Houston battles Harvey: It’s not over

Updated: More rain is expected and evacuations continue the Houston Chronicle is reporting this morning.

As of 7:12 AM the death toll is limited to six, but rescuers are working to reach stranded desperate people, examine submerged cars and cope with still-rising rivers and bayous expected to increase.  

The engines of Houston’s economy stalled on Sunday as floodwaters sluiced through highways and homes, crippling airports, grocery stores and gas stations as tens of thousands lost power and as major refineries that literally fuel the nation went dark. The impact will likely be felt nationwide. The Chronicle reports:

The devastation of Tropical Storm Harvey, the worst storm to slam into the United States since Hurricane Katrina’s rampage across the Gulf Coast more than a decade ago, will leave untold billions in damages behind for both insurers and the uninsured in Houston; it could lead to temporary but costly gasoline shortages and will render Houston’s economy immobile for at least a week, economists said.

It also threatens to dissuade investors from pumping cash into new businesses here as the city recovers from the financial hemorrhaging.

Fifteen have been rescued from a nursing home after flooding left them trapped in waist-high waters. Timothy McIntosh posted the photo that showed residents of the La Vita Bella facility “almost underwater.”

“It’s almost unprecedented in modern times. In the past, we’ve had a few days of disruption, and then you rebuild,” said Praveen Kumar, a finance professor at the University of Houston. “The problem with this one is it’s going to take much longer for things to return to normal. Why should I spend $10 million right now when I have to wait and see if the region is coming back?”

On Sunday, flooding left more than 900 travelers stranded at the Bush Intercontinental and Hobby airports, killed power for more than 78,000 customers of Houston’s CenterPoint Energy and forced grocers including Walmart and Kroger to shut their doors.

The Texas Windstorm Insurance Association – the insurer of last resort for wind and hail coverage along the coast – reported roughly 1,750 claims as Harvey exacted a trail of destruction along the Texas Gulf Coast that is only growing as the storm lingers over the Houston region, inundating the city’s bayous with rain.

“Right now we’re not doing recovery,”  FEMA Administrator Brock Long said in a TV interview. “We are deep into the life-safety mission, swift-water rescue, search and rescue.” Once the recovery begins, though, it could take years, he said.

Over the past week, energy companies have shuttered more than 12 percent of the nation’s refining capacity to produce the nation’s fuel supplies in the Houston and Corpus Christi areas.

Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and others opted to shut down their Houston-area refining complexes on Sunday, including the country’s second-largest refinery in Baytown that’s operated by Exxon Mobil. Shell closed its massive Deer Park refining and petrochemical complex and Phillips 66 ceased operations at its Sweeny refinery.

Combined, there are more than 2 million barrels of daily oil refining capacity currently out of commission in the Texas Gulf Coast, where more than 25 percent of the nation’s gasoline is refined.

Click here for more from The Houston Chronicle.

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