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People walk through a flooded street in Houston, Texas, on August 27.
THOMAS B. SHEA/AFP/Getty Images
Jim McMahon
Neighbors use their own personal boat to rescue people in Friendswood, Texas, on Sunday.
Steve Gonzales/Houston Chronicle via AP
A man walks among the remains of his destroyed garage after Hurricane Harvey tore through the coastal city of Rockport, Texas, on Friday night.
REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Texas Faces Massive Flooding
Rescue efforts in Texas underway as storm moves to Louisiana.

BY SEAN MCCOLLUM

Last Friday evening, Hurricane Harvey plowed into the coast of southeastern Texas. It was the strongest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 13 years, causing widespread flooding and destruction. The storm has moved northeast over Louisiana. It is expected to weaken Wednesday night.

At least 38 people have died during the storm, though that number may climb. Thousands of people have had to flee their homes. Houston, Texas, the fourth-largest city in the U.S., by population, was one of the places hit hardest by the flooding. Many of its highways and roads have been swamped beneath several feet of water. Homes and businesses all over the city have been flooded. And more than 104,000 people have lost electricity.

Rescue workers across the state have been working night and day to reach stranded residents and get them to safety. Texas Governor Greg Abbott activated 12,000 National Guard and state guard troops to aid relief efforts. Some other states and the U.S. military also sent emergency workers on Monday. Ordinary citizens have also been using their own private boats to help rescue people. Dozens of residents have been rescued by boat. Others have been plucked from the roofs of their homes by helicopter.

Governor Abbott says the storm has caused "one of the greatest disasters America has ever faced."

A POWERFUL STORM

Hurricanes are some of the most destructive storms on Earth. These huge, spinning storms form over oceans. The most powerful hurricanes have winds up to 200 miles per hour. The storms drop heavy rain when they reach land, and their winds can cause huge storm surges. These surges push seawater inland, causing massive flooding. This combination of wind and water can tear apart buildings, roads, and other structures.

Hurricanes are categorized by the strength of their winds, with ratings from 1 to 5. The strongest is a Category 5. Hurricane Harvey came ashore as a Category 4 hurricane, the second-strongest type. Its winds were reaching 130 miles per hour, pulling roofs off buildings in communities along the coast, including Rockport and Corpus Christi. Its wind speed soon dropped, though, making it a tropical storm. Tropical storms are weaker than hurricanes, with winds of 39–73 miles per hour.

However, this storm has acted strangely, say meteorologists (scientists who study weather). Normally, hurricanes and tropical storms break up quickly once they reach land. Instead, this storm has stayed intact and slowed down, lengthening the amount of time it can do damage.

The National Weather Service has issued emergency warnings, saying “flooding in the Houston metropolitan area is expected to worsen and could become historic.” Some areas of Houston received 24 inches of rain in 24 hours. A weather station near Houston has recorded over 51 inches of rain during the storm. That breaks the record for most rain recorded from a single storm in the history of the lower 48 states. The storm has also spun off at least 19 tornadoes—spiraling columns of air that can destroy everything in their paths.

DAMAGE CONTROL

Dallas and other Texas cities have opened their doors to people who had to evacuate (move away from a dangerous area) their homes. As many as 30,000 people may be forced to move into shelters, which are providing places to sleep and stay safe and dry.

However, it will likely take years for this part of Texas to recover. President Donald Trump has declared the region a national disaster area, promising funds and other resources. He visited the region on Tuesday to assess the damage and assure Texans that needed help is on the way. In the meantime, the rescue efforts continue.

“It breaks your heart,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said in a video on Twitter on Sunday. “But it’s Texas. We’ll get through it.”