HELP FOR HARVEY – CLICK HERE TO CARE WITH 33 AND DONATE TO THE RED CROSS

Worse than Katrina? Harvey swamps Houston

HOUSTON --  Pray for Houston.

From dramatic high water rescues to cars floating down I-45 like boats, Houston is feeling the wrath of Hurricane Harvey. The scenes pouring in are heartbreaking and downright terrifying.

Hopes for an immediate respite from Harvey's wrath seem unlikely as the National Weather Service calls the flooding "unprecedented" and warns things may become more dire if a record-breaking 50 inches of rain falls on parts of Texas in coming days.

The rainfall threatens to exacerbate an already dangerous situation, as Harvey's rains have left many east Texas rivers and bayous swollen to their banks or beyond.

"The breadth and intensity of this rainfall are beyond anything experienced before," the weather service said. "Catastrophic flooding is now underway and expected to continue for days."

The storm killed two people in Texas, authorities said, and the death toll will likely rise. More than 1,000 people were rescued overnight, and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner warned that some 911 calls are going unanswered as operators "give preference to life-threatening calls."

Here are the latest developments:

  • A woman who drove her vehicle into high water in Houston was killed, and fire killed a man in Rockport.
  • Several states and the US military are sending emergency workers and equipment to Texas. In Harris County, though, authorities are having issues mobilizing those resources. "We've requested boats, all the things that would normally happen in a well-planned response to an event like this, but they can't get here," Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said.
  • While Turner warned the rain could exacerbate flooding for "four to five days," Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Brock Long said he expects his agency "is going to be there for years."
  • The Houston Independent School District has canceled school for the week.
  • Houston's William P. Hobby Airport is closed until Wednesday because of flooding, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
  • Ben Taub Hospital, which houses a Level I trauma center, is being evacuated after flooding in the basement "disrupted the power source," Emmet said.
  • 316,000 customers have lost electricity, Gov. Greg Abbott said.
  • The Red Cross is serving about 130,000 meals a day, the governor said.
  • President Donald Trump will travel to Texas on Tuesday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

Trapped

Among those stranded by the storm is Ify Echetebu, 30, who spoke to CNN from her aunt's house in Dickinson, not far from Galveston Bay. Along with her fiancé, grandparents, a friend and several teenagers, Echetebu is trapped on the second floor of the house as floodwaters creep up the staircase. She can see the rooftops of submerged cars in driveways, she said.

On the first floor, the water is up to her waist, she said. Emergency services know she and 10 others are holed up in the home, she said, but because emergencies take priority, she doesn't expect to be rescued until tomorrow, Echetebu said.

"We're nervous to stay here, but we are sleeping in shifts," she said. "Now we're having to deal with sewage in the water, river water, bayou water, water moccasins, snakes, gators."

Not far away, a rescue operation saved 20 to 25 residents of La Vita Bella assisted-living facility in Dickinson.

"They were up to their waist," Galveston County Commissioner Ken Clark said. "If they were in a wheelchair, they could have been up to their neck."

As authorities warned people not to take shelter in attics, unless they have axes handy to break through their roofs, several residents provided CNN with their accounts of riding out the storm.

"We are still stranded in our home with little kids and the water keeps rising," Houston resident Janet Castillo said Sunday morning. "We have (tried calling several numbers), but their lines are all busy or they don't answer."

Jake Lewis of New Braunfels, Texas, said he woke up to ankle-deep water in the Houston hotel where he is staying.

"We have nowhere to go," he said. "I have a 2016 Chevy Silverado and the water is up to the door panels. The water keeps rising."

One of two confirmed fatalities happened in Houston when a woman drove her vehicle into high water and couldn't make it across, city police said. She got out of her vehicle, was overtaken by floodwaters and drowned.

24 inches of rain in 24 hours

Harvey blasted ashore as a Category 4 hurricane just north of Corpus Christi. It brought with it 132-mph winds but was quickly downgraded to a tropical storm. Still, it continued to spawn tornadoes and lightning.

A flash flood emergency was declared for sections of Houston, where more than 24 inches of rain fell in 24 hours, the National Weather Service said.

The weather service said maximum sustained winds Sunday would be near 45 mph. While Harvey could become a tropical depression by Sunday night, residents are warned to remain vigilant.

Keep track of Harvey

The slow-moving storm is expected to drop 15 to 25 inches of rain over the Texas coast through Thursday. Isolated storms could drop up to 50 inches of rain, the weather service said.

"Rainfall of this magnitude will cause catastrophic and life-threatening flooding," the weather service said.

Some residents are comparing Harvey to Allison, a storm that struck the Texas coast in 2001 and killed 23 people.

"Allison was bad -- really, really bad," Houston resident Pat Napolio said, "but if (the water) creeps up anymore, Harvey will surpass (Allison)."

"We have nowhere to go," said Lewis, of New Braunfels, Texas. "If you go out and look at the service road it's flooded. I have a 2016 Chevy Silverado and the water is up to the door panels. The water keeps rising."