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Crippled water system, chemical plant blaze, vivid examples of Harvey's cascading effects

By Abigail Hauslohner, Todd C. Frankel, Joel Achenbach

September 1, 2017 at 9:29 PM

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This is what it looks like when a city of some 118,000 people loses its water supply in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Residents of Beaumont, Tex. line up and wait. (Lee Powell, Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)

BEAUMONT, Tex. — The prolonged misery from Hurricane Harvey peaked here Friday in the southeast corner of the state, where a crippled municipal water system left residents lacking running water, unable to flush toilets, desperate for basic sanitation and fearful for their health.

Meanwhile, a massive fire sent up a towering pillar of acrid, black smoke from the Arkema chemical plant northeast of Houston hours after company officials said they could do nothing to stop 19.5 tons of volatile chemicals from igniting.

Beaumont’s dire situation and the uncontrolled chemical fire near Crosby, Tex., provided vivid reminders of the cascading effects of a natural disaster: wind, storm surge, torrential rain, floodwaters and now all the secondary consequences, including industrial accidents, environmental contamination, and broad concerns about sickness and disease.

President Trump’s Office of Management and Budget on Friday night sent a request to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan for $7.85 billion for response and recovery to the hurricane, describing the money as a “down payment” on the president’s promise to help states recover from the storm.

In Crosby, residents remained evacuated Friday within a 1.5-mile radius of the burning Arkema chemical plant. The plant lost power and its backup generators were flooded earlier this week, leaving workers unable to continue refrigerating volatile organic peroxides. The chemicals combust if not kept cool.

As an emergency measure, the chemicals were moved into nine box trailers, one of which burned Thursday. The floodwaters have now receded, but Daryl Roberts, Arkema’s vice president of manufacturing, said Friday that the company can’t restart refrigeration because the electrical infrastructure has been underwater for a week. “We believe that right now, the scenario that is available to us is to let that material burn out,” he said Friday morning.

Friday afternoon, chemicals in another of the trailers caught fire. The heat from the blaze then ignited the chemicals in an adjacent trailer. The two trailers burned simultaneously, producing multiple explosions and fireballs, said Robert W. Royall Jr., assistant chief of emergency operations for the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office. That left six intact trailers, parked in a remote section of the plant, each holding chemicals steadily warming and likely to ignite. “We could see all six of these containers engage really quickly,” Arkema executive Richard Rennard said Friday evening.

The Environmental Protection Agency said it was flying a surveillance aircraft through the smoke and monitoring for toxic chemicals. The EPA said Friday night that it detected “no high level of toxic chemical.”

The chemical plant’s crisis has brought attention to the heavy industry in the flood zone, and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board on Friday warned oil and gas companies to be extremely cautious in starting up refineries that shut down as a result of the storm.

Related: [With floodwaters rising and a rescue boat waiting, the urgent question: What to bring?]

In Beaumont, conditions in two large shelters holding 1,400 storm survivors became so risky Friday that officials were forced to evacuate as many people as possible. The officials said they couldn’t take care of people without access to water.

A man walks on a recently opened highway that connects Port Arthur with Beaumont in Port Arthur, Tex. on Friday.Many of Beaumont’s 118,000 residents tried to leave this week but were blocked by high water when Harvey, still a tropical storm and making a second landfall, turned the city into an island. They had no choice but to turn back, often choosing to drive the wrong way on flooded Highway 90.

Government resources for Beaumont appeared slow to arrive Friday, and tempers flared as people scoured grocery stores for whatever food was left.

“When you take water out of the picture, people start to panic a bit,” said Haley Morrow, a police spokeswoman.

At the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, where 7,500 people have taken refuge, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported treating 420 people, some complaining of diarrhea or vomiting that could be associated with a virus or contaminated floodwater.

The convention center has seen a number of drug overdoses, and people have arrived seeking methadone or other opioid-addiction treatments and have been told none are available. CVS and Walgreens have set up mobile pharmacies there with limited stocks of medication.

