The Latest: Officials raise Harvey-related death toll to 39

By  | 

HOUSTON (AP/KKTV) - The Latest on Tropical Depression Harvey (all times local):

9:55 p.m.

Authorities are raising Harvey's death toll to 39 almost a week after the storm slammed into the Texas coast.

Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences spokeswoman Tricia Bentley said Thursday night that the office has confirmed seven more storm-related deaths.

Harris County is home to Houston and has so far accounted for 25 deaths from the storm. Bentley said earlier in the day that their morgue was close to capacity because bodies were piling up from the storm and from other deaths in the fourth-largest city in the U.S.

She said the backlog eased a little Thursday as some funeral homes were able to pick up remains.

___

8:30 p.m.

Officials say flood waters are expected to be gone from most of Houston and Harris County by late Friday or early Saturday.

Jeff Lindner, meteorologist for the Harris County Flood Control District, said Harvey flooded an estimated 136,000 structures in Harris County, or 10 percent of all structures in the county database. He called that a conservative estimate.

Lindner said 70 percent of the county's land mass, or about 1300 square miles, was submerged by at least 1½ feet of water. The heaviest rainfall recorded in Harris County was 47.4 inches on Clear Creek at Interstate 45 in the southeastern part of the county, near the NASA Johnson Space Center.

He said there has been a very slight fall in the waters of Buffalo Bayou, which flows past downtown Houston into the Houston Ship Channel, but flood waters remain in the residential areas on the margins of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs that control flooding on Buffalo Bayou and the Houston Ship Channel. Col. Lars Zetterstrom, commander of the Galveston District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, says they remain full but that their water pools have lowered very slightly.

Lindner said the reservoirs will take three months to fully drain after 35 to 40 inches of rain fell on their watershed.

Zetterstrom says that the Addicks and Barker dams are withstanding their load well.

___

This item corrects the spelling of Lindner in the penultimate paragraph.

___

7:20 p.m.

Houston firefighters are finishing the first of six areas where they went door-to-door checking for anyone left behind in the Harvey flooding.

Fire Chief Sam Pena says firefighters hope to complete the checks in all six areas on Friday. He did not say whether anyone was found dead or alive.

Deputy Police Chief Larry Satterwhite says police have received 30 reports of missing people since Harvey began and have found 11 of those. He says authorities believe most of the remaining 19 have lost the means to communicate and are either in shelters or otherwise safe. He cautioned not to assume they are dead: "It doesn't mean the worst." The death toll from Harvey so far is 32.

Mayor Sylvester Turner says areas on the east and west sides of the city are still dealing with flooding issues, but the rest of Houston is "drying out and drying out well" and traffic is returning to the streets.

Turner says Houston is "turning the corner," with the number of people decreasing in city emergency shelters. He expects to move people from the Toyota Center downtown to the nearby George R. Brown Convention Center on Friday. The convention center, which once housed 10,000 people at one point, sheltered about 8,000 late Thursday.

___

7 p.m.

Officials say a 61-year-old Southeast Texas woman has become the 32nd person confirmed to have died in Texas because of Harvey.

Newton County Sheriff Billy Rowles says Clementine Thomas died Wednesday afternoon when the car she was driving was swept from Texas 87 south of Newton, about 60 miles northeast of Beaumont.

In a statement Thursday, Rowles said witnesses reported that several people risked their lives to rescue Thomas but were unsuccessful. Her body was recovered Thursday afternoon.

___

5:50 p.m.

Law enforcement officials from the federal government and Texas and Louisiana have formed a working group to investigate and prosecute illegal activity related to Hurricane Harvey.

Houston-based Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez says storm victims already have suffered devastation and "the last thing that victims of the damage need is to be victimized again."

Authorities say bringing about a dozen agencies together into a single focused group is an optimal way to address calls they're already getting about scams in the wake of Harvey. Those calls are going to relevant agencies.

He says they're also employing lessons learned from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and will bring "a comprehensive law enforcement focus" against illegal activities.

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton says there's no place for fraud or shady practices in rebuilding Texas and Louisiana.

___

5:15 p.m.

Local officials in the southeast Texas city of Beaumont struggled to cope after flooding swamped the municipal water system.

The already swollen Neches River rose further as water from more northerly reaches made its way toward the Gulf of Mexico. It led to more rescues by helicopter and boat just like Houston had seen days before, but also to the water system failure. Beaumont's main water pumps are in the Neches, but by early Thursday morning they were underwater. The backups failed, too.

Kyle Hayes, manager of the city of about 120,000 people, said the flooding is making it hard to send in water and other needed resources. The city was still trying to amass enough water to open water distribution stations. Hayes said one truck had arrived Thursday morning.

Donald Marvels runs Beaumont's branch of the Salvation Army. He said he gave out at least 1,500 cases of water Thursday. Flooding was causing problems for his convoy of storm responders trying to get to Beaumont.

___

4:40 p.m.

The head of the Texas agency that regulates the oil and gas industry is urging people to wait three or four days to fill their cars and trucks with gasoline if they can.

Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton said Thursday that people are panicking and that's causing a run on gas and empty fuel pumps.

He says there is plenty of gas in Houston and elsewhere, but there are logistical problems of making sure all of the stations are getting it.

He says he doesn't think it will be an issue a week from now as long as people stay calm and fill up their tanks as they normally would.

___

4:15 p.m.

A health expert warns standing water from Harvey could create a boom in the mosquito population and the potential transmission of mosquito-borne diseases.

Joon Lee is a medical entomologist at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. He says Harvey's floodwaters will wash away immature mosquito populations from their breeding grounds, but they can be quickly re-established in stagnant water. Lee says mosquito populations will likely explode within the next two weeks and will stay for at least a month or two.

Lee says that could be mean increased transmission of potentially life-threatening, mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile virus and St. Louis encephalitis. Lee says outbreaks of Zika, dengue fever and Chikungunya are also possible, but those diseases must originate from a person already infected.

___

4:10 p.m.

The Trump administration is trying to assure victims of Harvey living in the country illegally that they will not be targeted as they try to access emergency services - as long as they haven't committed other crimes.

