Latest: A quarter of Texas’ population in disaster area

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) – The Latest on Tropical Storm Harvey (all times local):

3:50 p.m.

Nearly a quarter of Texas’ population lives in areas covered by a federal disaster declaration as a result of Tropical Storm Harvey. Gov. Greg Abbott says 18 counties are now covered by the disaster declaration approved by President Donald Trump. There are nearly 7 million people in those counties, including the nation’s fourth-largest city of Houston. Texas has a population of 27.8 million.

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3:45 p.m.

Police say a sinkhole has opened on a Texas highway about 25 miles  (40 kilometers) southwest of Houston as Tropical Storm Harvey dumps more rain on the region. Rosenberg police on Sunday tweeted a photo of the gaping hole that spread across more than half of a two-lane highway – Farm-to-Market 762. Water could be seen filling the sinkhole as pieces of highway asphalt hung from the edge of the damaged roadway. Rosenberg police did not immediately provide additional details on the sinkhole, other than urging drivers to avoid the area. Police cars blocked off the highway.

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3:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump will travel to hurricane-ravaged Texas on Tuesday. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tells reporters the White House is still coordinating logistics with state and local officials. She adds: “We continue to keep all of those affected in our thoughts and prayers.” Tropical Storm Harvey sent devastating floods pouring into Houston on Sunday. Rising water chased some people to rooftops or higher ground and overwhelmed rescuers. Trump has been praising the government’s response to the storm on Twitter. He tweeted earlier Sunday that he would be traveling to Texas as soon as he could go “without causing disruption.” He said: “The focus must be life and safety.”

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3 p.m.

An official says all 22 of Harris County’s watersheds have spilled over their banks due to Tropical Storm Harvey. Watersheds are creeks and bayous that take water away from the Houston area and eventually drain it into Galveston Bay. Harris County Flood Control District Meteorologist Jeff Lindner says over half of the watersheds are experiencing record flooding. Lindner said even with the rain starting to decrease a little bit, the sheer volume of water that has fallen is going to take time to run off. He says it may take until Sunday night or well into Monday or even Tuesday “to get the water out of these areas that have been impacted so hard.”

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2:30 p.m.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says that the number of counties declared federal disaster areas from Tropical Storm Harvey and its aftermath has increased to 18. Abbott said Sunday 12 counties have been added to an earlier federal disaster list of six. He said President Donald Trump has approved the increase in counties. Also, 50 counties have already been declared state disaster zones, 30 earlier in the week and 20 on Saturday. Abbott says the counties under the federal and state declarations include Harris County, which encompasses Houston and has been experiencing severe flooding from torrential rains.

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2:20 p.m.

Several hundred people have arrived at the downtown convention center the city of Houston has converted into a shelter after floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey inundated much of the city. Ken Sandy has been designated shelter manager by the Red Cross. He said Sunday that his volunteers are prepared for 1,000 people at the George R. Brown Convention Center, and the center is big enough for them to expand if necessary. The center has 1.8 million square feet (0.17 million sq. meters) of space. Volunteers are handing out towels to people entering the cavernous center. Cots have not yet arrived. Authorities across Houston and surrounding Harris County are quickly opening shelters as the full toll of the flooding becomes clear and thousands of people evacuate their homes.

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2:15 p.m.

A Harris County official is asking members of the public who have a boat or a high water vehicle to help with efforts to rescue Houston residents whose homes have flooded in the torrential rains brought by Tropical Storm Harvey. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said at a news conference Sunday that the additional boats and vehicles that Texas is sending to the Houston area are not able to get to the area due to flooded roadways. He adds that vehicles the state previously sent are already being used to help rescue individuals. Emmett, who oversees government operations in Harris County, where Houston is located, says, “We desperately need boats and high water vehicles … We can’t wait for assets to come from outside.”

