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tv   NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt  NBC  August 27, 2017 4:00pm-4:30pm PDT

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tonight, breaking news. historic flooding disaster. the nation's fourth largest city largely underwater as thousands in houston call for help. trying to escape the flooding being called unprecedented and catastrophic. tonight, the dramatic rescues by boat and air in houston. and beyond. including people trapped in a nursing home in rising flood waters. some of it bringing echoes of hurricane katrina. and a big question, did the mayor of houston do the right thing in not ordering an evacuation? we'll ask the governor of texas as the region braces for up to 50 inches of rain on top of widespread destruction, along the gulf from hurricane harvey. tonight, houston stretched to it's limits, now appealing to the public for boats to join the
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struggle to save lives. as the disaster unfolds in a city and state under siege. nightly news from houston begins right now. this is nbc nightly news with lester holt reporting tonight from houston. good evening. the nation's fourth biggest city is a city of islands tonight. neighborhoods straited by rising flood waters in the face of an unprecedented amount of rain. stalled tropical storm hor have i still tormenting the region two days after coming ashore as a hurricane. at least two people have died because of the storm, including one here in houston where rainfall amounts could reach 50 inches, 5-0, before it's over. tonight, 3,000 national guard members are deployed across the disaster zone from houston to corpus christi. as crews move mounds of debris in the areas that took direct hits from harvey, tonight it is
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water that has this city on it's heels. too much of it too quickly and no place for it all to go. and not since katrina have we seen so many dramatic rescues. urban water rescues. people desperate to literally keep their heads above water. our team is in place to cover it all and jacob rascon leads us off tonight in here in houston, jacob, good evening. >> reporter: lester, good morning. this neighborhood where rescues are happening nonstop flooded more than ten feet in areas in mere hours. an example of the disaster and it's furry. it is a colossal rescue effort. thousands stranded taken by boat and helicopter. >> the boats are going over top of cars. >> reporter: using anything that floats, their faces tell the story of anxious, anxiety, and fear. >> the water was up to here. i walked out and i was just like screaming.
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i seen somebody -- they tried to put us on air mattresses, it didn't work. they had to put the babies on air mattresses, babies on their shoulders. >> reporter: with emergency responders overwhelmed, the houston mayor is asking people to call 911 only if their life is in danger as he defended his decision not to issue a mandatory evacuation order. >> but i want to thank those thousands, thousands, in fact, millions of houstonians who heeded the device and did not get on the road. >> reporter: the city opened the convention center for evacuees as rescue teams plead for the public's help. >> for those of you that have boats and high water vehicles that can be used in neighborhoods to help move people out of harm's way, we need your help. >> reporter: and houstonians have responded in mass. >> if they need my help, i'm going to do what i can. >> reporter: back in southeast houston, frank woke up surrounded by water.
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>> everything, bed, furniture. >> all gone. >> all gone. everything's gone. >> reporter: he moved into this apartment just three days ago. his name upstairs took him and three other families in. are you going to stay until the water goes away? >> might. probably not if they come get us. we need help. whole bunch of families displaced, lost everything. >> reporter: the morales family lost nearly everything, including their stove and much of their food. you can't eat your food? >> no. >> reporter: this buy jew usually nearly empty. within a matter of hours, it's 30 feet overflowing into these apartments and all of these people are trapped. while scrambling to save her mom from flood waters in a nearby city, samantha caught on a flooded interstate herself climbing to safety. >> my mom, she said like there's water going in there, and it's like three inches deep. >> i didn't think it was that deep. >> reporter: america's fourth
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largest city fighting to survive a still unfolding calamity. >> you spent most of your life in this city, explain what you're seeing through your eyes with that personal connection. >> reporter: it's my hometown. it's hard to see, especially hear the pain and the suffering. rains and storms here often, but never quite like this. i'm encouraged watching people come together and helping each other, i'm confident that no matter what comes next, they'll do just that. lester. >> i got a chance to see some of that jacob earlier, we'll show that later in the broadcast. thank you for your reporting. this emergency is not confined to houston. there were calls for help and rescues in other areas today. one of those is dickenson, texas, it's about 30 miles to the south and where we are. nbc's goddy schwartz is there with the story. >> reporter: we're here in dickenson. there are families trying to get to safety.
