flood damage to areas inside or near the mandatory evacuation area.
Aerial shots of Simonton, Valley Lodge, Weston Lakes, Foster, Richmond, River's Edge, Rio Vista. Those from these areas…
Jeff Linder, a meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District, said on Twitter that planned releases from the Barker and Addicks reservoirs is causing the flooding, but water levels are not expected to rise any further in these areas.
Flooding knocks out water supply to 100,000
Severe flooding triggered by Hurricane Harvey knocked out the water supply of Beaumont, Texas, the local police reported just after midnight on Thursday morning. Beaumont Mayor Becky Ames told the “Today” show that the situation is “like nothing I’ve ever seen.”
Beaumont, a city of more than 100,000 two hours outside of Houston, sits right on the edge of the Neches River, which completely flooded the main and backup pump stations for the city late Wednesday. The Beaumont Police Department said officials need to wait for the water to recede before they go in and assess the damage to the water infrastructure. “There is no way to determine how long this will take at this time,” the police statement said.
Early Wednesday afternoon, a Beaumont judge issued a mandatory evacuation for residents along the Neches River. Beaumont rescuers found a 3-year-old girl on Wednesday who was clinging to her mother’s dead body in the floodwaters — just one of 38 known victims of Hurricane Harvey at this time.
“We are seeing unprecedented levels of water throughout Southeast Texas and situations are occurring that we are battling every minute of the day,” the Beaumont Police posted on their Facebook page Thursday morning. “Lifesaving operations are first priority.”
Nearly 6,000 inmates in Texas state prisons have been evacuated, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Two prison units in Richmond, Texas and three units in Brazoria County have been evacuated since Saturday, and those inmates remain in facilities nearby facilities with higher elevation.
The Harris County Criminal Justice Center flooded on Monday. Court staff have been unable to access their offices for the most part, leaving inmates in the dark about the status of their cases.
Houston criminal defense attorney Murray Newman has not heard from any of his clients at the jail as he normally would. He had a trial scheduled for Monday that has been postponed indefinitely.
“If you find something today that proves your client’s innocence, you have no prosecutor to tell that to,” Newman said. “We’re in crisis mode still.”
Harris County officials evacuated juveniles from the Youth Village detention center this week, although the public information officer could not say exactly how many as the county computer systems were down Wednesday.
Chemical plant explosion
A flooded chemical plant near Crosby, Texas, half an hour outside of Houston, exploded twice Thursday morning after taking on 40 inches of water over the weekend, causing 30-40 foot flames.
The chemical plant is run by Arkema Group and contains organic peroxides, which need to be kept cool or else they become highly flammable. Arkema’s CEO Richard Rowe warned the public on Wednesday that the plant would eventually explode.
One of the nine refrigerators that keep the chemicals cold failed, causing the explosion. On Thursday Rich Rennard, an executive with Arkema, warned that the other eight containers could fail and explode as well. The company plans to let the plant “burn itself out.”
Local fire officials implemented an evacuation zone of 1.5 miles around the plant and went door to door to evacuate people there on Tuesday. There is currently a no-flight zone over the area.
Fifteen Harris County deputies were sent to the hospital early Thursday, including 10 that inhaled smoke from the explosion, now believed to be non-toxic. All deputies were released by 10:30 a.m. ET Thursday.