Trump's Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert says that: "in terms of immediate lifesaving, no individual human being should worry about their immigration status unless they've committed a crime on top of coming here illegally when it comes to getting food, water and shelter."

He also says that no routine sweeps will be conducted in emergency shelters.

Still, he said that people living in the country illegally should not expect long-term federal assistance reserved for citizens.

He says: "I don't think there's going to be a lot of benefits going out to illegal immigrants."

___

4 p.m.

A Texas A&M University analysis of floodwater samples from the Houston area shows E. coli levels that are 125 times higher than is considered safe for swimming.

Terry Gentry, an associate professor in the university's Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, says even walking through floodwater could lead to infections and other problems.

Gentry says tests from a sample in Cypress, a suburb northwest of Houston, showed bacteria levels 15 times higher than acceptable for wading.

E. coli in water isn't what causes illnesses but is an "indicator bacteria" that signals the presence of fecal matter, which can make people sick.

___

3:45 p.m.

Filling fuel tanks is becoming increasingly difficult in parts of Texas where some stations were out of gas and pump costs have risen steeply.

In Dallas, lines of cars a block long were common for the few gas stations that had gasoline to sell Thursday. The scene was reminiscent of the gas lines seen during the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s.

One Chevron station in downtown Dallas that sold regular gas for $2.29 a gallon just before the storm was charging $2.99 on Thursday. Others charged well over $3, and one downtown Shell station charged $3.97 for a regular gallon of gas. At three gas stations in north Dallas, yellow bags or caution tape was wrapped around pumps just after noon.

The Texas attorney general's office said anyone seeing gas prices of $4 or higher should take pictures and report the stations as price-gouging.

___

3:20 p.m.

The U.S. Postal Service has posted a list of locations where Houston-area residents can pick up government benefit checks after Harvey forced the temporary closing of several post offices.

The list posted Thursday includes pickup site addresses by ZIP code. Government checks including Social Security payments, Department of Veterans Affairs disability benefits and checks from the Office of Personnel Management and the Railroad Retirement Board can be picked up starting Friday. The locations will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Sunday.

The Postal Service says to pick up a check, customers must show proper identification. Customers can also complete a change of address request if they expect to be out of their homes for an extended period.

___

2:10 p.m.

Houston public schools will start classes two weeks late on Sept. 11 because of Harvey.

The nation's seventh-largest school district had been scheduled to start classes on Monday until Hurricane Harvey stormed ashore in Southeast Texas, leading to devastating flooding in Houston.

Houston also is the largest public school district in Texas, with about 216,000 students and 283 campuses.

___

2 p.m.

Officials at Beaumont's other hospital say they've decided not to move their patients elsewhere but are operating under "extreme emergency conditions."

Christus St. Elizabeth issued a statement Thursday saying 256 patients will remain at the Texas hospital, which gets its water from wells and has a store of potable water.

The statement came hours after Baptist Beaumont Hospital said it was airlifting its nearly 200 patients to other facilities because it no longer had potable water and access was limited by flooding.

The city of about 120,000 people has been hit hard by flooding from Harvey, which came ashore last Friday as a Category 4 hurricane and hovered for days in the region.

___

1:50 p.m.

The National Weather Service is forecasting flooding in Kentucky and Tennessee as Tropical Depression Harvey travels inland.

Forecasters say the storm is expected to drop 2 inches to 6 inches (50 to 152.4 millimeters) of rain in Kentucky, with the highest totals expected in western Kentucky near the Tennessee border. The heaviest rainfall for a wide swath of the state is expected to start late Thursday and last through Friday afternoon. Forecasters say high winds from the storm could also produce tornadoes.

Some locations in Tennessee could get more than 10 inches (254 millimeters), though most will get 4 inches to 8 inches (101 to 203 millimeters). The say high winds from the storm could also produce tornadoes. The weather service issued a flood warning for areas along several rivers in West Tennessee while a flood watch included the whole region and stretched into Middle Tennessee.

Harvey dumped nearly 52 inches (1321 millimeters)of rain on at least one spot in Texas.. It has caused more than 30 deaths.

___

1:25 p.m.

The county in Texas that has had the most deaths from Harvey says its morgue is close to capacity because of storm-related bodies and deaths that are not related to the flooding.

Tricia Bentley, spokeswoman for the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences said Thursday that funeral homes have been unable to retrieve the bodies in the aftermath of the storm and it has asked for a large refrigerated 18-wheeler to store more of them.

The county has confirmed 18 storm-related deaths and is investigating 10 more as potentially Harvey-related.

Bentley says the morgue has about 175 bodies total - most of them not related to the storm - and it has a capacity of 200. The agency has requested approval from the state for the tractor-trailer and expects to receive it Friday.

So far, the death toll from Harvey is at least 30.

___

1:20 p.m.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared Sunday a day of prayer for his waterlogged state.

The Republican governor and Vice President Mike Pence visited a church in the city of Rockport on Thursday that was damaged when Harvey came ashore last Friday as a Category 4 hurricane.

Abbott says Texans will pray on Sunday for those affected by the storm and for everyone who has helped them, including first-responders.

Harvey has caused record flooding in parts of the state and has been blamed for the deaths of more than 30 people.

___

1:10 p.m.

The Harris County Director for FEMA says the federal disaster agency is looking for unique ways to house the tens of thousands of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Harvey.

Tom Fargione said Thursday that FEMA hasn’t discounted any ideas because the housing problem is so big.

He says the first priority is getting people out of shelters and into some other form of temporary housing.

FEMA’s use of mobile homes following Hurricane Katrina became an issue after unhealthy formaldehyde emissions were detected in the trailers.

Fargione says the agency has trailers in stock and has ordered more, but that they aren’t necessarily the best solution.

He says people need to register with the agency to start the process of getting federal help.

___

12:10 p.m.

Beaumont officials say it’s unclear when their Texas city will be able to provide residents with potable water.

City manager Kyle Hayes said during a news conference Thursday that continually rising flood waters on the Neches River are covering pumps that are the primary source for drinking water.

Hayes says city workers won’t be able to check the pumps for any needed repairs until the water recedes.

Beaumont’s backup water source in nearby Hardin County also has failed.

