Flash floods send Texans into ‘survival mode’ as Harvey hit Port Arthur with 26 inches of rain in a day

Harvey has dumped over 26 inches of rain on Port Arthur, Texas in a single day, and residents are desperate to escape.

The Bowers Civic Center, where at least 100 people where seeking shelter after their own homes flooded, was inundated with water early Wednesday morning. Evacuees were forced to abandon floating cots and retreat to the bleachers lining the building.

Mayor Derrick Freeman told CBS News that 20,000 homes have water in them, up to 6 feet deep in some places. Jefferson County Deputy Sheriff Marcus McLellan said 911 operators were overwhelmed with requests, and residents were in “survival mode.”

“Our whole city is underwater right now but we are coming! If you called, we are coming,” Freeman posted on Facebook early Wednesday morning. “Please get to higher ground if you can, but please try stay out of attics.”

The Jefferson County Office of Emergency Management said on Facebook that first responders would resume water rescue operations once the sun came up.

Hal Needham, a hurricane scientist at Louisiana State University, estimated in a blog post that the “golden triangle” of Port Arthur, Beaumont, and Orange, Texas was getting up to 4 to 6 inches of rain an hour, though other measures have suggested the area was getting between 2 and 3 inches hourly. 

“I promise I am not exaggerating when I say at least hundreds, if not thousands, of people are fighting for their lives right now,” Needham wrote Wednesday morning.

People in the area posted hundreds of messages on Facebook and Twitter requesting rescues:

Officials closed highway I-10 from Houston to New Orleans because the floodwaters were so high. And the Motiva oil refinery in Port Arthur, the largest in the US, was forced to shut down because of the flood, CNN reported.

“We aren’t hearing these people crying out because they have no voice. Many have lost power, in the best case have made it to a roof,” Needham wrote. “The eyes of the world are on Houston and these smaller cities in southeast Texas are crying out and nobody can hear them.”