Red Cross: More Than 17K Texans Seeking Shelter

HOUSTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — More heavy rain from Harvey made already-catastrophic flooding worse Tuesday as a massive rescue operation continued in Houston.

Authorities said Tuesday that more than 3,500 people have been rescued since Harvey hit. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo called it “a catastrophic event.”

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“We’re still trying to get to folks and again, like we said yesterday, don’t give up on us, seek to higher ground — we will get to you,” he said at a news conference. “At every passing hour, we have more boats getting in the water.”

In the wake of the ongoing flooding, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner imposed a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew to ensure public safety, CBS News’ Meg Oliver reported.

“I don’t want them to have to worry about someone breaking into their home, or looting, or doing anything of that nature while they are away,” Turner said.

More than 17,000 people are seeking refuge in Texas shelters, the American Red Cross said. With rescues continuing, that number seemed certain to grow.

The largest shelter in Houston is at the George R. Convention Center. There were an estimated 10,000 people there late Tuesday, but only 5,000 cots. Officials are working hard to give displaced flood victims everything they need.

“We have a fully operational pharmaceutical facility, we have doctors on site, people are getting their needs met,” Houston Director of Housing Tom McCasland said. “We essentially have an emergency room that can operate there and handle any emergency needs and if they need steady care, we’ll get them to a hospital.”

While people inside the convention center may be safe, for some, frustration has begun to set in.

“We haven’t had showers in three days. It smells in there, it’s dirty, and it’s just a lot of stuff,” one woman said, “and I’m really fed up.”

Houston’s mayor said later Tuesday that the city will open two, maybe three more big shelters for those displaced by Harvey.

“We’re going to use the Toyota Center to reduce the population at the George R. Brown, so it will become another shelter,” Turner said.

Officials also said Tuesday that a Houston police officer died on Sunday, trapped in a flooded patrol car while trying to get to work.

As CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported, Sgt. Steve Perez’s wife and father-in-law had begged him not to go to work on Sunday.

“They told him not to go because conditions were so bad. His response was, ‘We’ve got work to do,’” Chief Acevedo said. “We couldn’t find him. Once we got there, sent in our divers, it was too treacherous to look for him.”

It was a reminder of the personal risk first responders have been taking on to try to get to the people stuck in danger by the floodwaters.

At least eight people have died in the storm in all.

Meanwhile, a pair of 70-year-old reservoir dams that protect downtown Houston from flooding began overflowing Tuesday, adding to the rising floodwaters from Harvey that have crippled the city after five consecutive days of rain.

Engineers began releasing water from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs Monday to ease the strain on the dams. But the releases were not enough to relieve the pressure after one of the heaviest downpours in U.S. history, Army Corps of Engineers officials said. Both reservoirs are at record highs.

The release of the water means that more homes and streets will flood, and some homes will be inundated for up to a month, said Jeff Lindner of the Harris County Flood Control District.

The county is trying to determine where the water will go, Lindner said.

And officials say a levee near a subdivision of homes in a county south of Houston has been breached and water is pouring into the area.

Brazoria County posted this message on Twitter on Tuesday morning: “NOTICE: The levee at Columbia Lakes has been breached!! GET OUT NOW!!”

Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebesta says that the water has come over the levee in the northeast part of the subdivision and is starting to fill the area.

He says residents were told that at some point the levee would be “overtopped.” He said that a mandatory evacuation order was issued Sunday.

In Mission Bend west of Houston, CBS DFW’s Jason Allen reported the storm would not quit. The rain was falling again late Tuesday afternoon along with strong winds. A reservoir in Mission Bend was continuing to rise, and water was backing up and threatening homes nearby.

Days after the storm ravaged the Texas coastline as a Category 4 hurricane, authorities worry that the tropical storm now parked over the Gulf Coast will return and deliver a knock-out blow to the Houston region already ravaged by devastating downpours generating an amount of rain normally seen only once in more than 1,000 years.

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The storm was expected to make a slow turn to the northeast on Tuesday, placing the center just off the middle and upper Texas Gulf coast through Tuesday night before moving inland. Harvey is expected to produce 10 to 20 additional inches of rain over the upper Texas coast and southwestern Louisiana through Thursday, with isolated storm totals maybe reaching 50 inches over the Houston-Galveston area and the upper Texas coast.

Meteorologists now predict Harvey could break a U.S. record for the most rainfall from a tropical system.

In the Houston area, heavy equipment normally reserved for hauling rock and soil instead saved lives as stranded residents packed into haulers and were driven to a Walmart parking lot where they were picked up by loved ones or bused to a shelter.

“Thank God, we’re here,” one woman said. “My son is picking us up and we’re going to his house. It’s all flooded.”

First responders waded through chest deep water in Baytown Tuesday morning to rescue stranded residents.

“We had no idea we would have that kind of support, because I know there are people who need it more than us,” one woman said.

Civilian volunteers found Laura Blinton in her flooded home. She regrets not leaving sooner.

“Yes, I should have,” she said.

With 911 call centers and the Coast Guard inundated with pleas for help, some flood victims are now taking to social media.

The Coast Guard was busy doing aerial rescues Tuesday, while a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Black Hawk helicopter was seen rescuing two women.

One man was seen clinging to a sign post in Houston Tuesday. He had been trying to swim to safety since Monday.

As people continue fleeing the floods by air and boat, shelters in Houston are reaching capacity with many arriving with harrowing tales of survival, as Kristen Holmes reported.

“We felt like there was no hope and we tried to evacuate on a boat that our neighbor had, but the current was too strong, so we went back to the house,” a woman said. “It was scary, it was really scary.”

“He went on a kayak in rising waters, and he went and got help,” said Karen Preston, who was rescued from the floods.

“The boat was small, so they had to take the kids and women first, and they said they’d come back for us,” said Isaac Sandoval, who is staying at a Houston shelter. “But they never did.”

The situation is so dire that the governor has activated the entire Texas National Guard. That means 12,000 guardsmen will now be on the ground to help with relief and rescue efforts.

The Pentagon said the number of National Guard troops in Texas is going to rise, and they plan for a long effort.

“We will be doing life-saving and life-sustaining efforts for a much longer period due to the nature of this storm,” said Major Gen. James Witham of the National Guard Bureau Director of Domestic Operations.

The Coast Guard also says nine helicopters are being brought in Tuesday to help with rescues.

Also Tuesday, Acevedo said arrests have been made for a handful of robberies and looting in the city.

“Don’t come to Houston because you’re going to be caught,” he said. “And I guarantee you when you take advantage, including our own criminal element here, you take advantage of people and prey on them on these circumstances, that’s despicable behavior and we’re all going to push hard to make sure you don’t see the sunlight any time soon.”

President Donald Trump was also in Texas Tuesday to receive briefings on Harvey rescue operations.

CBS2’s Lonnie Quinn reported as of late Tuesday afternoon, Harvey had actually grown stronger. It was up to 50 mph winds over the Gulf waters, 505 miles south-southwest of Port Arthur, Texas.

Quinn expects Harvey to make another landfall on Wednesday, either along the Texas coast or the Louisiana coast.

But the storm has traveled only 210 miles over four days – making for an average speed of 1.5 mph to 2 mph. That is the speed at which a person might walk.

The rainfall record for Harvey at Friendswood, Texas, has already been broken – now amounting to 49.2 inches. The previous rainfall record from a tropical storm system dates back nearly four decades – in 1978, Tropical Cyclone Amelia brought 48 inches to Medina, Texas.

For comparison, the annual rainfall for New York City is 49.94 inches.

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(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)