Earlier Thursday, Baptist Beaumont Hospital evacuated nearly 200 patients by air because of the lack of water.

The city plans to get bottled water as soon as possible and make it available to residents.

___

12 p.m.

The U.S. Border Patrol says it has rescued about 450 people since dispatching vessels to the Houston area on Monday.

John Morris, chief of staff in South Texas, says agents are not enforcing immigration laws and are “absolutely 100 percent here for rescue and safety.”

Morris says the agency had 35 boats navigating flooded streets on Thursday. They were brought from stations that patrol areas along the Rio Grande, which is the busiest corridor for illegal crossings.

The Border Patrol did not suspend highway checkpoints in Texas when the storm moved into parts of the state, drawing criticism from advocates who said lives were being put at risk. The arrival of Border Patrol boats in Houston has put some immigrants on edge, but agency leaders have been emphatic that they are only being used for search and rescue.

___

11:40 a.m.

A company that operates a pipeline that moves nearly 40 percent of the South’s gasoline estimates that it will resume carrying fuel through Texas by Sunday.

Steve Baker, a spokesman for Colonial Pipeline, said Thursday that the pipeline is underwater in parts of Texas dealing with flooding from Harvey and that those sections would have to be inspected before it could resume operating. But he says the pipeline is still operating from Louisiana to the eastern states, though deliveries will be “intermittent.”

Reopening the shuttered Texas sections of pipeline could help avoid major gas shortages, but huge challenges remain, as several giant Texas refineries were shut down due to the storm.

All of these problems have sent gasoline prices surging. The national average for a gallon of regular gasoline has risen from about $2.35 a week ago to $2.45 now.

___

10:40 a.m.

Gasoline prices in Texas and across the country have increased by at least 10 cents since Harvey came ashore and caused record flooding in places.

AAA Texas on Thursday reported the average price at the pump statewide was $2.26 per gallon. That’s 12 cents higher than a week ago, before Harvey made landfall, and 4 cents higher than on Wednesday.

The association survey says U.S. gasoline prices Thursday averaged $2.45 per gallon, which is 10 cents higher than a week ago and 5 cents more than on Wednesday.

Harvey made landfall along the Texas coast last Friday and lingered in the region for days, causing catastrophic flooding, killing at least 31 people and causing major disruption to the region’s energy sector.

___

10:30 a.m.

The House will act as early as next week to provide money for relief from tropical storm Harvey.

That’s according to a House leadership aide who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private deliberations.

Members of the Texas and Louisiana delegation are pressing for fast action when lawmakers return to Capitol Hill from their summer recess next week.

The initial money would be a down payment for immediate recovery efforts — to be followed by a larger aid package later on. It will take weeks or months to assess the full extent of the damage and the needs.

It’s not yet known how much money the administration will ask for but a request from the White House is expected within days.

___

10:20 a.m.

Troy Callihan says he asked his younger brother, Travis, to ride out Harvey with him and his family in the Houston suburbs, but he declined, saying he’d “just kind of hunker down.”

Travis Callihan, who lived in Houston, died Monday when he left his pickup truck and fell into floodwaters during the storm.

Troy Callihan told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he’s still trying to get more details on exactly what happened.

He says he’ll really miss his 45-year-old brother, whom he described as a conservative talk radio fan with a dry sense of humor and a good uncle to his nieces and nephews.

Harvey came ashore last Friday as a Category 4 hurricane and hovered over the region for days, causing record flooding. The confirmed death toll from the storm stood Thursday at 31.

___

9:45 a.m.

One of the nation’s largest convenience store chains plans to stop selling gasoline at about half of its 135 stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, as it anticipates shortages due to refinery and pipeline shut-downs.

QuickTrip spokesman Mike Thornbrugh told The Associated Press on Thursday that the company will direct gasoline deliveries to half of its stores, and intends to have stores with gas in all parts of the metro area. All stores will remain open, though only half will have gasoline.

The company is enacting its plan after several major refineries and a key gasoline pipeline shut down after Harvey slammed into the Gulf Coast.

Oklahoma-based QuickTrip enacted a similar plan last year in metro Atlanta, where it has about 133 stores, when the Colonial Pipeline closed due to a leak in Alabama.

___

9:35 a.m.

The Texas Department of Public Safety reports that more than 37,000 homes have sustained major damage and nearly 7,000 have been destroyed by Harvey and its flooding.

Those figures come from a daily damage estimate compiled from reports by local officials and the figures have been rising.

Harris County, which includes Houston, reports that nearly 30,000 homes suffered minor damage and nearly 12,000 have major damage. Jefferson County, which includes Port Arthur and Beaumont, reports that 5,500 homes were destroyed and 16,000 others sustained major damage in areas where officials have warned that flooding could continue for days.

The report says there has been $180 million in damage to public property across the affected Gulf Coast counties so far.

___

9:30 a.m.

A Southeast Texas hospital is evacuating nearly 200 patients by air after the local water supply failed because of flooding from Harvey.

Baptist Beaumont Hospital spokeswoman Mary Poole said Thursday that Beaumont’s main pumping station lost service so the hospital no longer has potable water.

Poole says access to the hospital is limited, so patients will be airlifted to other facilities.

She says the acute care hospital is working with HCA Healthcare to move patients to facilities that system has in the Houston suburb of Pasadena and elsewhere.

It’s not known if Beaumont’s other hospital, Christus St. Elizabeth, is being evacuated. A message left for an administrator was not immediately returned.

___

9:15 a.m.

The U.S. Navy is sending two ships to provide humanitarian aid to areas affected by Harvey.

News outlets report that the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge and the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill are set to depart Virginia for the Gulf Coast on Thursday.

The ships can provide medical support and maritime security, among other things.

North Carolina, meanwhile, is sending five swift water rescue teams to help out. The state’s Department of Public Safety says the teams can conduct a variety of rescues, including using small boats and other equipment to rescue people from flooded homes.

Harvey initially came ashore as a Category 4 hurricane in Texas on Friday, then went back out to sea and lingered off the coast as a tropical storm for days, inundating flood-prone Houston.

___

8:35 a.m.

