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Houston officials plan to search neighborhoods to ensure 'no people were left behind'


Updated August 30, 2017 10:08 PM EDT

Houston Fire Department officials say they will begin conducting block-by-block neighborhood searches beginning Thursday morning.

Assistant Fire Chief Richard Mann said the searches are being done to ensure "no people were left behind" in the neighborhoods flooded by now Tropical Depression Harvey. Fire officials said that operation will likely take one to two weeks to complete.

In addition, now that the flood waters have begun to recede in some parts of the city, officials said bus and light rail services will resume on a limited basis Thursday.

Updated August 30, 2017 08:33 PM EDT

The National Hurricane Center says Harvey is now a tropical depression.

The hurricane center said Harvey is located about 10 miles southwest of Alexandria, Louisiana, and has maximum sustained winds of 35 mph.

Although the threat of heavy rains has ended for the Houston-area, "life-threatening" continues. Harvey is expected to bring an additional 4 to 8 inches of rain to those along the Texas-Louisiana line.

Updated August 30, 2017 05:05 PM EDT

People are being rescued by helicopter in Beaumont, Texas.

Updated August 30, 2017 03:53 PM EDT

Authorities in Houston are investigating 17 more deaths to see whether they are related to Tropical Storm Harvey.

Tricia Bentley, spokeswoman for the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences, said the agency is performing autopsies and the storm-related death toll will be updated later Wednesday.

The 17 bodies at the morgue do not include those of six relatives found Wednesday in their submerged van in Houston. The Saldivar family was traveling in the van when it was swept off a bridge and into a bayou on Sunday.

The death toll from the storm is at least 21. It is expected to rise, as authorities expect to find more bodies in homes and cars as the waters recede.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Updated August 30, 2017 03:45 PM EDT

Nursing home rescues continue in Port Arthur, Texas.

Updated August 30, 2017 02:02 PM EDT

Watch as rescuers aid Harvey victims in Port Arthur, Texas.

Updated August 30, 2017 12:51 PM EDT

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Wednesday warned that significant portions of his state can expect continuing downpours from Tropical Storm Harvey.

"The worst is not yet over for southeast Texas as far as the rain is concerned," he said during a press conference in Austin.

"It is important for people in all of these regions, as well as people in all of the counties affected, to listen to and heed local evacuation warnings."

Abbott added that 33 total counties in Texas have been made part of the federal disaster declaration, potentially qualifying them for federal aid in relation to damage from Harvey.

"If there is flooding in your area, do not drive into that area," he continued. "Most of the lives that have been lost in this devastating storm so far are people who drove their cars into flooded areas."

Abbott also blasted reported price gouging during Harvey, warning perpetrators that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) would swiftly take action against them.

"Price gouging is not only reprehensible, it is illegal," he said. "Understand this, if you price gouge, you could be subject to penalties of up to $25,000 per incident."

"If you are a business, you may be put out of business by the Texas attorney general," Abbott added of those price gouging. "It is un-Texan and we will not tolerate it."

Abbott noted, however, that both first responders and civilians in Texas had gone out of their way to help one another Harvey's ongoing assault on the state.

"Texans really step up and protect and aid their fellow Texans," he said. "Neighbor helping neighbor, friend helping friend, stranger helping stranger, Texans step up."

Abbott additionally confirmed that Texas's government had agreed to accept assistance from Mexico, adding he did not have a list detailing the help present with him.

"I can tell you loosely that it involves things like vehicles, foods and supplies," he said.

Abbott then closed Wednesday's press conference by discussing the issue of undocumented immigrants seeking aid during Harvey.

"We are here for one purpose and one purpose only, and that's helping people," he said, noting such people would not be asked about their immigration status at shelters.

Updated August 30, 2017 12:41 PM EDT

A tornado watch was issued for parts of Louisiana and Mississippi as Tropical Storm Harvey moves into the region.

Updated August 30, 2017 11:58 AM EDT

Water rescues are underway with Port Arthur, Texas, receiving more than 40 inches of rain Tuesday and it continuing to rain into Wednesday morning, our affiliate KFDM reported.

One family with a baby was rescued out of a home.

Updated August 30, 2017 10:13 AM EDT
FEMA is in life-saving mode

The administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on Wednesday predicted that Tropical Storm Harvey will be "an incredibly large disaster" for the U.S.

"The operation right now is very clear," Brock Long said during a press conference. "We are still in life-saving, life-sustaining mode. The goal is to sustain life."

"We understand that this is going to be a frustrating and painful experience," he added of Harvey's victims. "Shelters are obviously not ideal. And unfortunately people are going to be there for quite some time."

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke cautioned against comparing past storms with Harvey, which has battered the Texas coast since last Friday.

