Hurricane Harvey

On the first sunny day in Houston after about 50 inches of rain, residents in the east Houston community of Manchester emerged from their homes and gave thanks that their neighborhood had been spared in the floods. "Mama, yeah, I just feel blessed," said 73-year-old Maria Julia Rodriguez, standing in her driveway in late August and marveling at her luck. "God was looking out for us, I guess."

Carlos Calvillo and more than 70 other members of the Los Angeles Fire Department were on their way home when they got the call.

After almost two exhausting weeks of water rescues, home inspections and cleanup in flood-ravaged southeastern Texas, as part of a FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Force, they were getting deployed again — this time ahead of Hurricane Irma.

Where will it go? How strong will it be? When will it hit? Those are the answers everyone wants — not the least of which are the hurricane forecasters themselves.

To get those answers, hundreds of millions of data points — everything from wind speeds to sea temperatures — pouring in from satellites, aircraft, balloons, buoys and ground stations are fed into the world's fastest computers and programmed with a variety of models at different resolutions, some looking at the big picture, others zooming in much closer.

Right after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, electrician Rocky Breaux, 53, loaded up his airboat in Houma, La., and drove to help rescue people from the swiftly rising floodwaters.

And now that the waters have receded, the ad hoc "Cajun Navy" has gone airborne: Breaux is now helping out with what's being called the "Cajun Airlift." Breaux has his own small plane — a Piper Arrow. When he heard that evacuees at one of Houston's big shelters needed more supplies, he loaded his plane, tanked up, and flew west, with Andy Cook as his co-pilot. "We're locked and loaded," Breaux says.

Updated at 10:45 a.m. ET

The disaster relief bill given final approval by Congress on Friday can't come too soon for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Without a new injection of funds, officials said FEMA's cash box would be empty as early as this weekend, right around the time that Hurricane Irma is scheduled to slam into southern Florida, while southeast Texas and Louisiana are still drying out from Hurricane Harvey.

As some residents of South Texas begin to dry out their homes and belongings, significant challenges lie ahead as the city of Houston and others in the affected area look to recover and rebuild.

Congress is fast-tracking billions of dollars in recovery funding. But just because that down payment on Harvey recovery is on the way, that doesn't mean the rebuilding of Houston and other areas hammered by the storm's high winds and historic rains will go quickly or smoothly.

Here are five challenges ahead for the Harvey recovery:

Medical workers in Houston are dealing with a secondary problem after last week's floods: Clinics that offer methadone and other opioid addiction therapies are just getting back up and running, and many people don't have access to the treatments they need.

Erik Ryan and Mia Reynolds from San Leon, Texas, sit at the picnic table at their campsite in Bastrop State Park. Reynolds, who is currently on hold with FEMA, says that she has been through storms before.

"I did not want to wait around for a politician to tell me to evacuate. I saw the storm on the news and had a bad feeling. That's when I decided to rent a U-Haul truck and pull out."

Reynolds pauses as a an electronic voice comes over the phone: "Your wait time is now 154 minutes."

Updated at 8:15 p.m. ET

Officials are still trying to confirm whether Texas floodwaters have spread contamination from decades-old toxic waste sites, as water recedes and residents return to homes that, in some cases, were flooded with water that passed over known contaminated areas.

The devastation of Harvey has neighbors and strangers helping one another. Brigades of volunteers have come to Texas. They've loaded up their boats for rescues and packed trailers full of food and water to help people who no longer have homes.

In his hometown of Orange, Texas, Epi Mungui is overseeing a makeshift distribution center in the middle of a sweltering hot strip center parking lot.

Nikki Staner and her husband, Brett, sloshed through water Friday to the front door of their house on the outskirts of Beaumont, Texas. Inside, Hurricane Harvey had ruined their furniture and left behind a boggy smell.

"My family's been in this area for more than a hundred years, and this never flooded," Nikki said with a rueful laugh. "This time it did. It's a mess and it stinks."

They were actually a little giggly from exhaustion. "We're a little rum-dum," Brett said. "Some friends showed up and gave us a hand."

St. Joseph Medical Center is downtown Houston's only hospital, located just down the street from the convention center where thousands of evacuees have been staying since Harvey hit.

As of Friday, some doctors and nurses have been on the clock for almost a full week.

When you're working in an ER during a major natural disaster, nothing is routine. Trent Tankersley, director of emergency services at St. Joseph Medical Center, describes one tense situation after another in the hospital this week.

Drivers who plan to hit the road over Labor Day weekend will face higher gasoline prices because of the impact of Hurricane Harvey on the nation's refineries and pipelines.

After several days of heavy rain and flooding, gas prices reached an average of nearly $2.51 a gallon, up 20 cents since two weeks ago and nearly 30 cents since this time last year, although they fell back a bit Friday.

Refineries throughout the Gulf Coast shut down or reduced production a week ago in anticipation of the high winds and heavy flooding from Harvey.