House Republican leaders have committed support for Harvey relief.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told lawmakers from Texas and Louisiana on a conference call that “we are with you.”

The call Wednesday night included federal officials from the Department of Homeland Security. They say the full scope of damages might not be known for weeks or more.

No specific dollar figures or timing was discussed, according to a House GOP aide who requested anonymity to disclose details of the private conversation.

But there will likely be the need for immediate support — and McCarthy and other leaders made clear the House is prepared to act.

Congress returns next week from its August recess and a response to Harvey will be at the top of the agenda.

___

8:25 a.m.

Colonial Pipeline says it plans to shut down a key line that supplies gasoline to the South due to storm-related refinery shutdowns and Harvey’s effect on its facilities west of Lake Charles, Louisiana.

The Georgia-based company said in a statement that it expects to shut off the line Thursday. The company had already closed down another line that transports primarily diesel and aviation fuels.

The pipeline provides nearly 40 percent of the South’s gasoline.

In September 2016, a leak and gas spill in Alabama that closed the Colonial Pipeline led to days of empty gas station pumps and higher prices in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas.

The company didn’t say how long it expects the closure to last, saying it will know more when workers can evaluate its facilities.

___

7:50 a.m.

Local officials say blasts at a flooded Houston-area chemical plant produced no toxins, although federal authorities are describing the resulting plumes as “incredibly dangerous.”

Assistant Harris County Fire Chief Bob Rayall told a news conference Thursday that the explosions emitted 30- to 40-foot (9- to 12-meter) flames and black smoke.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said no toxins were released and that there’s no danger to the community. He says sheriff’s deputies who were hospitalized suffering from irritated eyes after the blasts have all been released.

But at a news conference in Washington, D.C. Thursday, FEMA administrator Brock Long said he considers plumes from the explosion “incredibly dangerous.”

Gonzalez says he expects the fire to burn itself out.

___

6:20 a.m.

A Houston mother is warning people in the area to stay out of Harvey’s floodwaters after her son was electrocuted while wading through the water to check on his sister’s home.

Jodell Pasek says her 25-year-old son Andrew was unaware that a landscape light had electrified the water when he stepped into it Tuesday afternoon. She said he fell and grabbed a lamppost and told a friend who was with him to stay away because he was dying.

She says she’s speaking out despite her grief to ensure her son didn’t lose his life in vain.

Pasek lost her older son in a car accident in 1993. She tells KPRC-TV that she’s pulling her strength from that experience.

___

5:57 a.m.

The Harris County sheriff says an incident at a Houston-area chemical plant was not an explosion as previously reported, but an "expected and planned" release.

"There was a release -- we had a chemical reaction. This event had been expected and planned," said Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. "There were different organic peroxides of different grades that were released and that created a pop in the containers where they were being stored, and some gray smoke initially emanated from it and it turned into black smoke.

"I want to be clear, it was not an explosion."

Company officials said the smoke inhaled by several deputies was not believed to be toxic.
___

5:10 a.m.

Two explosions have been reported at a Houston-area chemical plant that lost power amid flooding from Harvey.

The Houston Chronicle says a statement from the company says the Harris County Emergency Operations Center reported two explosions and black smoke coming from the Arkema Inc. plant early Thursday.

In a tweet, the Harris County Sheriff's Office said a deputy was taken to the hospital after inhaling fumes. Nine other deputies drove themselves to the hospital as a precaution, the paper reported.

A spokeswoman for the plant in Crosby, Texas, said late Wednesday that the flooded facility had lost power and backup generators amid Harvey flooding, leaving it without refrigeration for chemicals that become volatile as the temperature rises.

___

4:15 a.m.

Beaumont, Texas, has lost its water supply because of Harvey.

Officials there say the city has lost service from its main pump station due to rising waters of the Neches River caused by Harvey.

The pump station is along the river and draws water from it as a main source for the city's water system.

The officials added in their statement early Thursday that the city has also lost its secondary water source at the Loeb wells in Hardin County. They say there's no water supply for Beaumont's water system at this time.

They say they must wait until the water levels from Harvey recede before determining the extent of damage.

___

1:20 a.m.

Major dangers for the U.S. Gulf Coast area loomed Wednesday with the threat of major flooding further east near the Texas-Louisiana line and an explosion at a Texas chemical plant as Harvey's floodwaters began receding in the Houston area after five days of torrential rain.

As the water receded, Houston's fire department said it would begin a block-by-block search Thursday of thousands of flooded homes. The confirmed death toll climbed to at least 31 on Wednesday, including six family members - four of them children - whose bodies were pulled Wednesday from a van that had been swept off a Houston bridge into a bayou.

Another crisis related to Harvey emerged at a chemical plant about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of Houston. A spokeswoman for the Arkema Inc. plant in Crosby, Texas, said late Wednesday that the flooded facility had lost power and backup generators, leaving it without refrigeration for chemicals that become volatile as the temperature rises.

10 p.m.

Authorities say they have confirmed six more deaths from Harvey, bringing the toll to at least 31.

Harris County - which is home to flood-ravaged Houston - confirmed the additional deaths Wednesday night and said they still needed to do autopsies on another eight people to see if their deaths were storm-related.

The deaths announced Wednesday included a man who stepped on live electrical wire in floodwaters and an evacuee who was found unresponsive on a charter bus. Most of the other deaths were drownings.

___

9:10 p.m.

State officials say floodwaters from Harvey toppled two oil storage tanks in south Texas, spilling almost 30,000 gallons of crude.

Burlington Resources Oil and Gas reported the spills in DeWitt County to the Texas Railroad Commission on Wednesday. They include a 16,170-gallon (385 barrels) spill near the town of Westhoff and a 13,272 gallon (316 barrels) spill west of Hochheim. That's an area about 150 miles west of Houston.

It was not immediately clear if any of the spilled oil was recovered. About 8,500 gallons (200 barrels) of wastewater also spilled.

Burlington Resources is a subsidiary of ConocoPhillips. Company representatives did not immediately respond to telephone and email messages seeking comment.

More damage to oil industry infrastructure is expected to emerge as floodwaters recede.

___

8:10 p.m.