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2 p.m.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says the state has now activated 3,000 National Guard and State Guard members as a result of severe damage and flooding from Hurricane Harvey. Along with the guard, he says 500 vehicles and 14 aircraft have been put into service. Abbott said there are no 250 highway closures around Texas. He spoke at a news conference at the state emergency response center in Austin.

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1:35 p.m.

President Donald Trump met by teleconference Sunday with top administration officials as rescue workers continue to respond to rising flood waters from Hurricane Harvey. The White House says Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, members of Trump’s Cabinet and other senior officials discussed federal support for response and recovery efforts. The White House says Trump stressed his expectation that “all departments and agencies stay fully committed to supporting the governors of Texas and Louisiana” and that his “number one priority of saving lives.” Rising floodwaters from Harvey have forced thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground in Houston, overwhelming rescuers. Trump announced Sunday he’s planning a trip to Texas soon.

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1:20 p.m.

Both major airports in Houston have been closed amid severe flooding blamed on Tropical Storm Harvey. A Houston Airport System statement at midday Sunday said George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Hobby Airport are closed to commercial flights until further notice. Officials say roads in and out of both airports are shut down due to flooding. Hurricane Harvey made landfall late Friday night along the Texas coast about 230 miles southwest of Houston, but it wasn’t until late Saturday night that what became Tropical Storm Harvey began bringing torrential rains causing flooding to the Houston area. The airport system’s website says Bush Intercontinental Airport is 23 miles north of downtown Houston and provides service via 29 passenger airlines. Hobby Airport is 7 miles south of downtown Houston and is served by four passenger airlines.

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1 p.m.

Many of the people arriving at the George R. Brown Convention Center, which has been opened as a shelter for people fleeing flooding, are from a public housing complex about a mile north. Clayton Homes public housing complex is bounded on one side by Interstate 45 and the other by Buffalo Bayou, which has flooded heavily along with all of Houston’s major waterways. Police are using boats to evacuate many of the residents and bring them to the convention center in pickup trucks. D’Ona Spears and Brandon Polson walked with their five children Sunday, bags full of belongings, and their 7-year-old Chihuahua, Missy. They decided to leave once the water in the first story of their home reached their knees. Spears says that when they made it to the convention center, they sent their children inside to eat, but stayed outside with their Chihuahua because animals were not allowed inside. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced earlier Sunday that the convention center would serve as a shelter for people fleeing the flooding.

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12:40 p.m.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says that Ben Taub Hospital, the county’s public hospital, is being evacuated because flooding problems in the basement are disrupting power service. Emmett overseas government operations in Harris County where Houston is located. He tells a news conference that evacuated patients are being taken to other area hospitals. It was not immediately known how many patients were being moved.

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12:30 p.m.

Coast Guard Capt. Kevin Oditt (OH’-dit) says helicopters have rescued more than 100 people in the Houston area as Tropical Storm Harvey floods numerous neighborhoods. In a conference call Sunday with reporters, Oditt says Coast Guard personnel and aircraft from around the country have been dispatched to Texas. He says Texas Air National Guard choppers were also assisting with rescues. Oditt says people facing rising floodwaters should not go into attics, since rescuers in the air cannot see them. The incident commander urged people who head to their rooftops to wave sheets, towels or anything else to attract the attention of helicopter crews. Coast Guard helicopter crews along the southern portion of the Texas coast are reporting the rescue of almost 40 people, starting from the morning before Hurricane Harvey made landfall. That includes six people rescued from their home Saturday evening in the hard-hit city of Aransas Pass. Among them were three children, their two parents and an elderly woman who was in need of oxygen.

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12:05 p.m.

The National Weather Service now says some parts of Houston and just west of the city may receive a Texas record of 50 inches (1270 millimeters) of rain as Tropical Storm Harvey stalls over Texas. NWS meteorologist Patrick Burke says rainfall totals will end up around 40 inches (1016 millimeters) or more for Houston on average, but some isolated spots will hit or exceed 50 inches. Burkes says, “We’re in kind of unprecedented territory with this storm.” Local rainfall amounts of 50 inches would exceed any previous Texas rainfall record. The NWS says in a statement that “the breadth and intensity of this rainfall is beyond anything experienced before and is resulting in catastrophic flooding.” So far rainfall totals since Thursday evening have reached about 25 inches (635 millimeters) in south Houston. In Dayton, located 38 miles  (61kilometers) northeast of Houston, rainfall has already reached 27 inches (685 millimeters).

