ORANGE, Texas >> A weaker Harvey replicated its devastating roll today, returning to shore with a deluge of rain that inundated homes and highways and left police and government officials struggling to pluck people from the water.
The Texas-Louisiana border bore the brunt of Harvey’s second coming, this time as a tropical storm before it was downgraded tonight to a tropical depression. It caused a repeat of the flooding endured by Houston, its suburbs and nearby beach towns when it made first landfall last week as a Category 4 hurricane before meandering back to the Gulf of Mexico. It has dumped up to 50 inches of rain in spots, leaving more than 20 dead.
But as Houston got its first glimpses of sunlight in days, areas to the east that had already seen rain were waking up to even more — and to waterlogged homes.
Orange, Texas, resident Mike Henry said he went to bed Tuesday with water only in his yard. He woke up to rain falling so hard it sounded like a “power washer.” And then it quickly started seeping into his house.
“I kept marking it on the wall, every 15 minutes,” Henry said. It leveled off at 1 foot.
A neighbor delivered him, his longtime girlfriend, Rose Marie Carpenter, and her dog, Maggie May, to dry ground — first in a truck, and then in a boat. They were trying to figure out what to do next as they waited along Interstate 10, where ambulances were taking the medically fragile to Louisiana. But many on the freeway didn’t want to head there because they wouldn’t take dogs. Carpenter uses a wheelchair, and Henry said he wasn’t sure where they would go.
Some motorists were stranded along elevated I-10 for nearly 24 hours after they pulled off the freeway, but couldn’t re-enter when the ramps flooded. In Orange, more than two dozen vehicles —including a news truck — clustered around a closed convenience store when they could not return to the freeway.
Erin Gaudet of nearby Beaumont, Texas, said she went home to pick up her kitten, then they spent the night in her SUV. She said she plans to name the kitten Harvey.
Police in Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, were recruiting anyone with boats to help check neighborhoods for potential rescues, with one meeting point for available vessels at a Walmart. Authorities said that instead of calling 911, many people were trying to seek help via social media, adding to the chaos.
But Anna McKay, of Orange, said she tried calling 911 for help, and nobody answered. Neighbors helped bring her and 12 other people who had sought refuge in her home to a Baptist church on higher ground. There, people were planning to cook food they salvaged from their freezers after homeowners shut off their own power to avoid fires.
Florida Wildlife Commission agents and soldiers with the Louisiana Army National Guard evacuated eight residents and three employees from the Golden Years retirement home in Orange. Most of the gray brick structure is one story, although staff took residents to a small second-story area as the water on the ground floor rose to thigh level.
“I was just wondering if it was going to get any higher,” said resident Madison Selph, 87. He said he could tell water had stopped rising by looking at a shed across the parking lot.
Rescuers carried the residents out one-by-one, floating them to high-clearance National Guard trucks on an airboat. Three who were too weak to stand were lifted onto a mattress in the back of a truck. The other five got their pajama bottoms wet as they were helped into a second truck, shivering in the still-gusty wind as they sat on metal benches.
“It’s cold and I don’t know where I’m going,” a female resident said at one point, as the truck growled and jolted along a flooded Texas highway.
The storm came ashore again before dawn today just west of Cameron, Louisiana, bringing maximum sustained winds near 45 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. Harvey had dumped rain as it lingered over Texas for days.
Low-lying southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana are far more rural than the 6-million-plus Houston area and are home to many of the nation’s oil refineries, including the biggest in the U.S. in Port Arthur. Motiva Enterprises closed the refinery because of flooding. Port Arthur found itself increasingly isolated as floodwaters swamped most major roads out of the city and spilled into a storm shelter with about 100 people inside.