Houston officials say they are working to resume various city operations now that the flood waters from Tropical Depression Harvey have begun to recede.

Bus service and the city's light rail system are set to resume on a limited basis starting on Thursday.

The city's trash collection service resumed on Wednesday with heavy trash pickup. Regular trash pickup for the city was set to resume on Thursday.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says he wanted to ensure that trash removal services resumed as quickly as possible because "there will be a lot of debris."

Most city employees are not set to return to work until Tuesday.

___

8 p.m.

Houston Fire Department officials say they will begin doing a block-by-block search of neighborhoods that were flooded by Tropical Depression Harvey and had previously been inaccessible to authorities.

Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena says firefighters will begin searching neighborhoods in southwest Houston starting Thursday morning.

Assistant Fire Chief Richard Mann says the searches are being done to ensure that "no people were left behind." Floodwaters in many parts of Houston have receded while other neighborhoods are still dealing with rising waters from bayous and other swollen waterways.

Mann says the fire department will conduct these searches throughout the city. Officials expect the process to take one to two weeks to complete.

Mann says since Harvey inundated the Houston area, the fire department has received more than 15,000 calls for service. He says the volume of calls has stabilized and the fire department is working to transition from rescues calls to a recovery mode.

___

7:25 p.m.

A top county official says Tropical Depression Harvey has taken two lives in Orange, Texas.

Orange County Judge Stephen Carlton would only say the two died Monday night in the city of Orange and that the deaths were storm related. He provided no other details.

The fatalities bring the number of confirmed deaths to 25.

___

7:15 p.m.

The National Hurricane Center has downgraded Harvey to a tropical depression, but warns of continuing flooding in parts of Southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana.

In its Wednesday evening update, the hurricane center said Harvey is located about 10 miles (16.09 kilometers) southwest of Alexandria, Louisiana, and has maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (56.32 kph).

The center said the threat of heavy rains has ended for the Houston and Galveston areas, but "life-threatening" flooding will continue in and around Houston, Beaumont, Port Arthur and southwest Louisiana.

Harvey is expected to produce an additional 4 to 8 inches of rainfall along the Texas-Louisiana line.

___

7 p.m.

The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has donated $1 million to the newly established United Way Harvey Recovery Fund which will go toward relief and recovery efforts for several years.

United Way Worldwide said Wednesday that the national fund will distribute 100 percent of donations to recovery efforts for those affected by Hurricane Harvey. United Way is the world's largest privately-funded non-profit.

The $1 million from the actor's foundation represents the inaugural donation to the fund. It is the latest disaster relief support from the Oscar-winner's namesake foundation.

Many celebrities have pulled out their pocketbooks to help Harvey victims over the past few days including Sandra Bullock, who on Tuesday donated $1 million to the American Red Cross.

___

6:10 p.m.

In Houston's flooded Meyerland district, hundreds of families have been emptying their homes of sodden possessions under a baking sun as temperatures crawled up into the 90s. On Wednesday, they piled couches, soggy drywall and carpets ripped out of foul-smelling homes where floodwater had lingered for more than 24 hours. The curbs were lined with the pickup trucks of cleanup contractors and friends.

For Harry Duffey, a 48-year-old computer security specialist, this was flood No. 3 in as many years. He'd moved his family of six back into their one-story ranch a block and a half from Bray's Bayou eight months ago - after a second remodeling.

They figured that if it flooded they'd just drive to their old house about a mile away on higher ground. But they waited too long.

In no time the water was up to their knees and would reach four feet. They quickly headed to their neighbor's home. The neighbor rebuilt following an earlier flood on a six-foot foundation, which is what Duffey wants to do now. He'll apply for a federal flood grant and hope it's approved because he can't afford what it would cost to elevate his home.

Just before the flood, Duffey got a notice that his flood insurance premium had nearly doubled to $5,300 a year.

But Duffey has no intention of moving out. First, he can't afford it. Second, he loves the community.

He says: "I'm not leaving."

___

5:55 p.m.

The CEO of a chemical plant northeast of Houston says it could explode and cause an intense fire.

Arkema president and chief executive Rich Rowe said Wednesday that the floodwaters from Harvey and the lack of power are keeping the company from preventing an explosion. The company says the chemical compounds must be stored at low temperatures. He said there is 6 feet of water at the plant and they have lost critical refrigeration of the materials.

Rowe says: "We have lost critical refrigeration of the materials on site that could now explode and cause a subsequent intense fire."

Arkema makes organic peroxides in Crosby, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of Houston.

Officials have evacuated the plant and homes within 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) of the plant.

Arkema said it shut down the Crosby site before Harvey made landfall last week, but a crew of 11 had been kept onsite. That group was removed Tuesday.

___

5:40 p.m.

Wednesday afternoon brought the unusual sight of Louisiana's governor holding a news conference on Texas soil.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards visited a command post set up by Louisiana government agencies on the side of Interstate 10 in Orange.

Edwards said Louisiana wanted to send help, including Fish and Wildlife agents and the Louisiana National Guard because "it's the right thing to do."

School buses and transit buses were sent from Lake Charles to carry evacuees to two shelters the state is running there. Louisiana has also opened a shelter in Alexandria, the largest city in the central part of the state.

Edwards said he'd spoken to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Wednesday about the effort. He said Louisiana would assist for "however long it takes," saying the state owes its western neighbor a debt for its aid in 2005.

Edwards says, "Twelve years and a day ago, it was Hurricane Katrina."

Edwards is asking for expansion of a federal emergency disaster declaration as Tropical Storm Harvey moves through the state.

President Donald Trump already has issued such a declaration for five southwestern parishes: Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jefferson Davis and Vermilion. Edwards is seeking the addition of Allen, Acadia, Iberia, Natchitoches, Rapides, Sabine and Vernon.

The declaration authorizes the federal government to cover 75 percent of costs of certain emergency protective measures.

___

5:20 p.m.

Xyrius Langston stood at the edge of a pond in the Houston suburb of Missouri City holding a fishing rod. Several family members were fishing nearby. It was the third pond they had visited Wednesday, looking for something to bite.

Langston's family spent three days inside their home in Missouri City as the floods outside reached their driveway. He says it was getting "kind of chaotic" inside so he decided to go fishing.

