Hurricane Harvey | KERA News

Hurricane Harvey

As some residents of South Texas begin to dry out their homes and belongings, significant challenges lie ahead as the city of Houston and others in the affected area look to recover and rebuild.

Congress is fast-tracking billions of dollars in recovery funding. But just because that down payment on Harvey recovery is on the way, that doesn't mean the rebuilding of Houston and other areas hammered by the storm's high winds and historic rains will go quickly or smoothly.

Here are five challenges ahead for the Harvey recovery:

Updated at 4:20 p.m. ET

Democratic congressional leaders announced Wednesday that they had reached a deal with President Trump in an Oval Office meeting to pass hurricane relief funding this week, along with measures to push off pressing fiscal deadlines to December — over the apparent objections of Republican leaders.

Medical workers in Houston are dealing with a secondary problem after last week's floods: Clinics that offer methadone and other opioid addiction therapies are just getting back up and running, and many people don't have access to the treatments they need.

Children's Health System

There are a number of differences between the shelters housing Harvey evacuees and the ones where victims of Katrina went 12 years ago. A big one is telemedicine. Children, especially, are being treated by doctors in remote locations.

 

Courtney Collins / KERA news

One essential item that runs out quickly and many families can't live without is diapers. Toddlers need six to eight every day, and infants can go through up to 12.

In the aftermath of Harvey, and with Hurricane Irma cranking up in the Atlantic, diapers are a key element in outfitting a shelter.

Stella M. Chavez / KERA News

Immigrant evacuees in Houston are already struggling to rebuild their lives after Harvey. Now, some are worried about their future after President Trump’s decision to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. 

Erik Ryan and Mia Reynolds from San Leon, Texas, sit at the picnic table at their campsite in Bastrop State Park. Reynolds, who is currently on hold with FEMA, says that she has been through storms before.

"I did not want to wait around for a politician to tell me to evacuate. I saw the storm on the news and had a bad feeling. That's when I decided to rent a U-Haul truck and pull out."

Reynolds pauses as a an electronic voice comes over the phone: "Your wait time is now 154 minutes."

From Texas Standard:

As the levels in Houston's two main reservoirs continue to drop, many Texans have begun cleaning up their waterlogged homes. And in Baytown, Exxon is rebooting its refinery, the second biggest in the U.S. But there’s much more to do.

Stella M. Chávez / KERA News

Hurricane Harvey has been a tough slog for most Houstonians. For immigrants without papers, the barriers are even more daunting. An undocumented couple whose rental house was trashed by flooding is still waiting for help.

For a storm that has sparked references to flooding on a Biblical scale, it only makes sense that you'd find a kind of Noah's Ark in south Texas after Hurricane Harvey.

On the outskirts of Beaumont, Texas, two huge county fair pavilions the size of baseball diamonds have been transformed by volunteers into a makeshift livestock yard and animal shelter.

It's a bedlam of animals, animal handlers and supply trucks.

Stella M. Chavez / KERA News

Houston bills itself the most diverse big city in America. A quarter of the population was born outside of the U.S. – and a third of that number is undocumented. Because of federal rules that limit aid to those residents, that presents a huge challenge after a disaster like Hurricane Harvey.

Stella M. Chavez / KERA News

Fateyva Miles has been a mail carrier in the Houston area for three years. She moved there from Michigan.

“I kinda don’t like the flooding, but I love Houston,” she said.

Courtney Collins / KERA News

More than 3,000 evacuees are sheltering in North Texas. Sleeping on cots and recycling the same clothes every few days can be a grind.

At one Dallas shelter, just a few days before it closed, volunteers were bringing fun.

Updated at 8:15 p.m. ET

Officials are still trying to confirm whether Texas floodwaters have spread contamination from decades-old toxic waste sites, as water recedes and residents return to homes that, in some cases, were flooded with water that passed over known contaminated areas.

