Downtown Houston largely deserted; Evacuees move to convention center

HOUSTON (AP) – Emergency vehicles made up most of the traffic in downtown Houston on what would have normally been a busy start of the work week.

Due to Harvey, the usually bustling business area was mostly deserted Monday morning.

The water had receded from parts of downtown Houston, near Buffalo Bayou, which flooded over the weekend from the lingering tropical storm. That situation could change as officials have started releasing even more water from reservoirs overwhelmed by Harvey.

About half of downtown Houston had no working traffic signals. Most businesses, including restaurants, were closed due to the storm.

Harvey came ashore late Friday about 30 miles northeast of Corpus Christi, Texas, as a Category 4 hurricane. The slow-moving storm has caused catastrophic flooding in Texas.

Hundreds of people affected by devastating flooding in Houston have flocked to a downtown showcase convention center-turned-emergency shelter.

Many arrived Sunday carrying little more than what was in their pockets. Most are preparing for a stay of several days, as water rises inside their homes and roads remain impassable.

The American Red Cross was expanding the shelter by the hour.

Volunteers initially set out around 1,300 cots and quickly assembled more in anticipation of other evacuees arriving through the night. They have enough space and cots to house 5,000 people.

Police officers and medics stood by. Dozens of volunteers and residents arrived with bags of donations.

Several people said they wished they’d left Houston before Harvey hit, but they didn’t because local officials didn’t order a voluntary or mandatory evacuation.

President Donald Trump has been showcasing the federal government’s response to Hurricane Harvey in a tweetstorm of his own. He marveled over its size Sunday like a TV host and announced a visit to Texas with the natural disaster only just beginning to take its catastrophic toll.

In a series of tweets, Trump said his administration was handling its responsibilities well and, in a tangential aside, hawked a book on race and crime in America written by a supporter. Harvey is the first major natural disaster of Trump’s presidency and a significant test for a White House that is often chaotic and rife with infighting.

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