Harvey is finally out of the picture — but the storm's devastating effects on Houston and other parts of Texas and Louisiana are still coming into focus. As waters recede, some areas remain flooded, and there is no drinking water in Beaumont.

At least 36 people are confirmed to have died because of the storm. Property damage could be as high as $100 billion, Moody's Analytics says.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says it has received more registrations for assistance — 364,000 — than for any previous single event.

In northeast Houston, grocery stores are boarded up. Gas stations are closed. Streets are covered in a thin layer of dusty mud.

And, on block after block, homes are full of people; some returning after harrowing rescues and frustrating nights in shelters, others who never escaped their apartments as the water rose.

There isn't a city in the United States, and there are probably very few anywhere in the world, that could have handled Hurricane Harvey's 50 inches of rain without significant flooding.

But Harvey was Houston's third flood in three years to surpass the "100 year flood" mark. Urban planners and civil engineers say a combination of natural and man-made factors has created a chronic drainage problem that left the city especially vulnerable to Harvey's torrential rains.

Earlier this week, as torrents of rain fell on Houston, Craig Boyan, CEO of the H-E-B supermarket chain, went on a video-taped tour of his company's emergency operations center in San Antonio, Texas. The company later made the video available online.

President Trump is pledging to chip in to assist Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts, to the tune of $1 million of his personal funds.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made the unexpected announcement during her briefing on Thursday. Responding to a question about whether the president planned to personally contribute, Sanders said Trump "would like to join in the efforts that a lot of the people that we've seen across this country do, and he's pledging $1 million of personal money to the fund."

What should you do when confronted by a floating raft of thousands of fire ants?

Among the many scenes of devastation coming out of areas flooded by Tropical Storm Harvey, images of floating rafts of these ants have gone viral on social media.

As rains pounded Houston on Sunday, Dr. Karen Lu took to Twitter and conveyed both alarm and reassurance: "Roads around @MDAndersonNews impassable. Our on-site ride out team is caring for patients and we are all safe."

Thousands of people are without water in Beaumont, Texas, adding to the misery of extreme flooding that has left large swaths of it and neighboring towns underwater. The lack of water is also forcing a large hospital to shut down — including its emergency services.

As the full extent of the damage from Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana starts to become clear, many of us have been glued to coverage of urgent rescues, including of people's pets.

Updated at 10:40 p.m. ET

Fire broke out and containers of chemicals burst at the Arkema plant in Crosby, Texas, early Thursday, confirming fears that highly flammable organic peroxides produced at the plant could pose a threat after Hurricane Harvey knocked out safety systems.

Don't Fall Victim To Harvey Flood Scams

Aug 31, 2017

As Harvey, the largest rainstorm in the history of the continental United States, floods homes in Texas and Louisiana, many Americans want to send money for relief efforts.

WRVO News File Photo

New York Reps. John Katko (R-Camillus) and Tom Reed (R-Corning) expect that Congress will support a financial aid package for the victims of Hurricane Harvey when they return to Washington, D.C. next month. 

Harvey approached the Texas coast as a monster Category 4 hurricane, almost as powerful as they come. But most of the damage has come after it calmed down to a mere tropical storm — from rain.

Scientists say the traditional measure of hurricane strength doesn't tell you much about how damaging it will be. Now they're proposing a new way to do that.

Hurricanes come in numbers — Categories 1 through 5 — as part of the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength. It measures wind speed over short periods of time, and the faster the wind, the higher the category.

Six days after Hurricane Harvey first crossed the Texas coast, Houston is still in rescue mode with people stranded in houses and apartments.

With the authorities overwhelmed by the scope of the flooding, private citizens have been rushing to Houston and towing their own boats to conduct rescues.

Rene Galvan has come to a makeshift boat launch on flooded Highway 90, looking for rescuers. In a soaked, blue hoodie, he sits anxiously in the bow of an aluminum boat, wondering how they're going to get to 14 members of his extended family who have been stranded by rising water.

A friend sent a photo to Jaime Botello's phone Wednesday that confirmed his fears: The house where his family has lived for 30 years is completely flooded.

"All the way to the top," he says.

And like most people in the Houston area, Botello, a welder who was at a shelter with his wife on Wednesday, doesn't have flood insurance. He says he can't afford it.

The rain has let up in Houston, but getting in and out of the city is still a difficult task. Houston's two main airports reopened Wednesday with limited service. But many roads are flooded, and some bridges have been damaged.

Since Saturday, when both the airports shut down, thousands of flights in and out the city have been canceled. Up to now, at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport, the runways were open only for limited operations and humanitarian flights.

This week was supposed to be the start of a brand-new school year for the 200,000, or so, students in the Houston Independent School District.

Instead, kids, teachers and staff are dealing with the fallout from Harvey's record-breaking rainfall and devastating floods.

Richard Carranza, Houston schools superintendent, is trying to figure out when school can start — and where, in cases where high waters flooded out schools and homes. Even as he recognizes this school year will be very different, he says the focus will be on teaching kids, wherever Harvey has scattered them.

Pages