HOUSTON — Former Miamian Larry Angle is high and dry, but he calls the torrential rain from Hurricane Harvey that has ravaged Houston “just like the wrath of God kind of stuff.”
The National Weather Service said Tuesday, Aug. 29 that the record for total rainfall from a tropical system had been broken. The old record was 48 inches, and as of 11 a.m. Tuesday, the total was 49.20 inches.
“We’ve been here almost 30 years, and it’s the worst I have ever seen,” said Angle, a 1971 graduate of Miami High School.
His father, Charles, was the longtime dean of student affairs, and his mother, JoAnn, was a fixture in the campus bookstore at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.
“I know my parents used to talk about the ’51 flood in Miami,” Larry Angle said. “I think this is worse. There are 6 million people down here. It’s flat as your kitchen table.”
He works for Chevron, which employs more than 4,000 in the Houston area.
His office downtown — which is the old Enron building — will be closed at least for the next several days.
Things went from bad to worse Tuesday morning as a pair of 70-year old reservoir dams that protect downtown Houston, and a levee in a suburban subdivision began overflowing.
The American Red Cross reported that more than 17,000 people were seeking refuge in Texas shelters.
Harvey kept drenching Houston and the surrounding area. Rain fell Tuesday at about half an inch per hour over Harris County and up to 2 inches per hour to the east.
The Houston metro area covers about 10,000 square miles, an area slightly bigger than New Jersey. It's crisscrossed by about 1,700 miles of channels, creeks, and bayous that drain into the Gulf of Mexico, about 50 miles to the southeast of downtown.
Angle, his wife, Cindy, and family live in Cypress, which is on the northwest side of Houston.
“We are about 100 feet above sea level where we live, but there are creeks around, and we have friends that have been flooded twice now in the last 18 months,” he said. “Our church’s house has been flooded twice in the last 18 months. We have a good friend who is stranded at a hotel and can’t get out.”
He called the whole setting surreal.
“I have power and am watching the television, so it’s kinda weird,” Angle said. “Our yard drains pretty well, but I am worried about a couple of pine trees. We have a couple of huge Ponderosa pine trees in the back yard, and if there is any kind of major wind, I’ve got a problem.”
He said his neighborhood has been drenched with at least 20 inches of rain.
“The ground is so saturated – there is no place for it to go,” he said.
His church was being used as a staging center for those fleeing the flooding.
“We had some folks come into our church this morning with no shoes, swimming suits, just trying to get dry,” Angle said. “We are not really set up to hold them overnight.”
They will be taken to shelters, he said.
“There was no way to predict this one,” he said. “We knew it was coming, but more so than everyone expected. A constable came by this morning, and he has two houses, one a rental and the other one he lives in near the Bush airport, and both are gone — and he’s out helping people. “They (the law enforcement agency which is the equivalent to a sheriff’s office in Oklahoma) got washed out of their substation and are holed up in an office building down by my church.”
President Donald Trump toured the area Tuesday morning.
Oklahoma Support for Gulf Coast States
Governor Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) issued press releases Monday and Tuesday outlining support initiatives for Texas and Louisiana.
To begin, Oklahoma sent swift water rescue teams to Texas to assist in the ongoing Harvey response efforts.
Fourteen swift water rescue and Urban Search and Rescue teams and one management team from the Oklahoma Disaster Task Force deployed Monday morning to southeast Texas, according to the first press release. The teams consist of 30 boats and 83 personnel including members from Quapaw Tribe Fire, the Grand River Dam Authority, and Mayes County Task Force 1.
The teams were deployed through the Interstate Emergency Response Support Plan, a regional mutual aid agreement for FEMA Region 6 states, and the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC).
EMAC is a national mutual aid system that allows states to send personnel, equipment, and commodities to help disaster relief efforts in other states. The state-to-state system was developed after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and was established in 1996.
Fallin and the OEM then announced Tuesday that an Oklahoma shelter operations team is preparing to deploy to Shreveport, Louisiana, to manage two shelters for evacuees who have been displaced by Tropical Storm Harvey.
The shelters are planned to open later this week and will accommodate 3,500 to 5,000 people.
Approximately 125 Oklahoma personnel will manage the shelter operations, including staff from OEM; Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry; Oklahoma Forestry Services Division; Oklahoma Highway Patrol; Oklahoma National Guard; Oklahoma State Health Department; and numerous local emergency management departments.
Six additional swift water rescue teams were also deployed to Texas Tuesday to support water rescues as the state continues to respond to flooding.
Including teams that deployed Monday, there are now 20 water rescue teams from Oklahoma responding in Texas.
The Oklahoma National Guard is responding to a separate request from the Texas Military Department to send personnel and equipment to support medical evacuations from southeast Texas.
“Oklahomans know how to respond because we've experienced these kind of tragedies, though not on this scale,” Fallin said Tuesday. “Our soldiers and first responders are trained and ready to provide assistance to those impacted by Tropical Storm Harvey. I ask Oklahomans to keep them and the victims of this powerful storm in their thoughts and prayers.”
Fallin has declared a state of emergency for Oklahoma so that state, county, and local governments can adequately respond to the mutual aid requests and needs of the Gulf Coast states, according to a Tuesday press release. Under the executive order, state agencies can make emergency purchases and acquisitions needed to expedite the delivery of resources to local jurisdictions.
The Associated Press contributed information to this report.