"You can't do a point-by-point comparison of each storm," she said. "What is unique about this storm is the amount of devastation and the amount of rainfall. We expect the flood waters not to crest for at least a couple of days."

Updated August 30, 2017 08:44 AM EDT

A large number of water rescues are needed in Port Arthur with 10 to 15 feet of water heading their way and no resources to save them, our affiliate KFDM reports.

The situation in Port Arthur is dire, with homes expected to flood and residents there unsure of how to get out of the city.

Port Arthur city officials did not call for evacuations earlier Tuesday. Jefferson County emergency officials shut down rescue operations at nightfall Tuesday.

Sheriff Zena Stephens says the county resources can't get to Port Arthur because of the flooding.

Some Port Arthur residents are in survival mode, she said. There aren't enough people to answer 911 calls, according to multiple calls to KFDM/Fox 4 and Stephens.

KFDM is also getting reports of house fires in Port Arthur.

"We're getting 911 and rescue calls but there's nothing we can do," Stephens said. "We can't take the boats out right now. The water is rising and it's coming there and it's no way to get to them. I think (the water) is coming into their homes."

Port Arthur Mayor Derrick Freeman said on his Facebook page the "whole city is underwater right now but we are coming!"

"If you called, we are coming," Freeman said. "Please get to higher ground if you can, but please try stay out of attics."

Jefferson County Pct. 3 Michael Sinegal, who represents Port Arthur on the commissioners court, told KFDM/Fox 4 he was getting calls from friends and strangers.

He also says Port Arthur is in survival mode. Sinegal told one woman to take shelter in her freezer because of how close she lives to a drainage ditch and the water is almost 4 feet into her home.

"We need boats. We need whatever it takes," Sinegal said."I'm just not seeing us as elected officials getting into survival mode for our citizens ... I think we need to get into a crisis mode here and if we have to go get people at night, we got to go get people at night. I don't know how . We need air boats. We need any type of boat we can get and get people out of their house.

This comes on the heels of Houston setting a continental U.S. record with 49 inches of rain Tuesday. KFDM/Fox 4 Chief Meteorologist Greg Bostwick says he wouldn't be shocked if a part of our area received as much.

Radar shows an extreme amount of rain falling in mid and south Jefferson County. Bostwick said it's an "extreme flood event" and "a potentially dangerous situation."

Port Arthur is one of a few locations with more than 40 inches of rain Tuesday.

"It just doesn't want to stop. We keep hoping and we're seeing indications on satellite that the entire complex is weakening and it seems to be shrinking," Bostwick said. "But it's also concentrating in our populated areas, it seems like - particularly mid and south county. It's just right on that Highway 69/96 corridor. It's just hammering that one spot and it may just almost have to rain itself out."You hate to say that but it's the way it's looking."

The exact number of displaced Southeast Texans is unclear, but the heavy rainfall prompted most school districts to cancel school through Labor Day.

There are shelters in Jefferson, Orange, Hardin and Jasper counties.

A Beaumont woman was killed trying to navigate floodwaters near Interstate 10 and 23rd Street, police said.

Police officers and two fire rescue divers used a boat to find the woman floating with her young daughter clinging onto her for life.

Tropical Storm Harvey on Wednesday made its second landfall in the U.S. after battering the Texas coast for days and retreating to the Gulf of Mexico.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm came ashore just west of Cameron, Louisiana, with maximum sustained winds near 45 mph.

Forecasters said another 5 to 10 inches of rain is possible in western Louisiana after Harvey began pummeling Texas last Friday.

Louisiana state offices in 28 parishes and most Baton Rouge area schools will remain shuttered Wednesday due to possibly severe weather.

Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) on Tuesday urged Louisiana residents to remain alert before acknowledging the state is making due with weather conditions on its borders.

“You never know what Mother Nature is going to throw at us, but with the people in this room, I’m confident we can handle it,” he told local and state officials during a Tuesday visit to Lake Charles, which is near the Texas border.

Calcasieu Parish spokesman Tom Hoefer on Tuesday said that about 500 people had been evacuated there.

Hoefer added that as many as 5,000 residents in Calcasieu – which is southwest Louisiana’s most populous parish – were impacted by either flooded homes or roads.

Edwards also noted Tuesday that Louisiana had offered to shelter storm victims from Texas, adding that he expects the neighboring state’s officials to decide in 48 hours on the offer.

Texas is struggling with lingering damage from Harvey, and our affiliate KBTV on Wednesday described the situation in Port Arthur, for example, as “dire.”

Fox 4 reported that a large number of water rescues are needed there with 10 to 15 feet of water heading towards the city but no resources available for saving residents.

The National Hurricane Center on Wednesday said that flash flood emergencies are in effect for Port Arthur and Beaumont.

“Parts of southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana still being deluged with heavy rains,” the center’s bulletin said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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