Navy sends ships to assist Harvey efforts

By Andrew V. Pestano and Danielle Haynes   |   Updated Aug. 30, 2017 at 7:55 PM
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Aug. 30 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy on Wednesday ordered two of its ships to travel to the Texas coast to assist with relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the military announced.

Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, ordered USS Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship, and USS Oak Hill, a dock landing ship, to depart from their homeports in Norfolk, Va. The two vessels are scheduled to leave Thursday.

"These ships are capable of providing medical support, maritime civil affairs, maritime security, expeditionary logistic support, medium and heavy lift air support, and bring a diverse capability including assessment and security," a news release from the Navy said.

The news comes hours after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he has doubled the National Guard deployment to deal with the fallout from the storm.

Some 2,000 Texas National Guard members have joined the 12,000 already active throughout the storm-hit region.

"We are also, as we speak, coordinating with the National Guard Bureau to deploy an additional 10,000 National Guard from other states," Abbott said during an afternoon news conference.

In the past week, the guard has rescued more than 8,500 people from floodwaters caused by now Tropical Storm Harvey, which made landfall for a second time overnight.

During the briefing, Abbott offered a look at some other numbers:

-- The National Guard has evacuated 26,000 people.

-- More than 32,000 displaced residents have been housed in shelters throughout Texas.

-- Texas Parks and Wildlife reports 5,000 evacuees were at state parks, most in shelters, cabins or mobile homes.

-- About 280,000 people were without power by midday Wednesday.

-- Another 14 counties have been added to the federal disaster declaration, bringing the total to 33. Some of those counties, like Dallas, are only eligible for funds to public organizations assisting refugees since North Texas was not directly affected by the storm.

-- About 210,000 people have registered for assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has already approved $37 million for individual aid.

Abbott warned that despite the sunny skies in some regions of southeast Texas, the flood threat isn't over. Rain is still expected in the Beaumont region and the Sabine, Neches, Brazos and Colorado rivers are all expected to continue flooding.

"The worst is not yet over for Southeast Texas, as far as rain is concerned," he said.

After four days of severe weather, parts of Houston began to dry out Wednesday. The city's fire department, though, said it's continued to get calls for high-water rescues.

Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said the department responded to more than 2,100 incidents within an 18-hour period, and made 763 water rescues by 6 p.m. Tuesday. He added that 124 residents of a nursing home in northeast Houston were among those rescued.

Flooding could worsen as rivers and bayous continue to rise in Texas, which could cause breaches and failures at levees.

AccuWeather President Joel N. Myers called Harvey a 1,000-year flood, and warned that some parts of Houston will be "uninhabitable for weeks and possibly months due to water damage, mold, disease-ridden water."

"This will be the worst natural disaster in American history," he said. "The economy's impact, by the time its total destruction is completed, will approach $160 billion, which is similar to the combined effect of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. The disaster is just beginning in certain areas."

As the city begins cleanup, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced a curfew to prevent looting and other "potential criminal acts."

President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday to offer sympathies.

"After witnessing first hand the horror & devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey,my heart goes out even more so to the great people of Texas!" Trump wrote.

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