On Friday evening, Texans braced for the intense winds and surging tides expected to accompany Hurricane Harvey, which was a Category 4 hurricane with 130-mph winds by the time it hit Rockport, Texas.
By Sunday morning there were three reported deaths, but the number of fatalities is expected to increase as flood waters continue to rise across the region. More than 2.3 million people live in rain-soaked Houston, and hundreds of thousands have been without power. (Learn the science behind what makes Harvey so deadly.)
Harvey is the strongest storm to hit a U.S. coast since Hurricane Wilma in 2005, and it has destroyed many buildings along the coast. Harvey was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane by early Saturday morning before being designated a tropical storm, but the most catastrophic effects of the storm are likely to come, officials warn. It has since moved northeast toward Houston, the nation's fourth largest city, and the ensuing flooding is expected to be some of the worst in U.S. history.
THE COMING DAYS
Advisories issued by the National Weather Service have stated that coming rainfall is life-threatening and catastrophic.
More than a foot of rain has already been seen in some regions of the city, and as much as two feet of water is expected in some neighbourhoods. A disaster declaration requested by Texas Govenor Greg Abbott was granted by President Trump on Friday evening. The proclamation allows federal funds to be used for local disaster relief.
Floods have the potential to hit Houston particularly hard. The city was once largely a swamp and relies on a decades-old system of canals to drain flooded streets. Those by creeks and bayous could face higher flash flood risks. An investigation last year by the Houston Chronicle found that many of these waterways were built before the city's population exploded and when rainfall estimates were lower. The estimated $26 billion it would take to update these channels doesn't seem likely to happen soon.
How the storm will affect the region's major oil and gas hub remains to be seen. Gas prices have already surged, but of particular concern are the refineries that flank the Houston Shipping Channel, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
Following Hurricane Ike in 2008, ProPublica and the Texas Tribune investigated how a major hurricane could affect this portion of the city, finding serious potential for environmental damage from oil and chemical leaks and major economic implications to disruptions to the industries.
Houston's Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzales is continuing to field requests for help on Twitter, and officials are reportedly urging Houston residents trapped by floods not to take shelter in their attics, but to move to their roofs to make them easier to spot and rescue. Tornado warnings have also been issued for some surrounding counties, thanks to the disturbance in the atmosphere.
Header Image: Stewart Adams, of San Marcos, Texas, plays in the winds from Hurricane Harvey in Corpus Christi, Texas on August 25. PHOTOGRAPH BY ADREES LATIF, REUTERS