After Harvey, Threat Of 'Dramatic Flooding' Could Mean The Worst Is Still To Come

Roque Planas
  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said “dramatic flooding” became his primary concern after Harvey was downgraded to a tropical storm Saturday.

  • Mandatory evacuations were ordered for parts of the Houston metropolitan area near the Brazos River, which could experience a record crest.

  • A specialist at the National Hurricane Center warned of “life-threatening flooding” after a “multi-day rainfall disaster.”

VICTORIA, Texas ― After Hurricane Harvey was downgraded to a tropical storm on Saturday, meteorologists issued warnings about the potential for “catastrophic and life-threatening flooding,” as many areas between San Antonio and Houston are expected to get massive amounts of rainfall.

Meteorologist Ryan Maue said 20 trillion gallons of water could fall on Texas in the next week. Michael Lowry of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research noted that more than 60,000 square miles are under high or moderate risk for excessive rainfall through Sunday morning.

During a press conference Saturday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said “dramatic flooding” was his primary worry from the tropical storm, which barely moved throughout Saturday evening.

“Our biggest concern is between 20 and 30 more inches of rain in areas ranging from Corpus Christi over to Houston,” Abbott said. “We want to do everything we possibly can to keep people out of rising water.”

A man walks through floods waters after surveying his property, which was hit by Hurricane Harvey in Rockport, Texas. (Adrees Latif / Reuters)

The rain came down hard Saturday afternoon, and while the wind remained strong, it was nothing like Friday night’s, which brought down trees and electric poles. Along a stretch of road just south of Victoria, 30 miles from the coast, most of the buildings were boarded up and evacuated. 

The wind and rain made travel conditions through Victoria hazardous Saturday. The city had widespread power outages, with most of the stop lights in the area not working throughout the day. The Texas National Guard was assessing the damage in the area Saturday afternoon.

Debris and power lines covered many of the streets. Several huge trees, pulled up by their roots, had fallen on top of houses and across roads, making some of them impassible. The majority of broken windows were in large buildings. Storm-wise residents had boarded up their windows and taped their plate glass.

As of Saturday afternoon, there appeared to be no major flooding in Victoria, though some low-lying streets were under water. Natural gas could be smelled in some areas, suggesting some lines had been broken.

No gas stations, stores or restaurants in Victoria appeared to be open. Despite the damage, lots of people were driving around the area Saturday afternoon.

About an hour and a half away in Rosenberg, a city in the Houston metropolitan area, mandatory evacuations were ordered after forecasts predicted a record crest of the Brazos River, which could lead to major flooding.

The massive, slow-moving storm dumped up to almost 15 inches in some parts of Texas, and is expected to stay over the state for up to eight days.

Abbott said Saturday a disaster declaration has been issued for 50 of Texas’ 254 counties.

There are tornado watches in effect in parts of the state and the National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings for Houston Saturday morning. (Reuters Staff / Reuters)

The hardest-hit area so far appears to be the town of Rockport, where the storm made landfall Friday night. The town of 10,000 is about 30 miles north of Corpus Christi, and has reported injuries and major damage to homes and businesses. Officials there told The Weather Channel that the loss of cellular coverage was hindering rescue work at this time. 

C. J. Wax, the mayor of Rockport, confirmed one fatality on Saturday: a man trapped in his burning house, who was unable to be reached by rescuers during the height of the hurricane. He said at least 12 other people sustained injuries.

(David Lohr/HuffPost)

There was a tornado watch in effect in parts of the state ― and reports of a potential tornado strike in Katy, which is just outside of Houston.

The National Weather Service began issuing flash flood warnings for Houston Saturday morning. The National Hurricane Center warned that the coast should expect 15 to 30 inches of rain, but possibly as much as 40 inches in some areas. Houston, the fourth most populous city in the country, is included in the high-end of those rainfall projections.

“This prolonged pattern continues to favor rounds after rounds after rounds of very heavy rainfall that will lead to catastrophic and life-threatening flooding,” warned the National Weather Service’s Houston/Galveston division in a message Saturday morning

The threat from storm surge is also ongoing, with surges of 6 to 12 feet above ground level projected along the coast between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said more than 300,000 people were without power at one point Saturday.

On the Bolivar Peninsula, about 200 miles north along the coast, the Crystal Beach Volunteer Fire Department said the powerful winds fanned flames on a beach house.

President Donald Trump, who faced criticism from some for using the storm to his political advantage, tweeted that he was continuing to monitor it Saturday

See more storm updates from overnight Friday.

This article has been updated with new details, including updates on damage, the downgrading of the storm and the latest weather forecasts.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.