Statewide, tens of thousands of people have taken refuge in shelters. Myriad more are dislocated, staying with friends, family or strangers. On Friday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner called for residents near the Addicks and Barker reservoirs to evacuate as the Army Corps of Engineers continues to release water from them.

President Trump is scheduled to visit Texas and Louisiana on Saturday, and his trip is slated to include a stop in Houston, said spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Texas is switching from search-and-rescue mode to recovery mode. As of midday Friday, officials across Texas had recorded at least 45 deaths confirmed or suspected to be related to the storm.

The scarcity of gasoline has become a preoccupation, too, as motorists in many cities — even far from the major flood zone — have found stations sucked dry. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) blamed media reports about gas shortages and an ensuing rush on the filling stations.

“There’s plenty of gasoline in the state of Texas,” Abbott said. “Don’t worry, we will not run out, and we will be back to our normal pattern before you know it.”

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Texas evacuees at shelters describe the few items that they were able to save from their flooded homes. (Zoeann Murphy, Jorge Ribas, Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

The weather has cooperated late this week, with bright sunshine replacing days of downpour. A ridge of high pressure in the atmosphere should keep any developing tropical system in the Gulf of Mexico far away from Texas — an improved outlook since Thursday.

Most who lost power in the storm now have it back. But American Electric Power, a Texas utility, estimated that the cities of Rockport, Fulton and Aransas Pass would not have power fully restored until Sept. 8 — two weeks after Harvey first made landfall.

At least 185,000 homes were damaged, according to the latest tally from the Texas Department of Public Safety, but that number does not include heavily affected Beaumont and densely populated Houston. Some 440,000 Texans have registered so far for FEMA disaster assistance, the governor’s office said.

In Port Arthur, a city ringed by refineries, the floodwater that rose so dramatically earlier in the week, requiring frantic evacuations, was taking its time to recede Friday. Some neighborhoods still had waist-deep water. Convenience stores and gas stations had started to reopen, and signs of normalcy began to appear.

In the El Vista neighborhood, Paul Jackson said the water had dropped about a foot, although it was still up to his thighs.

“That’s promising for us,” said Jackson, 50, who has been living in a camper parked along the highway at the entrance to his neighborhood.

Related: [Two new tropical threats are taking shape in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean]

Some residents had begun getting texts from FEMA alerting them that they were eligible for hotel room vouchers. Some in Beaumont managed to fly out of town after an initial attempt to leave by bus was stymied by high water. Others left shelters and returned home. A line of hundreds of cars snaked along a highway frontage road as motorists queued up for water being handed out by the city and donated by the Texas grocery chain HEB.

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When Ambreen Rajan returned to her flooded store in Friendswood, Tex., on Thursday, Aug. 31, she said she looked inside and felt "broken." (Zoeann Murphy/The Washington Post)

Beaumont took on a ghostly quality. Grocery stores and restaurants appeared open at first glance and in the evening were illuminated and seemed inviting. Motorists circled them, but there was no going inside. Store aisles were empty, the doors locked and protected by sandbags.

With no running water, there was little cooking that could be done and no way for employees to wash their hands. No fresh produce or supplies could be delivered to Beaumont through the floodwaters encircling the city.

The odor of flood rot began to permeate the air.

Pamela Starks, 59, pushed her cart inside the Walmart Superstore, getting lucky enough to nab four cases of water.

“They got water?” another female shopper asked anxiously.

“It’s gone,” Starks replied.

Outside, Angela Williams, 48, stood with her sister, son, daughter-in-law and two toddler grandchildren in the sun. The family had been rescued from their flooded homes in Port Arthur three days earlier.

Their first shelter flooded. They moved to a second shelter, but there was no food and no water. Now they were crowded — 13 people all told — into the small home of a friend who also had no running water.

It was midafternoon, and they had just had their first meal of the day: one doughnut for each person.