Standing at the pond, Langston said he hadn't caught anything in several hours and didn't expect to catch anything. His favorite spots along Matagorda Bay, on the other side of Houston, are still too difficult to reach as many highways and roads remain flooded.

But Langston said he couldn't fully enjoy the weather, knowing how much of the region remains flooded in. He says he would be helping rescue people if he had a boat.

___

5 p.m.

Water is continuing to rise on Buffalo Bayou in Houston because of releases from one of two reservoirs in west Houston even though the rain from Tropical Storm Harvey has stopped.

Harris County Flood Control District meteorologist Jeff Lindner says it is hard to forecast what happen because several gauges that have been knocked out by the surging waters.

Buffalo Bayou heads west to east across Houston toward downtown.

He said levels in the Addicks and Barker reservoirs, which dump water into the bayou, have been constant Wednesday. Edmond Russo, regional engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers, says water is being released into the bayou to create more storage capacity in case of future rain and keep the dams from overflowing.(backslash)

Lindner says he would not be surprised if the number of homes flooded reaches 100,000 in Harris County.

___

4:45 p.m.

Forecasters predict a wobbling and weakening Harvey will be downgraded to a tropical depression late Wednesday or early Thursday and that the killer storm will completely dissipate within three to four days.

But with 40 mph (64 kph) winds as of Wednesday afternoon, Harvey still has lots of rain and potential damage to spread, this time further north.

The National Hurricane Center says that Harvey should drop 4 to 8 inches more of rain from the Louisiana/Texas border northeastward into Tennessee and Kentucky through Friday. Some spots may get as much as a foot of rain. Flooding is a possibility.

The threat of heavy rains for Houston has ended, but catastrophic and potentially deadly flooding will continue around Houston, Beaumont, Port Arthur and southwest Louisiana for the rest of the week.

___

4:15 p.m.

Among the places to open their doors to victims of Harvey's flooding is a bowling alley in the coastal Texas city of Port Arthur.

Max Bowl general manager Jeff Tolliver says firefighters called Tuesday night to ask him to turn off the venue's alarm system. When he left around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, there were 80 to 100 people sheltering there. By afternoon, there were more than 500, as well as 50 to 100 dogs and cats, a lizard and a monkey.

He says the monkey "was a little surprising," but that everyone is trying to help. The bowling alley's cafe is feeding people and others have been dropping off clothes, toiletries, water and other things.

Tolliver and his wife left their flooded home to stay with friends. He says he moved to Texas from Michigan a year ago to get away from the snow, but ended up with rain instead.

___

4:05 p.m.

Authorities say a married couple who drove their pickup truck into Harvey's floodwaters has drowned after the current from a nearby creek swept them away.

Fort Bend County Sheriff's Maj. Chad Norvell says the couple was on the phone with 911 asking for help when the line went silent. When officers found the truck, it was completely submerged.

Norvell identified the couple as 65-year-old Donald Rogers and 58-year-old Rochelle Rogers.

They lived in a rural area of the county southwest of Houston and they were headed to a relative's house nearby.

The deaths raise the toll from Harvey to at least 23.

___

4 p.m.

A Houston-based telemedicine practice has made its virtual network of 50 doctors available for free to patients affected by Harvey.

Dr. Latisha Rowe said Wednesday that Rowe Docs' physicians are coordinating with doctors and nurses volunteering at shelters to treat and write prescriptions for Harvey evacuees who fled their homes without medicine or who sustained injuries on the way out.

She said the greatest threat in shelters comes from the contaminated water many people treaded through to safety. She said infections need to be "contained and controlled" so they don't spread.

Among the network's doctors is Angela Nunnery, who escaped her flooded home on Houston's north side by boat and dump truck with her husband, children, 78-year-old mother and two dogs. In addition to a daily shift attending patients online, Nunnery has been volunteering at her church - a makeshift shelter for about 150 evacuees.

She said local pharmacists have been providing patients with a week's supply of free medicine.

___

3:50 p.m.

Tropical Storm Harvey has spawned at least one tornado in Mississippi and created bands of strong winds that damaged homes and toppled some trees.

The National Weather Service says the tornado touched down Wednesday in the southern Mississippi town of Petal, which is near Hattiesburg. Local news outlets showed photos of damaged fences and shingles pulled off a home. No injuries were immediately reported.

The weather service was trying to determine whether damage further south was caused by tornadoes or other strong winds. Meteorologist Alek Krautmann says damage was reported in Pearl River County, in the city of Biloxi and in a subdivision between Ocean Springs and Gautier (GO-shay).

He says Harvey also caused flash flooding before dawn Wednesday in parts of Pascagoula.

___

This version of the Latest corrects the last word of the 3:50 p.m. item to Pascagoula.

___

3:30 p.m.

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued emergency waivers allowing states from Maryland to Texas to ignore some clean-air requirements for gasoline to ensure an adequate fuel supply despite disruptions caused by Harvey.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says the waivers issued Wednesday will help ensure an adequate supply of fuel throughout the South, Southeast and Mid-Atlantic.

In a letter to governors, Pruitt says the shutdown of nearly a dozen refineries and extreme weather conditions that have prevented fuel-barge movement in the Gulf Coast region justify the waiver. The designated states receive significant gasoline supplies from Gulf-area refineries.

The waivers are effective immediately and continue through Sept. 15 at least.

Affected states are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, as well as Washington, D.C.

___

3:10 p.m.

Residents of a retirement home in Orange, Texas are being evacuated by airboat from the flooded facility about 30 miles east of Beaumont.

Agents from the Florida Wildlife Commission and two trucks from the Louisiana Army National Guard are participating in the evacuation of the Golden Years Retirement home.

Water in the parking lot was thigh deep about 3 p.m. Wednesday as guardsmen entered the building and carried residents from the second floor where they had been sheltering in a dry area of the small facility.

Wildlife agents then floated the residents, one-by-one in a Wildlife Commission airboat to the truck. About six residents had been rescued as of midafternoon and it was unclear how many more were sheltering on the second floor.

