Post-Harvey Texas struggled Friday with contradictory water disasters: Way too much in still-flooded Houston streets, and not nearly enough to drink in coastal Beaumont.
Officials in the nation’s fourth-largest city announced plans to keep one section of town submerged for up to two weeks in an effort to spare other sections of Houston.
The city’s western end, already under water from the storm, faced a planned release of water from overflowing reservoirs that could keep 20,000 homes flooded until mid-September.
Some of the homes in the area are already under water up to the rooftops, and the mayor asked residents whose houses were not yet underwater to voluntarily leave the area.
The storm’s death toll hit 47 as the Gulf Coast region endured an eighth straight day of woes inflicted by the unprecedented storm that dumped a record 50-plus inches of rain.
Water wasn’t the only issue, as a massive fire broke out at a chemical plant owned by Arkema Inc. in Crosby, Tex., for the second day in a row.
Containers of organic peroxides exploded and caught fire Friday evening, sending plumes of acrid smoke into the air.
Arkema says Harvey’s floodwaters engulfed its backup generators and knocked out the refrigeration necessary to keep the chemicals stable.
In Orange County, Tex., dams were opened to release rising waters — with resultant flooding there, too.
“We never had water here,” said Sam Dougherty, 36, who fled with his wife and three kids when his home began to seep. “This is family land. My aunt’s owned it for 40 years, and never had water here.”
The flooding stretched into Louisiana, where more than 1,500 people were forced into shelters, as Harvey continued its path away from Texas.
“There still remain areas that are deadly dangerous,” said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. “The Neches River continues to rise … This flooding poses an ongoing threat.”
Flooding from the Neches knocked out all drinking water service in Beaumont overnight after a pair of waterlogged pumps failed in the city of 120,000.
People stood in a mile-long line in hopes of getting bottled water from relief agencies or local stores.
Dee Silva, 83, managed to snag a gallon jug of water distributed by workers at a Krogers grocery store. She waited for an hour, and said the locals had no idea when more water was coming.
“If they have a plan, they don’t tell us,” she said.
Water pressure returned for some customers Friday, although authorities said any municipal water needed boiling before taking even a sip.
The same fate could await residents on the Bolivar Peninsula, where a pumping station was inundated by the ceaseless precipitation.
The water supply, expected to run out within days, could disappear for weeks, officials warned.
The Jack Brooks Regional Airport outside Beaumont continued to operate Friday, with hundreds of planes and helicopters airlifting critically ill patients to medical facilities.
On Thursday, babies from the neonatal intensive care unit at Christus St. Elizabeth Hospital were flown out of Beaumont.
In Washington, President Trump — flanked by religious leaders in the Oval Office — declared Sunday a national day of prayer for the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
Trump folded his hands and bowed his head as the Rev. Robert Jeffress led the group in prayer. Several of the assembled clergy rested their hands on the President’s back during the session.
Officials said 440,000 Texans already submitted applications for federal disaster aid, with $79 million approved thus far. The Trump administration asked Congress in a letter Friday for a $7.85 billion in federal disaster relief. Abbott has said that his state may need more than $125 billion.
Abbott, speaking Friday on ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America,” warned that it could take years for Texas to “dig out from this catastrophe.”
In Houston and elsewhere across Texas, some residents began returning to their homes — only to find heartbreak and heavy damage.
In Bill Wolfe’s Houston home, the furniture was floating in the living room when he managed to get inside. The sight of photos of his sons among the wreckage immediately hit him — and hard.
“Surreal is probably the understatement of the century here,” he told CNN. “You know, watching a 30-foot fishing boat drive down your street is like something you’ve never seen before.”
Brian Foster returned to his Humble, Tex., home to an even more surreal sight: A 9-foot alligator in the dining room, according to KTRK-TV.
It didn’t take long for front lawns in Texas to explode with wreckage: Sopping-wet furniture. Waterlogged carpets. Ruined floorboards. Ripped-up insulation.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he planned to ask for an emergency aid package of $75 million just for debris pickup as residents returning home began dumping their waterlogged belongings.
He also issued a call for more search and rescue equipment and additional high-water vehicles as week two of Harvey’s horrors kicked into gear.
The massive storm damaged nearly 87,000 homes and destroyed more than 9,000 residences, the Texas Department of Public Safety reported Friday.