Members of the Nguyen family return to their home for the first time since Harvey floodwaters arrived in north western Houston, Texas August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
A long line of people wait in line to buy water at Walmart in Beaumont, Texas, on Thursday August 31, 2017, after the city lost its main source of water after Hurricane Harvey. ( Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
BAYTOWN, TX AUGUST 31: A woman looks at homes, two of which are under contract to her daughters. flooded by Hurricane Harvey, to survey the damage in Baytown, Texas on August 30, 2017. The majority of homeowners do not carry any flood insurance. THE WOMAN ASKED HER NAME NOT BE USED. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
BAYTOWN, TX AUGUST 31: Cindy McDonnel(cq) is overwhelmed by the damage done to their home, flooded by Hurricane Harvey in Baytown, Texas on August 30, 2017. They described the mobile home as a total loss and do not carry any flood insurance.(Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
A military vehicle evacuates about two dozen residents from the Autumn Chase Park apartments while pushing its way through flood waters caused by Tropical Storm Harvey in Port Arthur, Texas, U.S. August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Margaret Shelton rips up flood-soaked carpet from her home in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey in the Parkway Forest subdivision of Houston on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)
A family stand in the door of their flooded house in Port Arthur, Texas, U.S., August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
epa06175484 A couple who did not want to be identified hand personal belongings to police officer Tommy Strange (L) as they evacuate their flooded west Houston home in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, USA, 31 August 2017. Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the south coast of Texas as a major hurricane category 4. The last time a major hurricane of this size hit the United States was in 2005. EPA-EFE/TANNEN MAURY
Boyd Jones, left, embraces his neighbor, Manuel Rosales as they meet in Rosales' home after being flooded in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey in the Verde Forest subdivision of Houston on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)
Vehicles sit amid leaked fuel mixed in with flood waters caused by Tropical Storm Harvey in the parking lot of Motiva Enterprises LLC in Port Arthur, Texas, U.S. August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Dogs rescued from Harvey floodwaters in Houston, Texas, wait to be relocated to a shelter August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Tonya Sutherland tries to help a calf that was trapped in a fence nearly submerged in flood water in Winnie, Texas, U.S., August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Vice President Mike Pence, center right, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, center in wheel chair, help move debris during a visit to an area hit by Hurricane Harvey, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Rockport, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Houston firefighter Rebecca Belleth peers into a home that was flooded as first responders go door-to-door during a survey of a neighborhood that was hit by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
epa06175422 Police officer Tommy Strange shouts to see is anyone responds at a flooded west Houston home during rescue operations in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, USA, 31 August 2017. Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the south coast of Texas as a major hurricane category 4. The last time a major hurricane of this size hit the United States was in 2005. EPA-EFE/TANNEN MAURY
HOUSTON, TX AUGUST 31: Diapers and cleaning supplies for those in need are brought into a furniture store in Houston, Texas on August 31, 2017. Those left homeless by Hurricane Harvey are in need of supplies and contaminated water is a big problem for huge portions of the city. MOTHER DID NOT WANT NAMES OF CHILDREN PUBLISHED. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 31: Friends and family members help the Baltazar begin the rebuild process at their home on Talton Street in Houston, TX on Thursday, Aug 31, 2017. Hurricane Harvey pushed thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground as the had to flee their homes in Houston. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 31: Friends and family members help the Baltazar begin the rebuild process at their home on Talton Street in Houston, TX on Thursday, Aug 31, 2017. Hurricane Harvey pushed thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground as the had to flee their homes in Houston. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
