ORANGE, Texas ― Harvey’s floodwaters are receding in Houston, but the swath of Texas from the city toward the Gulf of Mexico remained largely under water and in dire straits Friday, a week after the storm first made landfall.
In Orange, near the border with Louisiana, floodwater was still rising on Thursday after authorities released water from the Toledo Bend reservoir and ordered a mandatory evacuation of nearby low-lying areas.
Rescuers from the National Guard gathered Friday at the Orange County Emergency Services building on Highway 90, preparing to set out in tactical vehicles to reach people stranded in their homes. Five National Guard trucks, two large boats and two inflatable Zodiac watercraft were ready to deploy, as were members of volunteer rescue teams and state wildlife officials. Teams were preparing to head into small towns across the coastal region ― places like Bridge City and Rose City.
Rose City is flooded, the city’s mayor, Hernando Ramos, told HuffPost. “It’s flooded everywhere.” That was about all he had to say on the subject, but Ken Bost, the city’s deputy marshal, elaborated.
“We’ve been at this since probably Friday, pulling people out of the water,” Bost said. “We tried to get out in this interstate [I-10] today. It’s impassable... There’s pretty strong rapids... The city of Rose City... due to the flooding in high water, all of the city is under water. It’s going to be more than likely it’s a total loss. Till this water recedes, there’s no way to get in it to recon it.”
Harvey “is probably 10 times worse than Ike,” Gary Lamare, who lives in Rose City, said of the 2008 hurricane. “I’ve been here most of my life. I moved here when I was about 7 years old. I’ve never seen nothing like this. It’s devastating... I got family in Lake View. His house is 15 feet off the ground and they’re saying it has water... We’re going to survive it. The good Lord blessed us with our lives.”
Members of the 551st Engineers Division of National Guard drove through streets flooded up to car windows, past half-submerged vehicles. Their mission was to rescue anyone still trapped who wanted to leave but to leave behind anyone who wanted to stay.
They’d been warned to beware of snakes and alligators, since the area they were heading into was laced with bayous.
The guardsmen said colleagues had found “at least two” bodies the day before but hadn’t been able to recover them. They wouldn’t talk about details, and it was unclear if those bodies could be recovered Friday, either.
In nearby Port Arthur, many roads were still swamped with waist-deep water. Beaumont was without running water, and flooded roads made it difficult for relief teams to get through.
Donna Porstne, media relations director for the health-focused relief organization Americares, told HuffPost the group got a team into Beaumont on Friday to transport a man in urgent need of dialysis treatment.
“Flooding has made transportation difficult ― if not impossible ― for many patients,” Porstne said. “Some treatment facilities have closed, and Americares is helping to get patients to facilities that are open and able to provide care. We are working closely with partner organizations that have the capability to transport patients by boat or helicopter if needed.”
Back at the Orange County Emergency Services building, residents were stocking up on much-needed supplies ― bottled water, diapers, toiletries.
Morgan Peterson, 29, evacuated here from her home in Vidor, Texas, with her dogs Duke and Cookie after the water began to rise at her house.
Beth Dougherty, 35, and her 2-year-old daughter, Natalee, were also at the emergency services building. Although their house hadn’t flooded, it was surrounded by water, stranding them for days. Dougherty said she was able to get to the fire station and back to her house. But that was about it.