Category 4 Hurricane Harvey touched down on the coast of Texas on Friday night, hammering cities like Houston, Rockport and Galveston with winds of more than 130 mph and severe flooding.
Weather officials report an estimated 24 inches have fallen in the past 24 hours alone and estimate some parts of the coast will receive more than 50 inches of rainfall.
As of Sunday, the National Hurricane Center still warned against the storm damage to come in the following week.
“Ongoing catastrophic and life-threatening flooding will continue to across southeastern Texas,” the National Hurricane Center’s tweeted. “Do not attempt to travel if you are in a safe place, and do not drive into flooded roadways.”
Five deaths have been reported, and the Coast Guard has responded to hundreds of calls to help evacuate and rescue stranded families and people. Ole Miss students from the Houston area have watched the storm from a distance and relied on family members to assess the damage to their hometowns. Many are used to the tropical weather the area gets each year, but the powerful storm still took some locals by surprise.
King Smith, a sophomore integrated marketing communications major from Bellaire, Texas, said his family woke up Sunday morning with water in their house.
“My parents packed up and went over to the neighbors with the highest house,” Smith said. “There are around 30 people over there, including children and pets.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told everyone to stay put, opting not to evacuate the city’s six million residents. Smith said he knew a lot of people who were mad about the lack of an evacuation notice.
“In the past two hurricanes, we’ve had pretty bad flooding,” he said. “We knew how bad this hurricane was going to be.”
However, Smith and other students understand the difficulty of evacuating America’s fourth-largest city. Junior business major Joel Wilburn said it would have been a disaster if people had been stuck on the highway when the floodwater hit.
“I’m fortunate enough to live in an area that typically doesn’t flood that bad when we have high water like that,” Wilburn said. “My family was planning on staying the whole time. We actually stayed through Hurricane Ike, and because of that, we knew what to expect.”
Houston residents have taken action into their own hands, opening up their homes to neighbors, sharing supplies and even driving boats over the flooded roads to help save lives.
“Everyone’s really been coming together,” Wilburn said.
“The damage I’ve seen on social media is mostly houses that have taken in water and forced people to seek shelter elsewhere,” Wilburn said. “There’s also plenty of downed traffic signals and telephone poles. High water always causes problems.”
Along with the potentially record-breaking rainfall causing serious flood damage, tornadoes have touched down throughout the city.
Nick Garrett, a junior managerial finance major, said his family in Richmond, Texas, about 45 minutes south of Houston, is just trying to tough it out.
“My family’s gotten three tornado warnings and a flash flood warning every hour,” Garrett said. “They’ve gotten over 20 inches of rain so far. It could be about 35-40.”
Garrett’s mother, aunt and uncle stocked up on food, water and a generator to help wait out the storm.
“They will probably be stuck there until Tuesday or Wednesday,” Garrett said.
Garrett said his father, a custom home builder, has already received four calls of people reporting their homes have been destroyed. The homes will need to be gutted and repaired.
Along with the structural damage caused by the storm, George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Hobby Airport are closed until further notice, and major roads like I-610 and U.S. 59 are underwater.