A fire burns at the flooded plant of French chemical maker Arkema SA after Tropical Storm Harvey passed in Crosby, Texas, U.S. August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Volunteers sort donated items in a makeshift distribution center set up among the cubicles of an office Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Pasadena, Texas. Thousands of people have been displaced by torrential rains and catastrophic flooding since Harvey slammed into Southeast Texas last Friday. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
This still image taken from video provided by the U.S. Navy shows sailors from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28 rescuing 14 people and four dogs, at Pine Forrest Elementary School, in Vidor, Texas on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. The shelter that required evacuation after flood waters from Hurricane Harvey reached its grounds. (U.S. Navy via AP)
Evacuees who were rescued from the flood waters of Tropical Storm Harvey wait to board school buses bound for Louisiana in Vidor, Texas, U.S., on August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
epa06177789 A man struggles to remove a flood damaged freezer from an east Houston home as the procees of cleaning up begins in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, USA, 01 September 2017. Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the south coast of Texas as a major hurricane category 4. The last time a major hurricane of this size hit the United States was in 2005. EPA-EFE/TANNEN MAURY
Livestock stand in floodwaters caused Tropical Storm Harvey in Port Arthur, Texas, Friday, Sept. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
People look for good deals on salvaged custom cowboy boots at Jesse's Shoe Repair as residents begin the recovery process from Hurricane Harvey on September 1, 2017 in Houston, Texas. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan SmialowskiBRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
This US Air National Guard photo released on September 1, 2017 shows flooding as Airmen from the New York Air National Guard's 106th Rescue Wing conduct rescue operations in the Beaumont, Texas area on August 30, 2017. The New York Air National Guard dispatched 120 Airmen, 3 HH-60 Pavehawk rescue helicopters and two HC-130 search and rescue aircraft to aid the Texas National Guard. / AFP PHOTO / US AIR NATIONL GUARD / Daniel FARRELL / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO /US AIR NATIONAL GUARD/DANIEL FARRELL/HANDOUT" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS DANIEL FARRELL/AFP/Getty Images
Flood waters from a rising Sabine River begin to cause caskets in Niblett's Bluff Cemetery to float to the surface in Vinton, La., Friday, Sept. 1, 2017. (Rick Hickman/American Press via AP)
Nancy McBride is carried out of her flooded home by volunteer Cody Collinsworth, after returning home for the first time since Harvey floodwaters arrived in Houston, Texas September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Lacey Dougharty saves some of her chickens after Tropical Storm Harvey in Orange, Texas, U.S., September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
BEAUMONT, TX-AUGUST 31: Volunteers wait for a boat to be dismounted from a truck so that they can search a flooded section of Beaumont for survivors. Most people they found earlier today wanted to stay in their homes with hopes that the water will soon subside.
PORT ARTHUR, TX SEPTEMBER 1: A man walks on a recently opened highway that connects Port Arthur with Beaumont in Port Arthur, Texas on September 1, 2017. New mandatory evacuations were announced in the beleaguered coastal city of Port Arthur, Texas. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
PORT ARTHUR, TX SEPTEMBER 1: Volunteers and family members help pull a boat carrying Rafael Magana across a dry stretch of ground in Port Arthur, Texas on September 1, 2017. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
PORT ARTHUR, TX SEPTEMBER 1: A flipped over car and deep water block a street running through Port Arthur, Texas on September 1, 2017. New mandatory evacuations were announced in the beleaguered coastal city of Port Arthur, Texas. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
NOME, TX SEPTEMBER 1: Earl Williams, 70 sits on the front porch of his flooded home in Nome, Texas on September 1, 2017. Williams' father built the home in 1976 and he hopes he can repair the home rather than tear it down. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
An alligator moves along flood waters from the Guadalupe River spilling over Texas Highway 35, Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, near Tivoli, Texas. The river carries water left by Hurricane Harvey. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Tropical Storm Harvey floodwaters pushes a train off its tracks, Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, near Vidor, Texas. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)
