Nine days after Hurricane Harvey came ashore, we’re still struggling to fully comprehend its aftermath. At least 45 people are confirmed dead as of this morning, while the economic toll is estimated in the tens of billions. Mark Strassmann has been there through it all:
Harvey hit Texas with Old Testament wrath — a deluge along the state’s Gulf Coast that dumped more than four feet of rain in four days.
Watery misery kept rising in Harris County, which includes Houston. By mid-week, 30 percent of the county — 450 square miles — was under water. One man, who dove out of his truck as it became swamped, told Strassmann, “I thought it was just a couple of feet, you know? I didn’t think it was that deep until it was too late. I couldn’t do nothing about it.”
Houston was in over its head. Rescues became a daily, even hourly drama. “The current was getting high, we had to bust a window to get out,” said resident Gillis Layho.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner had decided against evacuating residents in America’s fourth largest city. “You cannot evacuate 6.5 million people within two days,” he said. “You can not; that would be chaotic. We would be putting people more in harm’s way.”
In one of America’s most flood-prone major cities, relentless rains swamped neighborhoods and highways. A dangerous water world trapped tens of thousands of residents. Life-and-death 911 calls scaled beyond the capacity of first responders.
County Judge Ed Emmett asked for volunteers to come forward with boats and high-water vehicles. A civilian navy responded, and neighbor rescued neighbor. Harvey became an all-hands-on-deck moment.
One volunteer said, “If this was my family, I hope somebody would come for them.”
“We knew we had a lot of people with boats who wanted to help,” said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo. “They had the courage, the integrity, and the intestinal fortitude. As a result of them wanting to get in the water and get in the boats, I know for a fact that a lot of people lived because of them.
Harvey’s new flood became evacuees. Houston’s convention center became its major shelter. Nearly 10,000 people poured in, doubling its original capacity.
Two Mattress Mack furniture stores became temporary housing for people with no place else to go. “We thank Mr. Mack for opening up his doors to us,” one woman said. “Because We didn’t know where our next meal was going to come from, or clothes on our back.”
Jim McIngvale, the owner of “Mattress Mack,” said, “We’re going to keep…