While federal officials said they are expecting a multi-year recovery in Texas and across the south as Tropical Storm Harvey continues its course east into parts of Louisiana, the death toll rose to 20 people, sheriff’s said Wednesday.
Montgomery County Sheriff’s Capt. Bryan Carlisle said two more Harvey–related deaths were reported north of Houston. One of them around a barricade and into standing water on Monday, while the other tried to swim across a flooded road, he said.
Authorities expect the death toll to rise as the waters receded and they are able to take full stock of the death and destruction wrought by the catastrophic storm.
Gov. Greg Abbott said urged residents to not drive into flooded waters, cautioning that the “worst is not yet over.”
“It is imperative that we do everything possible to protect the lives and safety of people across the state of Texas as we continue to face the aftermath of this storm,” he said.
He said the Texas National Guard has activated 14,000 in addition to 10,000 troops from other states to help in the ongoing recovery efforts throughout the state.
Earlier on Wednesday, acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said Wednesday federal government agencies would help those affected for as long as needed.
“We expect a many-year recovery in Texas and the federal government is in this for the long haul,” Duke said. “We will help the people of Texas for as long as they need.”
She added: “This particular storm was unprecedented in terms of volume, of rain, and that’s what we’re focusing on now.”
Duke said while officials were monitoring the situation in Louisiana, the focus remained on the greater Houston area, which saw more than 50 inches of rain after Harvey made landfall Saturday.
“Catastrophic flooding is likely to persist days after the rain stops,” she added.
With at least 13,000 rescued in the Houston area and surrounding cities and counties, more people were still trying to escape from their inundated homes.
FEMA administrator Brock Long said more than 230 shelters are operating in Texas, housing more than 30,000 people.
“We’re also calling on other states through emergency management assistance compacts,” he said. “We’re still in lifesaving, life sustaining mode.”