Houston crippled by catastrophic flood, mass evacuations ordered

UNTV News   •   August 28, 2017   •   2855

A rescue helicopter hovers in the background as an elderly woman and her poodle use an air mattress to float above flood waters from Tropical Storm Harvey while waiting to be rescued from Scarsdale Boulevard in Houston, Texas, U.S. August 27, 2017. Adrees Latif / REUTERS

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Tropical Storm Harvey was set to dump more rain on Houston on Monday, worsening flooding that has paralyzed the country’s fourth biggest city, forced thousands to flee and swollen rivers to levels not seen in centuries.

Harvey, the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in more than 50 years, first hit land late on Friday and has killed at least two people. It has since stayed around Texas’ Gulf of Mexico Coast where it is forecast to remain for several more days, drenching parts with a year’s worth of rain in the span of a week.

Schools, airports and office buildings in Houston, home to about 2.3 million people, were ordered shut on Monday as scores of roads turned into rivers and chest-high water filled neighborhoods in the low-lying city.

Torrential rain also hit areas more than 150 miles (240 km) away, swelling rivers upstream and causing a surge that was heading toward the Houston area.

Authorities ordered more than 50,000 people to leave parts of Fort Bend County, about 35 miles (55 km) southwest of Houston as the Brazos River was set to crest at a record high of 59 feet (18 m) this week, 14 feet above its flood stage.

Brazos County Judge Robert Hebert told reporters the forecast crest represents a high not seen in at least 800 years.

“What we’re seeing is the most devastating flood event in Houston’s recorded history,” said Steve Bowen, chief meteorologist at reinsurance firm Aon Benfield.

Total precipitation could reach 50 inches (127 cm) in some coastal areas of Texas by the end of the week, or the average rainfall for an entire year, forecasters said. Nearly 24 inches fell in a span of 24 hours in Baytown, a city home to major refineries about 30 miles east of Houston, the National Weather Service said early on Monday.

“Water started flooding our house and by last night we were unable to leave,” said Maria Davila, one of about 1,000 people in a makeshift shelter at Houston’s sprawling convention center.

U.S. President Donald Trump plans to go to Texas on Tuesday to survey damage from the storm, a White House spokeswoman said on Sunday.

Trump, facing the first big U.S. natural disaster since he took office in January, signed a disaster proclamation on Friday, triggering federal relief efforts. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said on Sunday 54 counties had been declared state disaster areas and he plans to add 1,000 more National Guard personnel to the flood battle.

MASSIVE DAMAGE

Harvey is expected to produce an additional 15 inches to 25 inches of rain through Friday in the upper Texas coast and into southwestern Louisiana, the National Hurricane Center said.

“The storm isn’t moving much. If it doesn’t move much, it keeps throwing rain into the same area,” Steve Wistar, a senior meteorologist with AcuWeather, said in a telephone interview.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office used motorboats, airboats, humvees and other vehicles to rescue more than 2,000 people in the greater Houston area on Sunday, a spokesman said.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Houston police rescued hundreds more as residents brought boats to staging centers to help and helicopters were deployed to save others stranded by the floods.

The National Weather Service has issued flood watches and warnings from near San Antonio to New Orleans, an area home to more than 13 million people.

Federal authorities predicted it would take years to repair the damage caused by Harvey.

Forecasters could only draw on a few comparisons to the storm, recalling Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and killed 1,800 people in 2005.

Katrina resulted in more than $15 billion in flood insurance losses in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Flood damage in Texas from Hurricane Harvey may equal that from Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, an insurance research group said on Sunday.

The Gulf is home to almost half of the nation’s refining capacity, and the reduced supply could affect gasoline supplies across the U.S. Southeast and other parts of the country. Shutdowns extended across the coast, including Exxon Mobil’s Baytown refinery, the second largest U.S. refinery.

The outages will limit the availability of U.S. crude, gasoline and other refined products for global consumers and further push up prices, analysts said.

All Houston port facilities will be closed on Monday because of the weather threat, a port spokeswoman said.

More than 224,000 customers in the Houston area were without power on Monday morning, utilities CenterPoint Energy and AEP Texas said.

Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, one of the nation’s busiest, and William P. Hobby airport halted all commercial flights on Sunday. The airports remained closed to commercial traffic on Monday.

Jose Rengel, a 47-year-old construction worker who lives in Galveston, helped rescue efforts in Dickinson, southeast of Houston, where he saw water cresting the tops of cars.

“I am blessed that not much has happened to me, but these people lost everything. And it keeps raining,” he said.

“The water has nowhere to go.”

