Homes, cars and entire streets throughout Houston are under water as torrential rains from Hurricane Harvey—now downgraded from a Category 4 hurricane to a tropical storm—continue to drench the city and cause catastrophic flooding throughout the region. At least five people have died as a result.
More than 15 inches of rain has fallen as of Sunday morning in some parts of the city, and people are being urged to stay indoors since the water is rising very quickly.
In the Meyerland neighborhood, a center of Jewish life in the city, more than 14 inches of rain have fallen.
“I am sad to report that many of our friends who flooded in the recent past are flooded once again, and there are many others who have never been flooded before,” says Rabbi Chaim Lazaroff, co-director of Chabad of Uptown with his wife, Chanie. “The rain is not stopping.”
The Lazaroffs, who live in the Galleria area, which traditionally is not prone to severe flooding, have a number of people staying with them who came for Shabbat lunch and were stuck when the rains flooded them out of their homes.
“There is a lot of tension, and the hard part is that it’s far from over,” reports Chanie Lazaroff. “There’s a lot of rain coming, and safety is the most important thing.”
Families in the area have reported rising waters, and some have even taken to putting life jackets on their children to ensure that they will stay safe in an evacuation.
At least one Jewish community member was reportedly stuck in his car overnight and his family is working to get him to safety.
Governor Greg Abbot declared a state of disaster for 30 counties in Texas on Wednesday, closing schools and businesses in Houston, San Antonio and other areas on Friday. They will remain closed on Monday, as will many government offices. People are being urged to shelter in place even as water rises in homes.
The Lazaroffs have been in touch with community members by phone and through social media, and after reports of significant damage, Chabad of Houston has set up a disaster recovery fund.
“Right now, it’s about making sure everyone has a safe and dry place to go,” says Chanie Lazaroff.
The scene in the predawn hours on Sunday morning is a sharp contrast to a rainy Shabbat morning in Houston. Jews in the area were able to get to shul for services because the heavy rains didn’t start until later in the day.
VIDEO: Raw footage of the flooding as freeways turned into rivers and water rushed into homes