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11 a.m.

Residents of a South Texas city who evacuated before Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast as a hurricane are being warned not to return unless they bring their own food and water. Officials with Victoria, about 90 miles north of Rockport, near where Harvey came ashore Friday night, said Sunday on Facebook that the city of 85,000 has no water service and limited power. The statement says Harvey had a “devastating” impact on Victoria and it could be weeks before all electric service is restored. The city statement says: “For those that decide to come back to Victoria, bring enough food and water to last three to four days. Be sure you have enough gas in your car to last several days. Be prepared for no electricity at your home for several days or weeks.” A mandatory evacuation was ordered for Victoria County, where the city is located. Bryan Simons, spokesman for the Victoria County sheriff’s office, says, “We’ve got widespread damage. Lots of trees down, power lines. We’ve got traffic lights missing and lots of debris.”

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10:30 a.m.

Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena says that since midnight his agency has responded to more than 2,500 emergency calls and another 1,000 calls are waiting to be serviced. Pena says his agency has made more than 250 water rescues, all of them people in vehicles, during a three hour period overnight. But Houston Assistant Police Chief Larry Satterwhite says there has been an increase in calls from residents with flooded homes in the city’s northeast, southeast and southwest sections.

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10:15 a.m.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is defending his decision not to ask residents to evacuate before the heavy rain from Tropical Storm Harvey swamped roads and neighborhoods across the nation’s fourth-largest city. Turner says at a news conference Sunday that there was no way to pinpoint which neighborhoods would be worst hit. He says every neighborhood has received at least some flooding. He says, “If you think the situation right now is bad and you give an order to evacuate, you are creating a nightmare.” Turner asked people to stay in their homes and not drive if at all possible. Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena says authorities have made more than 250 vehicle rescues in the storm.

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10:05 a.m.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says emergency personnel have responded to more than 2,000 calls to 911 for rescues in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. He said priority was being given to life-threatening calls. Turner also said at a news conference Sunday that he has ordered the downtown George R. Brown Convention Center opened as a shelter as floodwaters inundated much of the city. Turner also urged people not to drive, as numerous streets and roadways in Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city, were flooded Sunday. The George R. Brown Convention Center has 1.8 million square feet of space.

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9:50 a.m.

A Catholic priest has used a kayak to get from his home in southeast Houston to higher ground and hoped to say Mass for people stranded on the streets. Father David Bergeron says that he tried to buy some wine for Mass at a convenience store but couldn’t because sales are prohibited in Texas on Sunday before noon. Bergeron tells television station KTRK that: “this is how America was evangelized – by canoe.” He says that he is praying for people affected by Tropical Storm Harvey.

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9:40 a.m.

Staff at a Houston television station broadcasting live coverage of Tropical Storm Harvey had to evacuate after water from nearby flood-prone Buffalo Bayou started to gush into the building. KHOU-TV tweeted images Sunday of water pushing through a front door and flooding the lobby. Other images showed sand bags placed against another door had failed to stop the water that was already ankle deep. Floodwaters around 6:30 a.m. Sunday began seeping into the first-floor studio of KHOU, which is the CBS affiliate in the nation’s fourth largest city. The anchors and news operations then moved to a second floor as live coverage of Harvey continued. Later tweets say the station was being evacuated due to flooding. The station last flooded in 2001 during Tropical Storm Allison.

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9:35 a.m.