Additional reporting by Brian Thevenot in Rockport, Kevin Drawbaugh and Jeff Mason in Washington, DC, Chris Michaud and Valerie Volcovici in New York, Erwin Seba, Marianna Parraga, Nick Oxford and Ernest Scheyder in Houston; Writing by Jon Herskovitz and David Gaffen; Editing by Paul Tait

Joe Biden takes presidential oath, says ‘Democracy has prevailed’

Marje Pelayo   •   January 21, 2021

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. simply known as Joe Biden took his oath of office as the 46th president of the United States of America (USA) on a sunny day on Wednesday (January 20) at the Capitol Building in a ceremony that broke tradition.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden discouraged his supporters from attending the ceremony and opted to be with the company of thousands of National Guards to keep the peace and order following an assault on the Capitol Building on January 6.

For the first time since John Quincy in 1869, the outgoing commander-in-chief Donald Trump snubbed the ceremony as he still refused to accept his election defeat.

After Trump’s tumultuous four years, Biden implied that finally, democracy has been restored in the US.

“America has been tested anew, and America has risen to the challenge.” he said.

“We’ve learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed,” he added.

Biden did not mention his predecessor but referred to the incident at the Capitol perpetrated by Trump supporters two weeks ago. Biden said he will not let any attempt “to stop the work of our democracy” to triumph.

Moving forward, the new US president called for unity among Americans in facing the challenges ahead, especially the impact of the current pandemic which he called “dark winter”.

“In the work ahead of us, we’re going to need each other. We need all our strength to persevere through this dark winter,” Biden said.

“We’re entering what may be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus. We must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation,” he added.

Biden promised to be a president for all Americans saying “every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war.”

“To all those who did not support us, let me say this: Hear me out as we move forward. Take a measure of me and my heart. If you still disagree, so be it. That’s democracy. That’s America. The right to dissent peaceably within the guardrails of our republic is perhaps our nation’s greatest strength,” he said addressing his critics.

“Yet hear me clearly, disagreement must not lead to disunion. And I pledge this to you, I will be a president for all Americans. All Americans,” he vowed, calling for a stop on the war of colors referring to the conflicts between the Democrats and the Republicans.

Towards the end of his speech, President Biden called on US citizens to be more open and keep the value of humility as a new administration begins under his command.

“We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts. If we show a little tolerance and humility… because here’s this thing about life: There’s no accounting for what fate will deal you,” he said.

Duterte looking forward to closely working with Biden – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   November 9, 2020

(L-R) Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and US President-elect Joe Biden

MANILA, Philippines –  President Rodrigo Duterte said he is “looking forward to closely working” with Joseph Biden as he congratulated the latter for winning the United States presidential elections.

“On behalf of the Filipino nation, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte wishes to extend his warm congratulations to former Vice President Joseph “Joe” Biden on his election as the new President of the United States of America,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

“We look forward to working closely with the new administration of President-elect Biden anchored on mutual respect, mutual benefit, and shared commitment to democracy, freedom and the rule of law,” he added.

Roque also said that the Philippines is committed to further strengthening its ties with the US under Biden’s administration.

“The Philippines and the United States have long-standing bilateral relations and we are committed to further enhancing the relations with the United States under the Biden administration,” he said.

“Congratulations and we wish him all the best,” he added.

Democrat Biden became the 46th President of the United States after he defeated Republican Donald Trump, according to US media on Sunday.

Biden becomes 46th US president after Pennsylvania win

Maris Federez   •   November 8, 2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden of the Democratic party has won Pennsylvania, surpassing the needed 270 electoral votes to take the White House and become the 46th president of the United States.

Biden on Saturday’s election results released the following statement as president-elect:

“I am honored and humbled by the trust the American people have placed in me and in Vice President-elect Harris. In the face of unprecedented obstacles, a record number of Americans voted. Proving once again, that democracy beats deep in the heart of America. With the campaign over, it’s time to put the anger and the harsh rhetoric behind us and come together as a nation. It’s time for America to unite. And to heal. We are the United States of America. And there’s nothing we can’t do, if we do it together.”

As reported by the Associated Press (AP), Biden also won Arizona, Wisconsin and Michigan as he heads to the presidency, “flipping states that President Donald Trump won in 2016.”

Trump needed the Pennsylvania win to stay in power. 

Biden’s win came after days of uncertainty as the processing of some ballots was delayed when election officials sorted through a surge of mail-in votes.

Trump is the first incumbent president to lose reelection since Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992, the AP said.

The 77-year-old Biden was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and sought to contrast his working-class roots with the affluent Trump’s by casting the race as “Scranton versus Park Avenue.” —/mbmf

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