Residents listen to officials at a roadblock into their Canyon Gate neighborhood which was flooded when the Barker Reservoir reached capacity in the aftermath of Harvey Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, in Katy, Texas. Residents gathered at the checkpoint to vent their frustrations about not being able to get back into their homes which will remain flooded for several more days while the reservoir drains. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
epa06179778 Tyrone Berry gets a haircut from stylist Elizabeth Arellano in the Red Cross shelter set up for Hurricane Harvey flood victims at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas, USA, 02 September 2017. Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the south coast of Texas as a major hurricane category 4. The last time a major hurricane of this size hit the United States was in 2005. EPA-EFE/TANNEN MAURY
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump greet residents of a neighborhood in Houston while touring areas affected by Hurricane Harvey on September 2, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas KammNICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
HOUSTON, TX SEPTEMBER 2: James Delancey walks through his brother's home which was flooded by Hurricane Harvey in The Woodlands neighborhood of Houston, Texas on September 2, 2017.(Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
HOUSTON, TX SEPTEMBER 2: A frog sits on a hose in a swimming pool flooded by Hurricane Harvey in the backyard of a home in Houston, Texas on September 2, 2017. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
HOUSTON, TX SEPTEMBER 2: Erica Jones, a volunteer, pauses during a clean up effort in a home flooded by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas on September 2, 2017. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
HOUSTON, TX SEPTEMBER 2: Lt. Col. Mark Weger and Damian Weger hang the honorary flag that was given to the Weger family in honor of Michael Weger who died in Iraq, to dry after it was soaked during flooding in Houston, Texas on September 2, 2017. Damian Weger is Michael's son and Mark is Michael's brother.(Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
A woman takes part in the first church service after Tropical Storm Harvey at the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 3, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Rock Moye, from Austin, Texas, prepares brisket to serve to volunteers and flood victims in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017, in Cypress, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Tim Wilson, with his dog Koa, attends a makeshift outdoor worship service in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017, in Port Aransas, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Members of the Pine Forest Baptist Church hold Sunday services in the parking lot outside their damaged church, in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey in Vidor, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017. The Church was flooded from the storm and is currently unusable. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Volunteers help clean up a home destroyed by floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017, in Spring, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Volunteer Adrienne Adair wears a mask while helping clean up a home destroyed by floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017, in Spring, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Volunteer Paul Hancock pushes an oven damaged by floodwaters onto a pile of debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017, in Spring, Texas. Hancock and numerous other volunteers are helping flood victims across the Houston area. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
THE WOODLANDS, TX SEPTEMBER 3: Heather Gilmore, right , puts a protective boot on her two- year-old daughter Andrea's foot as her her daughter Jana, 1, looks on at Woodlands Church in The Woodlands, Texas on September 3, 2017. Andrew Gilmore, rear, and his family have been taking shelter at the church until they can find a new apartment to move into. Their rental was destroyed by the flooding from Hurricane Harvey. There are roughly 60 evacuees still being housed at the church about 30 miles north of Houston. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
THE WOODLANDS, TX SEPTEMBER 3: Worshipers pray during Sunday services at Woodlands Church in The Woodlands, Texas on September 3, 2017. There are roughly 60 evacuees still being housed at the church about 30 miles north of Houston. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
Volunteers unload a truck of relief supplies for people impacted by Hurricane Harvey on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017, in Houston. J.J. Watt's Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund has raised millions of dollars to help those affected by the storm. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP, Pool)