Harris County sheriff’s spokesman Jason Spencer says flooding throughout the county that includes Houston and the region is so widespread that it’s “difficult to pinpoint the worst area.” He says authorities are prioritizing hundreds of phones calls for help to ensure life-and-death situations “are at the top of the list.” “It’s heartbreaking,” he says. Spencer says the department has high-water vehicles and airboats but “certainly not enough.”  He says officials are encouraged that rescue teams from the National Guard and state agencies have also been deployed.

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9:25 a.m. The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency says Hurricane Harvey is a “landmark event” and the federal agency will be in the areas worst affected “for years.” Brock Long says nearly 5,000 people from the federal government are doing search and rescue missions, helping to restore power and supporting what he calls “mass care missions.” Speaking Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Long said: “We expect a huge mass care mission today, of people flocking to shelters, if they can get to shelters.”

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9:15 a.m.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says that boats and helicopters are being deployed to help with swift-water rescues in the Houston area and parts of East Texas also facing flooding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Abbott, appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” said: “We’re measuring rain these days not in inches but in feet.” He tells ABC’s “This Week” that they “could not be more appreciative” of what the federal government and President Trump have done to help as Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. Abbott said on CNN’s “State of the Nation” he’s talked to Trump several times and the head of FEMA. He says, “We’ve made multiple requests and we’re getting absolutely everything we need.” Abbott said Harris County, which includes Houston, will soon be included in a federal disaster declaration as a result of Harvey.

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8:25 a.m.

President Donald Trump says he will be traveling to Texas “as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption” in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Trump tweeted that the “focus must be life and safety.” At least two people are dead and more than a dozen injured due to the storm that has battered the region, including the cities of Corpus Christi and Houston. Trump has been complimenting the response to the storm on his Twitter feed, commending “Great coordination between agencies at all levels of government.” Trump adds that: “Many people are now saying that this is the worst storm/hurricane they have ever seen. Good news is that we have great talent on the ground.” The storm could linger for days in the region and could unload as much as 40 inches of rain on cities including Houston.

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8:15 a.m.

The U.S. Coast Guard says it’s received more than 300 requests for urban search and rescue in the Houston area. The Coast Guard has five helicopters working the emergency calls and is asking for additional helicopters from New Orleans to help. Officials are advising people in dire straits to get to the roofs of their homes and mark them somehow to be seen from the air. They’re suggesting people wave sheets or towels.

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7:45 a.m.

Flooding in some parts of the county that includes the city of Houston is so bad that residents are being urged to seek refuge on their roofs. Harris County Flood Control District official Jeff Lindner says people inundated by rising waters shouldn’t crawl into attics of their homes but should get on top of them. He says rainfall of more than 4 inches per hour has sent water higher than in recent Houston floods side and are exceeding levels seen in Tropical Storm Allison in June 2001. Lindner says areas south of the city appear hard-hit and some flooding is reported in downtown Houston and in the Texas Medical Center, which was devastated in Allison. He calls Harvey “a different animal” from Allison and a “historic situation.” He says he’s most amazed that he’s getting reports “of water into second-story of apartments and homes.”  Considering Houston’s flat terrain, “it’s very rare to get that depth of water.”

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6:20 a.m.

Authorities say rescue attempts continue in Houston for those stranded inside flooded homes and submerged vehicles in the wake of Harvey. The Houston Chronicle reports that hundreds of calls have been fielded for water rescues as of early Sunday, including Houston police officials who evacuated two apartment complexes and rescued more than 50 children. Meanwhile, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Sunday continued urging residents via Twitter to “shelter in place” and stay off rain-swollen roadways. Gonzalez actively used Twitter overnight to field assistance for those trapped inside water-soaked homes, attics and vehicles. Those appealing for assistance or being steered to help via Gonzalez’s Twitter feed included a person suffering “cardiac-arrest,” and a woman who posted: “I have 2 children with me and the water is swallowing us up. Please send help.” Gonzalez at one point appealed for calm and patience, saying officials were “trying to make it to everyone as best we can.” Turner’s official Twitter account said “911 services at capacity. If u can shelter in place do so, a few inches in your home is not imminent danger. Only call if in imminent danger.”

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