Harvey, the devastating storm that flooded a huge swath of Houston, Texas, and forced thousands of people from their homes, made landfall again Wednesday, moving to the east and drenching the neighboring state of Louisiana even as it weakens.
The National Hurricane Center said the tropical storm is gradually diminishing in strength as it moves inland and away from Houston, where untold numbers remain trapped in their homes, marooned by churning, muddy waters that often are waist deep.
Tropical Storm Harvey's winds have diminished to 65 kilometers an hour with higher gusts, though acting Homeland Security chief Elaine Duke warned that "catastrophic flooding is likely" for days, even after the historic rains end.
"We expect a many-year recovery in Texas, and the federal government is in this for the long haul," she said.
For the moment, Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long said, "We're still in life-saving, life-sustaining mode."
Donations for Houston flood victims from Fort Smith, Arkansas pic.twitter.com/Bng4syTHqN— Elizabeth Lee (@Eleetv1) August 30, 2017
Long said 30,000 people have been moved to more than 230 shelters, with another 1,800 people housed in hotels. About 210,000 people have registered for government assistance, with Texas Governor Greg Abbott saying that $37 million in aid has already been approved.
Abbott said 14,000 National Guard troops have been activated to assist in the rescue efforts and another 10,000 are on the way to help. He said 8,500 people have been rescued from the floodwaters.
Still, Coast Guard Commandant Paul Zukunft said operators are answering more than a thousand emergency calls an hour.
U.S. President Donald Trump visited Texas on Tuesday for briefings on the rescue efforts. He said Wednesday in a Twitter comment, "After witnessing first hand the horror & devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, my heart goes out even more so to the great people of Texas!"
However, Trump and first lady Melania Trump did not visit Houston, where the worst of the flooding has occurred, not wanting to disrupt rescue efforts in America's fourth-largest city. They visited with emergency officials in two other cities.
Later, in a speech in Missouri, Trump voiced his sympathy for the flood victims and families who lost loved ones. "We are praying for you," Trump said. "We will endure and we will overcome."
The White House said Trump plans to return to Texas on Saturday to see more of the devastation from the biggest storm to hit the U.S. in a decade, with damages expected to reach tens of billions of dollars, and could visit Houston then.
The National Weather Service said the clouds that dumped more than 130 centimeters of rain on south Texas over four days will at last give way to sunshine, with sunny skies and hot temperatures by Friday. But the flooding will remain for a lengthy period.
East of Houston, the city of Beaumont, Texas, was seeing the heaviest rain early Wednesday as the center of the storm made its landfall in Louisiana. The National Hurricane Center said the storm could drop 15 to 30 centimeters of rain on southwestern Louisiana as it moves further inland.
With so many people away from their homes and scattered reports of looting, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner instituted an overnight curfew starting Wednesday morning in order to prevent "potential criminal acts."
Turner praised Houston as a city where neighbors look out for each other and come together to face their shared challenge.
"Anyone who underestimates the spirit of this city does not know Houston. 'Woe is Houston?' That just encourages us further," he wrote on Twitter.
At least 13 deaths have been reported in connection with the storm. Authorities have not yet confirmed a number that high, but have said casualty figures could rise once the floodwaters begin to recede.
Homeland Security chief Duke said Tuesday the biggest challenge remains search and rescue efforts.
"We will continue looking, and until the waters are gone, I really don't think we'll be completed with making sure we've accounted for everyone," she said.
Duke added that once the rain stops, officials will be focused on making sure people who cannot return to their homes can move from the temporary shelters into transitional housing.
Duke was one of several officials who flew to Texas along with Trump to meet with local and state leaders and survey the response to the storm.
Visiting an emergency operations center in the Texas capital, Austin, Trump said his administration and Congress are going to come up with the "right solution" to help storm victims.
Trump also went to Corpus Christi, where the storm hit the Texas coast, and said there he wants the federal government's response to be "better than ever before."
The president waved a Texas state flag as he spoke to cheering supporters, calling the storm "epic." He added, "...but it happened in Texas, and Texas can handle anything."