epa06182100 Polaroid photographs are laid out to dry in front of a house that was flooded by rains from Hurricane Harvey in the Hunterwoods Village neighborhood of Houston, Texas, USA, 03 September 2017. Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the south coast of Texas as a major hurricane category 4. The last time a major hurricane of this size hit the United States was in 2005. EPA-EFE/TANNEN MAURY
Daniel Vasquez removes a damaged carpet after Tropical Storm Harvey flooded his home in east Houston, Texas, U.S. September 3, 2017. Vasquez and his family, originally from El Salvador, spent six days at the shelter after being airlifted by rescue helicopter. Vasquez, a truck driver who supports a family of five, did not hold flood insurance. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
WHARTON, TX SEPTEMBER 4: Landon Barker, 10, left, Jakwyiah Hawkins, 10, center, and Lawson Barker, 8, jump on a trampoline in the Barker home's backyard in Wharton, Texas on September 4, 2017. The Barkers were lucky, their home remained dry through Hurricane Harvey. Rural areas had many challenges including keep track of livestock during the flooding. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
WHARTON, TX SEPTEMBER 4: Volunteers unload donated hay at the stables at the Wharton County Fairgrounds in Wharton, Texas on September 4, 2017. The fairgrounds sheltered livestock and small pets as people began cleaning out their homes. Rural areas had many challenges including keep track of livestock during the flooding. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
WHARTON, TX SEPTEMBER 4: Laney Fair comforts her gelding "Dollar" at the Wharton County Fairgrounds in Wharton, Texas on September 4, 2017. Fair was keep her horses at the fairgrounds as she volunteered helping other farm owners whose properties did not fare well during Hurricane Harvey. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
WHARTON, TX SEPTEMBER 4: Columbus Rodeo Johnson holds "Kim," his kitten in front of his mother-in-laws home which was destroyed by Hurricane Harvey, in Wharton, Texas on September 4, 2017. Johnson's house also sustained water damage and he hopes to rebuild the house and raise it higher. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
WHARTON, TX SEPTEMBER 4: Mary Cruz, left, and Juana Vasquez clean the floors of a damaged convenience store in Wharton, Texas on September 4, 2017. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
WHARTON, TX SEPTEMBER 4: Columbus Rodeo Johnson walks out of a store damaged by Hurricane Harvey after doing some electrical work in Wharton, Texas on September 4, 2017. Johnson is a contractor and hopes there will be a windfall of work to help him rebuild his damaged home. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
HOUSTON, TX-SEPTEMBER 2: Farian (cq) Allen (25) and other members of the Harvest Time Church in Houston, Texas give out food and water to residents at the Biscayne At Cityview Apartments. Many of the residents are illegal and have no insurance or way to pay for the damage done to their apartments and cars by Hurricane Harvey.
HOUSTON, TX-SEPTEMBER 2: Marina Robles (41), gives Ivan Almendarz (27) some gifts for his young child. Though Robles is known around the neighborhood as someone who is always helping others before herself, she has no way to pay for the repair of her flooded apartment since she doesn't have the proper papers. Originally from Honduras, Marina has lived in the U.S. for over thirty years.
HOUSTON, TX-SEPTEMBER 2: Marina Robles (41), prays with husband/wife Pastors Tr?Voy (cq) (left) and Dannie (cq) Kelly of the Harvest Time Church in Houston. Robles is originally from Honduras, and has lived here for over thirty years, She is especially depressed because she has no way to pay for the repair of her flooded apartment since she doesn't have the proper papers. She was, also, recently diagnosed with cancer.
Photo Gallery: In Harvey?s aftermath, authorities confronted crises on several fronts. Houston remained flooded, and police there continued rescuing people while officials searched homes. President Trump declared a National Day of Prayer for Harvey victims.

Frankel reported from Port Arthur, Tex., and Achenbach reported from Washington. Whitney Leaming in Houston; Lee Powell in Port Arthur, Tex.; Jorge Ribas in Beaumont, Tex.: Arelis R. Hernandez and Avi Selk in Houston; Eva Ruth Moravec in Austin; and Mark Berman, Wesley Lowery, Lindsey Bever, Steven Mufson, Brady Dennis, David Fahrenthold and Angela Fritz in Washington contributed to this report.


Abigail Hauslohner is a national reporter who covers Islam, Arab affairs and America. Before coming to Washington in 2015, she spent seven years covering war, politics and religion in the Middle East, and served as the Post’s Cairo bureau chief. She has also covered District politics and government.

Todd C. Frankel is a reporter covering people and policy.

Joel Achenbach covers science and politics for the National Desk. Achenbach also helms the "Achenblog."

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