After drenching northern Louisiana on Thursday and killing over 35 people, the remnants of Tropical Storm Harvey moved inland. With 32,000 people seeking shelters around the US energy hub of Houston, the rescuers were busy searching homes around Houston and the hard-hit southeastern Texas coast for both survivors and victims'. Harvey is one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit Texas in a half-century.
The storm caused power outages which triggered two explosions in the flood-hit Arkema SA chemical plant in Crosby, TX. The plant is 30 miles northeast of Houston. One sheriff's deputy was hospitalized after inhaling toxic chemicals. Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long described the plume as extremely dangerous. The fear of potential fire and blasts has led to the evacuation of people within its 1.5 mile radius.
Hitting last Friday, Harvey was degraded to a tropical depression on Thursday at about 15 miles south of Monroe, LA. The storm's rain caused maximum damage along the Gulf Coast though the National Weather Service warned of about 10 inches of the rain potentially falling in Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Officials have issued a warning in the region for the next few days as the rivers and reservoirs in the region are hovering near flood levels. Over 10,000 people have already been rescued from flooded homes with the operation still underway. Assistant Fire Chief Richard Mann informed of the Houston Fire Department initiating a block-by-block effort on Thursday to rescue all remaining survivors and remaining bodies. In their rescue operation they have formed nine members of the ad-hoc 'Cajun Navy' towing boats which would be behind pickup trucks. They all met in Lake Charles on Thursday morning to decide if they could reach the worst flooded areas of coastal southeastern Texas, including Orange, Port Arthur and Beaumont for rescue operations. Troy Payne, 56, who came from Atlanta feels a helicopter should be used till the water level recedes and vehicles can be used. He plans to drive north and come up with another way into Texas.
About 30 inches of rain had hit the Port Arthur area. Beaumont informed of the loss of water supply due to the flood damaging its main pumping station. Thursday, a mandatory evacuation was issued for areas near the Barker Reservoir due to the fear of floods. Residents were seen wading their belongings through the flood waters. Wednesday, clear skies sent relief rippling through Houston after five days of catastrophic downpours. Wednesday evening, the first flight went out of the city. According to Houston Harris County's police, 17 people are still missing. Over 325,000 people and businesses have so far applied for FEMA assistance with it already giving out $57 million in aid.
Due to flooding, the nation's largest oil refinery in Port Arthur was shut down. This not only disrupted global fuel supplies but spiked gasoline prices as well to $2.449 per gallon, a hike of 10.1 cents from previous week. This has made the US Energy Department approve the first emergency release of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve since 2012. Under this, about 500,000 barrels of oil will be transferred to an unaffected Phillips 66 refinery in Louisiana.
Moody's Analytics estimates the damage cost from the storm for southeast Texas to be between $51 billion and $75 billion which makes it the costliest storm in US history. The threats may linger for a week more. US Vice President Mike Pence and several Cabinet secretaries will visit Texas on Thursday to meet residents and review damage.