New evacuations were ordered Monday in the nation's fourth-largest city, as rising floodwaters that turned Houston streets into rivers navigable only by boat now threaten dams across the region -- while rescuers pleaded for more boats to reach residents trapped in their homes.
Tropical Storm Harvey, which made landfall late Friday as a Category 4 hurricane and has lingered dropping heavy rain as a tropical storm, sent devastating floods pouring into Houston on Sunday. The rising gray-green water chased thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground, and overwhelmed rescuers who could not keep up with the constant calls for help.
In a rescue effort that recalled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, helicopters landed near flooded freeways, airboats buzzed across submerged neighborhoods and high-water vehicles plowed through water-logged intersections. Some people managed with kayaks or canoes or swam. The death toll from the storm is at five.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett asked that anyone who has a boat or a high water vehicle to help out with rescue efforts in the Houston area.
"We desperately need boats and high water vehicles," Emmett said. "We can't wait for assets to come from outside."
In a new round of evacuations, residents living near the Addicks and Barker reservoirs — that were designed to prevent flooding in downtown Houston — were warned Sunday that a controlled release from both reservoirs would cause additional street flooding that could spill into homes.
The Army Corps of Engineers started the reservoir releases before 2 a.m. Monday — ahead of schedule — because water levels were increasing dramatically at a rate of more than six inches per hour, a Corps spokesman Jay Townsend said.