Louisiana braces for flooding as Harvey breaks rainfall record

WASHINGTON, dpa correspondents- The Houston metropolitan area in the US state of Texas continued to be lashed with rain late Tuesday which is expected to also bring flooding to neighbouring Louisiana as tropical storm Harvey makes its way towards the Gulf of Mexico.
The storm, which US President Donald Trump has called "epic," has dumped a record 125 centimetres of rain outside Houston, the National Weather Service said on Tuesday - a record amount of rainfall for a cyclonic storm in the continental United States.

The storm was located 115 kilometres south-west of Cameron, Louisiana with maximum wind speeds of 85 kilometres per hour and is expected to make landfall again Wednesday morning, the National Hurricane Center said.
As it moved slowly towards the Gulf of Mexico, the downgraded former hurricane drew energy and moisture from the warm waters, leading to "catastrophic rains" over south-eastern Texas and south-western Louisiana, according to hurricane centre.
South-west Louisiana has already received about 50 centimetres of rain.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to Houston," New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu told broadcaster CNN. "We are prepared for what’s coming our way," he added.
Landrieu urged residents to stay home if possible and have food and water for three days stockpiled.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said that presumably the worst was still to come in Louisiana.
Harvey hits the region on the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which caused destructive floods in New Orleans in 2005, leaving approximately 1,800 people dead.
With some 3,500 people rescued from flooded areas in recent days, authorities in Houston were monitoring swollen reservoirs, with reports of water breaching or flowing over some embankments on Tuesday.
Trump and first lady Melania travelled to Corpus Christi, Texas, about 350 kilometres south-west of Houston, where they met state Governor Greg Abbott and visited participants in the local response and recovery effort.
"This was of epic proportion," said Trump, dressed in a rain jacket and a white baseball cap bearing the letterts USA. "Nobody's ever seen anything like this."
At a visit to the Texas emergency operations centre later in Austin, the state capital, Trump said that the damage from Harvey would make it the most expensive natural disaster in US history.
Brock Long, chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said that the disaster response was still in the "life-saving" phase.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner imposed a curfew in order to prevent property crimes against evacuated homes in the city. The curfew will start at midnight (0500 GMT Wednesday) and end 5 am, Turner wrote on Twitter.
Originally it was supposed to start earlier, but Turner said he wanted "to allow volunteers and others to do their great work."
A rainfall record for the continental United States was measured at a rain gauge south-east of Houston, at a bridge over Mary's Creek, about 2 kilometres from Pearland Regional Airport, the National Weather Service's Houston office tweeted.
The previous record was 122 centimetres from tropical storm Amelia, which made landfall in July 1978 near Texas' border with Mexico. Higher rainfall from a tropical storm has been recorded in the US only in the Hawaiian islands.
The hurricane centre advised against travelling in the affected areas and urged drivers to avoid flooded roadways, warning that the situation remains "catastrophic and life-threatening."
Flights into Houston's two airports were halted due to flooding on surrounding roads. States of emergency have been declared in 54 counties in Texas and parts of neighbouring Louisiana.
All 12,000 available members of the Texas National Guard are deployed to help with search and rescue, and FEMA has sent 8,500 workers to Texas and Louisiana.
Some 5,500 people were in shelters in Houston, the fourth largest US city with a population of 2.3 million. More than 30,000 people were expected to be housed in temporary shelters.
The storm has put economic activity in the region on hold. Moody’s Analytics estimates that Harvey will cause 7 billion dollars in lost economic output as most restaurants, hotels, and retailers remaibned closed for several days, Moody’s Chief Economist Mark Zandi told the newspaper USA Today.

Wednesday, August 30th 2017
dpa correspondents

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