Texas Health and Human Services records show Golden Years has a licensed capacity of 16. Department spokeswoman Carrie Williams said more than 2,800 residents of about 120 long-term care facilities in areas affected by Harvey had been evacuated by Tuesday. That number was expected to grow.

___

3:05 p.m.

The VA North Texas Health Care System in Dallas says 20 of its nurses have headed to Houston to relieve the staff at Houston's beleaguered Veterans Affairs hospital.

The team will join a 25-member team from the Austin-based Central Texas Veterans Health Care System, and 15 professionals from San Antonio-based South Texas Veterans Health Care System.

According to a statement Wednesday, Houston's VA hospital has had about 700 staffers staying onsite, sleeping on floors, in the auditorium and in offices to keep the facility open throughout the disaster.

A former U.S. Army ranger swam through flood waters to the hospital to be treated for a burst appendix.

___

2:55 p.m.

Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls says one man is being detained and another is hospitalized in critical condition after an apparent road rage shooting in storm-related traffic.

The sheriff said high water across many streets and roads in the county west and southwest of Houston has forced traffic to the few roads opened, leading to congestion.

Nehls told television station KPRC that the incident "should not have happened."

Nehls says the man in custody after the shooting Wednesday afternoon is telling investigators he does have a license to carry a gun.

___

2:45 p.m.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez says the bodies of six members of a Houston family have been recovered from a van that was swept off a Houston bridge and into a storm-ravaged bayou.

Gonzales says relatives returned to the scene Wednesday to look for signs of the van and notified authorities after spotting part of it poking above the water and seeing two bodies in the front seat.

The van was recovered from about 10 feet (3 meters) of muddy water in Green's Bayou in northeast Houston.

Gonzalez says bodies of two adults were recovered from the front seat and the four children were found in the back. He said it appeared the van was a work truck and the back section was separated by a steel screen partition.

Samuel Saldivar told deputies he was in his brother's van rescuing his parents and relatives from their flooded home Sunday when the van was tossed by a strong current into the bayou as it crossed a bridge. He escaped through a window but the others were trapped. The victims included his parents and their four great-grandchildren ranging in age from 6 to 16.

___

2:40 p.m.

Authorities in the Houston-area say they are investigating 17 more deaths to see whether they qualify as storm-related.

Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences spokeswoman Tricia Bentley says that the medical examiner is doing autopsies Wednesday and the agency will update its storm-related death toll in the evening.

She says authorities expect to find more bodies in homes and cars as the waters from Harvey begin to recede. The 17 bodies at the morgue do not include the bodies of six relatives found in a van in Houston on Wednesday.

The overall death toll from Harvey is at least 21.

___

2:25 p.m.

Some motorists have been stranded along Interstate 10 in southeast Texas for nearly 24 hours after they pulled off the freeway but couldn't re-enter.

More than two dozen vehicles, including a TV news crew's, remained clustered Wednesday afternoon around a closed convenience store in Orange, Texas.

I-10 is elevated and passable between Orange and Lake Charles, Louisiana, about 35 miles to the east. But many on- and off-ramps are too flooded from Harvey's rains to allow vehicles to pass.

Erin Gaudet of Beaumont, Texas, is among those stranded at the store. She said she left her house Tuesday to pick up a kitten, then had to spend the night with it in her SUV. She says she's planning to name it Harvey.

Harvey made landfall again Wednesday near the Texas-Louisiana border.

___

2:20 p.m.

About 10,000 additional National Guard troops from around the U.S. are being deployed to Texas as Harvey continues dumping rain on the region.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that "the worst is not over" for southeastern Texas as widespread flooding continues.

The Republican says the arrival of additional Guard members from around the country will bring the total number of deployments to about 24,000. Abbott earlier this week activated all available members of the Texas National Guard.

Abbott says the Guard has conducted more than 8,500 rescues and more than 1,400 shelter-in-place and welfare checks.

___

2 p.m.

A woman whose body was found floating in floodwaters near a residential area in southeast Texas is believed to be at least the 21st person to have died in Harvey's path.

Beaumont police say the woman's body was discovered Wednesday morning. Authorities have not released her name and are not certain of the circumstances that led to her death.

The woman is the second person to have died in Beaumont this week.

Authorities found a shivering 3-year-old clinging to the body of her drowned mother in a rain-swollen canal Tuesday after the woman tried to carry her child to safety.

Beaumont police on Wednesday identified the mother as 41-year-old Colette Sulcer and said her daughter was being treated for hypothermia but doing well.

___

1:45 p.m.

Forecasters are looking at a weather system off the Mexican coast just south of Texas that they say has a one-in-five chance of developing into something tropical in the next five days.

Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center, says if it does develop, it would do so slowly and that it shouldn't be seen as an imminent threat. He says it wouldn't necessarily hit Harvey-flooded areas, but there's a chance.

The system is so far out that forecasters can't say how much more rain it would bring.

Hurricane Harvey has weakened to a minimal tropical storm, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (64 kph), down from 45 mph (72 kph). Warnings and watches have been dropped for nearly all of Texas, except Sabine Pass.

___

1:40 p.m.

A 36-year-old inmate scheduled for execution in Texas next week has been granted a temporary reprieve because of Harvey.

Bexar County prosecutors cited "extraordinary circumstances" in asking to move Juan Castillo's execution to Dec. 14 because some of his legal team is based in Harris County, which has been slammed by the tropical storm. On Wednesday, a state judge agreed.

Gov. Greg Abbott has designated Harris County - which includes Houston - a disaster area along with dozens of other Texas counties after the tropical storm submerged Southeast Texas with torrential rain.

Castillo had been scheduled for lethal injection Sept. 7 in Huntsville for the slaying of 19-year-old Tommy Garcia Jr. during a 2003 robbery in San Antonio.

___

1:35 p.m.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards says the threat of flooding in the state's southwest appears to be diminishing as Harvey pulls away from the region.

He says Louisiana remains committed to assisting officials in Texas, where another overnight round of torrential rains stranded many residents in flooded homes.

Edwards says 330 people were staying at a Lake Charles shelter as of Wednesday afternoon. He expects that number to grow as more people are rescued from floodwaters in eastern Texas, just across the state line.