Courtesy of Arkema Group Facebook page

As efforts to rebuild have slowly begun in areas hit hard by Hurricane Harvey, officials continue to warn of lingering environmental hazards, including the health risks posed by receding floodwater.

Texas officials say all fires have been mostly extinguished at the Arkema chemical plant in the flood-ravaged Houston area after authorities launched controlled burns Sunday. Hurricane Harvey had damaged the plant, triggering several fires already.

The six remaining trailers were ignited at the Arkema plant in Crosby, Texas.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT News

As soon as the floodwaters receded in East Houston, the Hernandez family got to work.

Michael Stravato / The Texas Tribune

Local, state and federal officials took to national airwaves Sunday to discuss recovery efforts after Hurricane Harvey and project a largely positive message.

Stella M. Chávez / KERA News

In Houston, baseball fans welcomed back their team on Saturday. The Astros played a double-header against the New York Mets – the first games at home since Harvey slammed into the Texas Gulf Coast.

The devastation of Harvey has neighbors and strangers helping one another. Brigades of volunteers have come to Texas. They've loaded up their boats for rescues and packed trailers full of food and water to help people who no longer have homes.

In his hometown of Orange, Texas, Epi Mungui is overseeing a makeshift distribution center in the middle of a sweltering hot strip center parking lot.

After thousands of people were forced to leave their homes as a result of the flooding in Houston over the weekend, many have one thing on their minds: their pets.

As the water began to rise, Thomas Hayes, 73, stayed in his house in the neighborhood of Tidwell with his five dogs. He measured the water's climb by the height it hit on his car — first covering the tires, then the bumper, and it continued to rise. He didn't want to leave his home without his dogs.

"I wouldn't do it," he says. "I wouldn't leave without them."

White House

President Donald Trump returned to Texas on Saturday to check in on the Hurricane Harvey recovery effort and meet with victims of the storm that ravaged southeast Texas. 

Updated at 7:40 p.m. ET

The Trump administration is asking Congress for nearly $8 billion in Hurricane Harvey aid as the search-and-rescue phase is slowly giving way to recovery more than a week after the storm slammed into southeastern Texas.

Trump visits Texas and Louisiana

President Trump made his second trip to the region Saturday, beginning in Houston with a visit to the NRG Center, which is serving as a shelter for Harvey victims.

From Texas Standard:

Thousands of people are finding their way to dry blankets and warm socks in shelters all across Texas. Dallas expects to host as many as 10,000 people fleeing Harvey; in Austin, as many as 7,000. Donations keep trickling in.

Facing tremendous need after Hurricane Harvey, Texas has made it easier for out-of-state health care providers to come and help.

Rachel Osier Lindley / KERA News

St. Joseph Medical Center is downtown Houston’s only hospital, located just down the street from the George R. Brown Convention Center, where thousands of evacuees have been staying since Harvey hit.  

Some doctors and nurses have been on the clock for almost a full week.

Cathy Frisinger/UT Southwestern Medical Center

About 700 people spent the night Thursday at the shelter at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.

Caring for evacuees after a natural disaster presents a huge medical challenge, which Dr. Ray Fowler of UT Southwestern Medical Center knows well.   

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

Among the hundreds of Harvey evacuees currently in Dallas are children who need to go to school. A small private school stepped up initially, but the district will have to take in more students and provide a long-term solution.

Now that the rain has stopped and floodwaters are slowly starting to recede, government officials are figuring out where tens of thousands of evacuees in Texas and Louisiana can stay.

The White House estimates about 100,000 houses were affected by the storm. Many were destroyed or are too damaged to live in. More than 30,000 people are staying in emergency shelters and will soon be in need of permanent accommodations.

There isn't a city in the United States, and there are probably very few anywhere in the world, that could have handled Hurricane Harvey's 50 inches of rain without significant flooding.

But Harvey was Houston's third flood in three years to surpass the "100 year flood" mark. Urban planners and civil engineers say a combination of natural and man-made factors has created a chronic drainage problem that left the city especially vulnerable to Harvey's torrential rains.

Pages