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Texas Gov. Abbott: Harvey Bringing 'Catastrophic, Life-Threatening Flooding'

Texas Gov. Abbott: Harvey Bringing 'Catastrophic, Life-Threatening Flooding'
(AP)

By    |   Saturday, 26 August 2017 02:40 PM

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Saturday a disaster declaration has been declared for 50 of the state's 254 counties in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, noting that the foremost concern at this time will be heavy rainfall that will result in "catastrophic, life-threatening" flooding.

"I have issued a disaster declaration that originally included 30 counties," Abbott said during a press conference in Austin Saturday afternoon. "This is a state disaster declaration, and we have now added 20 more counties for a total of 50 counties. As you probably know, I requested a federal disaster declaration that the president granted last night. "

At least one person has died as a result of the storm, Rockport, Texas Mayor Charles Wax said during a news conference. He would not provide further details.

It is "incredibly important" to make the designations quickly, and the presidential proclamation means that help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been immediately triggered, Abbott continued.

"FEMA's assistance for individuals, as well as cities and counties,[will allow] all of us to begin the rebuilding process as quickly as possible," said the governor.

Now that Hurricane Harvey has come ashore and has been downgraded to a tropical storm, the state's primary concern remains "dramatic flooding," Abbott said.

"According to information that I was provided, there's been about 20 inches of rain in the Corpus Christi area, about 16 inches of rain in the Houston area, and our biggest concern is the possibility of between 20 and 30 more inches of rain in areas ranging from Corpus Christi over to Houston," the governor said. "Because of the flooding, one of the top focal points that we are concerned about is ongoing rescue and recovery."

The rain will fall on already-saturated ground and filled-up waterways such as creeks, bayous, and rivers, said Abbott, so it's essential for people near flood zones to be aware of and heed warnings about swiftly rising and moving water.

"For everybody in the state of Texas, your top responsibility is to protect your life, so whenever you're near water, be sure that you're doing everything to stay safe," said Abbott.

There is no information so far about fatalities from the storm, the governor said, but that information will be gathered from local officials and reported later.

"Whenever we receive confirmation of fatalities, and confirmation that it was a result of the storm, as opposed to some other cause, we will confirm it, but we cannot confirm it at this time," he told reporters.

Abbott said state officials and first responders want to do everything possible to keep people out of the danger of rising waters.

"Part of that is by constant warnings to the public about being vigilant, about observing rising water around you," the governor said. "As you're traveling, if you are traveling out on the road, always watch for water on the road. Remembering that when you come across water, it could be far deeper than what your eye observes or the swiftness of the current can be far stronger than what you perceive. You all know the well-known phrase, and that is, turn around don't drown. Don't risk your life."

State and various agencies remain very active in the search and rescue process, said Abbott, and that will be one of the most important tasks in upcoming days.

"I had the opportunity yesterday afternoon to go to San Antonio to visit with evacuees as they were getting off of buses that had come in from the Corpus Christi area, now expanding to some larger areas," said Abbott. "You could sense a sense of relief on their part, that they were out of what was an increasingly threatening storm. They were happy to be alive, and they were at peace in that regard."

Abbott said he has also issued a proclamation that waives hotel occupancy taxes for all evacuees and first responders to help with the relocation efforts.

The governor, though, warned that flooding is expanding and will continue to grow across the state.

"I just got word from the Fort Bend County judge who has issued a voluntary evacuation for the Brazos River area in Fort Bend County and a mandatory evacuation along the San Bernard," said Abbott. "This is one of the foremost regions in the state of Texas that already has flooding and we anticipate the flooding to grow worse in that area."

Abbott said the Texas National Guard has more than 1,300 service members currently activated, and anticipates increasing that number by another 500.

The Texas Department of Transportation is also working on cleanup operations around Corpus Christi and Yoakum, said Abbott.

The state's Public Utilities Commission, he continued, has reported more than 338,000 outages from the storm, and it will be several days before they can be addressed, as the wind level must drop to below a certain level before they can respond.

"As far as emergency services are concerned, which includes the Texas military, includes Texas Parks and Wildlife, it includes Texas Task Force One and Texas Task Force Two, one of their primary focal points is search and rescue," said Abbott. "They've already made several search and rescue operations, primarily hoisting through the helicopter process, and we have about a thousand personnel in the state of Texas who were assigned to search and rescue."

There are about 1,500 evacuees who have ended up at Texas state parks, and any cost that would normally be incurred for them has been waived, said Abbott.

The Texas Department of Public Safety has also assigned about 80 troopers to the Corpus Christi area to assist in law enforcement needs in that region, said Abbott, and the Red Cross has 21 shelters open already and 42 more on standby.

"There are so many other shelters across the state of Texas, whether they be local churches or other local facilities, and we are very, very appreciative of everyone in the state of Texas who is providing shelter, food, and other supplies," said Abbott.

There has also been transportation services set up, and the response from the public has been fast for pleas for items such as bedding and towels in San Antonio, where people from Corpus Christi have sheltered, said the governor, and he is grateful.

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Saturday a disaster declaration has been declared for 50 of the state's 254 counties in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, noting that the foremost concern at this time will be heavy rainfall that will result in "catastrophic, life-threatening"...
texas, greg, abbott, flooding, harvey, hurricane
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2017-40-26
Saturday, 26 August 2017 02:40 PM
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