He says a shelter in Shreveport is ready to accommodate up to 3,400 flood victims from Texas if officials accept the state's offer to shelter them in northern Louisiana.

Edwards planned to travel to southwest Louisiana on Wednesday afternoon to meet with local officials there.

___

1:10 p.m.

Residents along the Texas-Louisiana border are feeling Harvey's second punch as flash flooding inundates homes and overwhelms first responders trying to pluck people from the water.

Police in Beaumont, Texas, have been recruiting anyone people with boats Wednesday to help check neighborhoods for potential rescues. Police said many were not calling 911, instead calling for help on social media, adding to the chaos.

Twenty-five miles west in Orange, Texas, Anna McKay says she tried calling 911 for help, but nobody answered. Neighbors helped bring her and 12 other people who had sought refuge at her home to dry ground. They gathered at a Baptist church where people were planning to cook food to offer comfort.

Harvey made its second landfall Wednesday as a tropical storm after roaring ashore last week as a hurricane.

___

1:05 p.m.

The Texas Department of Public Safety says more than 48,700 homes have been affected by flooding and other damage brought by Harvey since it first came ashore Friday.

A report released Wednesday shows more than 1,000 homes have been destroyed while about another 17,000 have sustained major damage. Approximately 32,000 have damage described by state authorities as minor.

In Harris County, one of the state's largest and home to Houston, about 43,700 homes have been damaged, with some 11,600 receiving major damage and another 770 destroyed.

Harvey has also damaged nearly 700 businesses in the state.

DPS says its report will be updated each day so the number of damaged structures is expected to rise, particularly with expanding floodwaters in Southeast Texas as Harvey moves into Louisiana.

___

1 p.m.

Downtown Houston business district officials say the city's center has survived Harvey in relatively good shape, though flooding has damaged several buildings, including City Hall and the city's main performing arts centers.

Officials said Wednesday that flooding damaged the ground floor or basements of more than two dozen buildings or businesses downtown, primarily along Buffalo Bayou, a river-like waterway that meanders west to east through the city.

Among the damaged buildings are the Alley Theatre, Wortham Theater Center, Hobby Center and Jones Hall, home of the Houston Symphony.

Streets to and within downtown are open, although some freeway exit ramps leading into downtown remain impassable. There are some scattered power outages and some traffic signals are out.

There is isolated flooding in the pedestrian tunnels what wind through downtown.

___

12:50 p.m.

The federal Department of Education is easing financial aid rules and procedures for those affected by Harvey.

The department is encouraging students whose financial needs have been altered by the storm to contact their school's financial aid office. The agency says in a statement that colleges and career schools will be allowed to use "professional judgment" to adjust a student's financial information in the aftermath of Harvey.

A school may even be able to waive certain paperwork requirements if documents were destroyed in the flooding.

The department says borrowers struggling to pay off loans because of Harvey should inform their loan servicers - and they've been directed to give borrowers flexibility in managing loan payments.

___

12:45 p.m.

All students in the largest district in Texas will be eligible to receive three free meals per day at school as the state recovers from Harvey.

The Houston Independent School District on Wednesday announced the plan promising free meals on campus to 216,000 students during the 2017-2018 school year.

An HISD statement says federal and state agriculture departments have waived the usual required application process, part of the National School Lunch/Breakfast Program, to help with Harvey recovery.

Superintendent Richard Carranza says the waiver will give families one less concern as they begin the process of restoring their lives.

Thousands of people have been forced from their homes in Houston since Harvey struck, submerging the city with torrential rain.

___

12:40 p.m.

There are more than 32,000 people in shelters across Texas as Harvey continues drenching the state's Gulf Coast.

Gov. Greg Abbott says Texas also has an additional 30,000 beds "available as needed" for those who fled or are still fleeing floodwaters associated with the storm.

At a news conference in Austin, Abbott said there are still about 107,000 power outages statewide, down from nearly 140,000 over the weekend. Harvey roared ashore as a hurricane Friday, then triggered deadly floods as a tropical storm.

Abbott refused to speculate on the final costs of the storm in terms of property damage. But he suggested that the scope of destruction far exceeded that of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 or 2012's Superstorm Sandy, meaning the financial impact will likely be far greater than both.

___

12:25 p.m.

Officers have located a submerged van in which six members of a Houston family were traveling when it was swept off a Houston bridge and into a storm-ravaged bayou.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez says the van is in about 10 feet (3 meters) of muddy water in Green's Bayou in northeast Houston. He says the bodies of two adults can be seen in the front seat but that if the four children's bodies are inside they are obscured because of the water conditions and the angle of the vehicle.

Authorities are trying to decide whether dive team members will retrieve the bodies or if it would be safer to pull the van from the treacherous water first.

Samuel Saldivar told deputies he was in his brother's van rescuing his parents and relatives from their flooded home Sunday when the van was tossed by a strong current into the bayou as it crossed a bridge. He escaped through a window but the others were trapped.

___

12:05 p.m.

Authorities say a 3-year-old girl who was found clinging to the body of her drowned mother in a rain-swollen canal in Southeast Texas is doing well and should be released from the hospital soon.

Beaumont police on Wednesday identified the girl's mother as 41-year-old Colette Sulcer.

Officer Carol Riley says the toddler, who was suffering from hypothermia when she was rescued Tuesday afternoon, has now been reunited with her family. Riley says the girl is in stable condition and should be released from the hospital on Wednesday.

Authorities have said the mother's vehicle got stuck in a flooded parking lot of an office park just off Interstate 10. A witness saw the woman take her daughter and try to walk to safety when the swift current of a flooded drainage canal next to the parking lot swept them both away.

Officials say the child was holding onto the floating woman when police and fire-rescue team in a boat caught up to them a half-mile downstream.

___

11:45 a.m.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it has assigned about 150 employees from around the country to help with disaster relief efforts in Houston.

The agency said Wednesday that 139 agents and officers from Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, El Paso, Houston, Washington, New York, San Diego and Tampa are on scene. They are on 25-member teams that answer to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

ICE also has another dozen employees on another team that assists FEMA. It says it is prepared to send more employees if needed.

The agency says it is not doing immigration enforcement operations in storm-affected areas.