The storm once known as Hurricane Harvey made its second landfall Wednesday, dumping record rains and spurring additional flooding in small Texas cities that lie east of now-devastated Houston.
Harvey, which had swung out into the Gulf of Mexico again, came ashore at dawn near the Texas-Louisiana border. Its rain bands preceded it, pounding Texas towns including Orange, Port Arthur and Beaumont with more than two feet of rain.
City officials said much of Port Arthur — a city of 55,000 — was under water. A shelter for flood victims flooded. One official estimated that water had entered one-third of the city’s buildings.
“We need boats. We need large trucks, and we need generators,” said Tiffany Hamilton, a former city councilwoman in Port Arthur who was helping coordinate relief efforts in a city that is also without electricity. “The entire city has been flooded.”
About 80 miles to the west, the Houston area was just beginning to recover from the biggest rainstorm in the recorded history of the continental United States.
Nearly 35,000 people were in shelters. Thousands of homes were still submerged.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said Wednesday that 20 people remained missing in the city. At one point, that figure had gone as high as 47, but Acevedo said 27 people have been found alive and removed from the list.
At least 37 people were dead, and that number was climbing as water receded, revealing the storm’s awful toll.
Harris County authorities finally located a van, containing six members of the same family, that had been washed off the road days earlier. All six were dead.
A few miles away, authorities discovered the bodies of two friends who had gone out in a boat Monday, trying to rescue neighbors. They lost control in the current, drifted toward the sparks of a downed power line. They jumped in.
Three other men, including two journalists from a British newspaper, suffered electrical burns but survived by clinging to a tree above the water.
By Wednesday afternoon, the remnants of Harvey had moved into Louisiana, and by the evening had weaken to a tropical depression.
Louisiana officials, who had worried that Harvey might devastate their state as well, said the threat of flooding seemed to be lessening.
“Somewhere between being complacent and being panicked is the right place” to be, said Gov. John Bel Edwards (D). “That’s where we’re going to ask the people of Louisiana to settle.”
More than 50 inches of rain fell onto Houston over four days, turning the country’s fourth-largest city into a sea of muddy brown water, boats skimming along what had been neighborhood streets in search of survivors.
At the height of the flooding, between 25 and 30 percent of Harris County — home to 4.5 million people in Houston and its near suburbs — was flooded as of Tuesday afternoon, according to Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist with the county flood control district. That is an area as large as New York City and Chicago combined.
On Wednesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said more than 210,000 people in his state had applied for assistance from FEMA.
The number of people who have registered for federal assistance is expected to go up, William “Brock” Long, the FEMA administrator, said during a news briefing. It will take “many, many years” before the full scope of Harvey’s impact is clear, Long said.
“We expect a many-year recovery in Texas, and the federal government is in this for the long haul,” Elaine Duke, the acting Homeland Security secretary, said at the same briefing Wednesday.