ROCKPORT (Texas) • Tropical Storm Harvey lashed central Texas with torrential rains yesterday, unleashing "catastrophic" floods after the megastorm - the most powerful to hit the United States since 2005 - left a deadly trail of devastation along the Gulf Coast.
The storm has caused at least five deaths since making landfall late on Friday as a Category Four hurricane, pummelling the town of Rockport outside Corpus Christi with sustained winds of 215kmh.
The storm has hit Houston and the surrounding region, causing catastrophic flooding and killing at least five people in the region, the National Weather Service (NWS) said yesterday morning. Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States, with a metro population of 6.6 million.
"Cannot emphasise enough how much flooding there is on roadways, you are endangering yourself and our first responders by being out," Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo wrote on Twitter.
Harvey slowly weakened as it advanced, ripping off roofs, flipping mobile homes and leaving hundreds of thousands of people in the dark on the Gulf Coast, home to some of the United States' most important oil refineries.
The storm has halted about one quarter of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico and 5 per cent of US refining capacity.
In addition to the energy threat, crops and livestock may struggle to cope with rising waters, while airlines have cancelled flights at multiple Texas airports.
At least 1,140 inbound and outbound flights were cancelled on Saturday from Texas airports in Houston, Dallas, Corpus Christi, Austin and San Antonio, according to FlightAware, an airline tracking company. At least another 1,224 were scrubbed yesterday.
Harvey sent thousands of residents along the coast fleeing and caused Texas Governor Greg Abbott to declare an emergency. President Donald Trump approved a major disaster declaration, making federal assistance available to supplement state and local recovery efforts.
The NWS issued more than a dozen tornado warnings overnight for south-east Texas, including several in the Houston area. Forecasts show Harvey hovering over the shore for the next days, dumping dangerous amounts of rain.
In Houston, city streets turned into fast-moving rivers with officials warning residents to stay home. Hobby International, one of the city's two airports, announced that all flights were cancelled "due to standing water on runways". "Catastrophic and life-threatening flash flood ongoing!" the NWS said on Twitter.
Houston officials said that their 911 phone system was overwhelmed with emergency calls, mostly from stranded motorists.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said there should be no illusions about the long-term impact.
"The recovery from this disaster is going to be years," Fema director Brock Long told MSNBC.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG,NYTIMES