By NOMAAN MERCHANT and JUAN LOZANO
HOUSTON — The latest weather forecast delivered hope to Houston after five days of torrential rain submerged the nation’s fourth-largest city: Less than an inch of rain and perhaps even sunshine.
But the dangers remain far from over Wednesday. With at least 18 dead and 13,000 people rescued in the Houston area and surrounding cities and counties in Southeast Texas, others were still trying to escape from their inundated homes. Weakened levees were in danger of failing and a less-ferocious but still potent Harvey returned to shore, making landfall in southwestern Louisiana.
The situation was dire early Wednesday in Port Arthur, Texas, near the Louisiana border, where homes were starting to fill with rising floodwaters and residents were unsure of how to evacuate the city, KFDM-TV reported. Jefferson County Sheriff Zena Stephens said county resources could not get to Port Arthur because of the flooding.
Port Arthur Mayor Derrick Freeman said on his Facebook page that the “city is underwater right now but we are coming!” He also urged residents to get to higher ground and to avoid becoming trapped in attics.
Authorities expected the human toll to continue to mount, both in deaths and in the tens of thousands of people made homeless by the catastrophic storm that is now the heaviest tropical downpour in U.S. history. In all, more than 17,000 people have sought refuge in Texas shelters, and that number seemed certain to increase, the American Red Cross said.
Houston’s largest shelter housed 10,000 of the displaced — twice its initial intended capacity — as two additional mega-shelters opened Tuesday for the overflow. Louisiana’s governor offered to take in Harvey victims from Texas, and televangelist Joel Osteen opened his Houston megachurch, a 16,000-seat former arena, after critics blasted him on social media for not acting to help families displaced by the storm.
In an apparent response to scattered reports of looting, a curfew was put into effect from midnight to 5 a.m., with police saying violators would be questioned, searched and arrested.
A much-weakened Tropical Storm Harvey steered into new territory, coming ashore again early Wednesday just west of Cameron, Louisiana, with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.
Harvey is expected to weaken, but will slog through Louisiana for much of the day before taking its downpours north. Arkansas, Tennessee and parts of…