5:30 p.m. update: Harvey’s victims streamed towards city shelters Sunday, including 400 that made their way to the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston by 3 p.m. Red Cross officials said they expected 600 more people to arrive.
People came by bus and on foot, seeking refuge from the terrifying flood waters as the storm’s rains calmed, if only for a bit on Sunday afternoon.
There was Michael Williams, of badly flooded East Houston, who said he got stuck on a METRO transit bus Saturday night.
“I ain’t never seen anything like that,” he said. “The water and the weather started coming.”
There was Erica Harris, who said she carried her five children — four boys and one baby girl — through flood waters just north of downtown to just make it here for shelter.
“We walked over the (University of Houston) bridge and we got stuck because the kids couldn’t make it across,” she said, describing flood waters that were far too strong for her children to bear. “A lot of people were like ‘go back,’ but it was flooded at our apartments too.”
So Harris retreated and regrouped. She took two children, including the baby, across first. Then returned to carry each of the remaining boys.
“It was just ‘get it done,’” she said, a phrase that has quickly become Houston’s unofficial mantra as this disaster has worn on.
Then there were Dulcie Alexander and Alexis Teague, who met on the side of a Houston freeway Saturday night and finally managed to find their way to the shelter at the Brown Convention Center Sunday afternoon.
“We made it inside the Loop and we couldn’t make it out on the other side,” Alexander said, while drinking a cup of coffee. “That’s why it was so bad, the bayou just exploded. It was so bad.”
All four — and hundreds more — were greated by volunteers, dry towels and a warm meal. Hundreds of cots were set up for the night to come.
Earlier: The rain kept coming.
It came in sprinkles, it came steadily, it came in sheets and it didn’t stop for much of Sunday. It came on top of the foot of rain that fell overnight across Houston — and two-plus feet in the less fortunate neighborhoods — in an event that government meteorologists described as historic and unprecedented.
It fell on already waterlogged streets and poured into the city’s storm drains, which flowed into bayous that were already were bursting their banks, flooding nearby neighbhorhoods. At least five people have died in the flooding so far across the Houston area.
“This event is unprecedented,” the National Weather Service warned, “all impacts are unknown (and) beyond anything experienced.”
The dramatic scenes played out live on the city’s television stations. KPRC captured images of a neighborhood flotilla in east Houston, where women and children were loaded onto anything that could float in a desperate search for higher and drier ground. KTRK broadcasted live images of a Coast Guard helicopter hovering over flooded streets. KHOU crews had to go no further than their first floor studio for dramatic images as flood waters from nearby Buffalo Bayou invaded its central Houston headquarters.
Hours earlier and just a couple of miles away, some Houstonians used a brief slowdown in the rain Saturday morning to come see the raging Buffalo Bayou that invaded KHOU’s studios for themselves.
“I’ve been through Allison and Ike,” said James, who was out taking a look. “It’s definitely coming.”
While some central Houston neighborhoods like the historic Fourth Ward, Neartown and most of Montrose were largely spared from the flooding as the sun rose behind the clouds Sunday morning, the situation in others was more desperate.
There were reports of Allison-level flooding just to the north in the Greater Heights, a collection of Central Houston neighborhoods that sit north of Interestate 10 and is bound by Houston’s main loop freeway, Interstate 610.
“I lived through Allison and I remember Allison really well,” said Michael Redding, an Austinite who grew up in the Heights. His parents, 90-year-old grandfather and aunts and uncles all call the neighborhood home.
And Redding was left watching the scenes of devastation unfold from his home in Austin. “I want to be there, I feel like I was heading the wrong direction on 290 today. I should be heading to Houston, but I know there’s no way to get there.”
Redding’s grandfather, Kenneth, rode out the storm Friday night and much of Saturday. But when the torrential rains overnight Saturday brought flood waters to his porch steps, he decided it was time to leave.
His son, Kenneth Ray, said his father had lived on that block his entire life and only been flooded out twice — by Allison in 2001, and now by Harvey. Some 13 to 15 inches of rain fell there over the last day as of noon on Sunday, county gauges show.
Michael added: “I’m just waiting for the flood to go down so I can get there and help them out.”
Another Austinite, Chris Lippincott, traveled to southwest Houston suburb of Katy to help care for his 92-year-old grandmother as Harvey battered the city.
“We’re fine. The lights are on, the Internet and TV are still working, so we’re watching a lot of baseball and hoping for the best,” he said. “The real issue out here is the streets cannot drain.”