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people that are wading in chest-high water. you've got cars, we just passed a hummer that has been submerged. you've got garages, houses, some of the water comes all the way up to two-story houses. in fact, look at this, this is a car completely submerged earlier. there were people standing on top of their cars that were waiting for rescues. this is what you see for miles. in fact, just a little while ago, we were at retirement home, that was evacuated by some helicopters. and look at this house right here, this is what we're talking about. that house has two tents on top of it. people have been evacuated from this area and you've got that helicopter up there and it continues to evacuate people, but the flood waters down here continue to rise, right now they're about six feet, seven feet in some areas, and the only way to get around here is boats. lester, back to you. >> some really stunning images. thank you. and as you heard, one of the
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rescues today was in that nursing home in dickenson where residents waited for hours. at the same time, the cover ri from the destructive winds of hurricane harvey has only just begun. kerry sanders now with that part of the story. >> reporter: the water came up so fast there was no time to evacuate the nursing home. trapped residents, many in wheelchairs waist deep in water. when the shocking picture went viral, only then were they rescued by helicopter. tonight, even with 3,000 members of the national guard deployed across southeast texas, rescue efforts and the humanitarian response stretched to the limit. lines for gas -- >> no more gas. no. >> reporter: lines for food. >> trying to get food and water, anything i can. because i mean, i didn't expect the hurricane to be that bad. >> reporter: tonight more than 75,000 people without power. >> just a whole bunch of waiting. that's all you can do is wait. >> reporter: roads like this one have collapsed. in victoria, 30 miles inland, evacuees who returned found
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their apartment building burned to the ground. in galveston, a flash flood alert remains. harvey slammed the texas coast as a category four hurricane, under cover of darkness, 130 mile per hour winds ripping through rockport. the furry hitting corpus christi, port lavaca, galveston. the damage estimate runs into the billions and the storm is not over yet. tonight, police here in victoria have been going door to door warning residents who live along the guadalupe river they need to prepare for a flood along this river. residents say without television or radio, they would not have known were it not for the police coming by and knocking on their doors. lester. >> all right. kerry sanders, thank you. as you note, harvey remains a tropical storm and will linger over this region for several days. therein lies the problem. it's expected to dump as much, 50, 50 inches of rain before it's all over. let's get the latest forecast
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from nbc meteorologist dylan driver. 50 inches. >> it's an incredible amount of rain. we have about 25 inches on the ground in some areas. so only half of what we're going to see is on the ground right now. and the radar says it all. you can certainly see where all of this moisture is coming from. it is tapping into the gulf of mexico which means we have an endless supply of moisture to fuel these downpours. we have seen rainfall rates of four to six inches per hour. right now the highest rate is about one to three inches per hour. just east of houston. it is still a tropical storm, but notice the movement. stationary at this point. so we will continue to tap into back over the gulf of mexico. so it maintains it's strength as a tropical storm before it finally weakens by the end of this week. so we are looking at these flash flood warnings, expansive from houston, bay city, galveston, lake charles, louisiana, where
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the catastrophic flooding is already occurring and these flash flood warnings will last through midweek. as we mentioned, we have about 25 inches on the ground in some areas, but an additional 10 to 20 inches of rain still is yet to fall, creating those storm totals over 50 inches of rain and it's not just the rain falling, but the rivers are rising and that's going to continue to be a concern well beyond this week. >> you took the same drive from corpus christi. some of the downpours were breath taking in their intensity. >> the wipers don't go fast enough. that's where the water is piling up so quickly. >> dylan, thanks very much. growing controversy tonight over whether the city should have ordered an evacuation before the storm moved in. today the mayor defended his decision not to issue such an order. nbc's stephanie goss has more on that for us. >> reporter: rain fell fast and didn't stop. water rising to levels no one in the city has ever seen. now some are questioning mayor sylvester turner's decision not to evacuate.
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>> every value went over it's banks. you cannot but the in the in the city of houston 2.3 million people on the road. >> reporter: in the build-up to the storm, texas governor greg abbot suggested some people should leave. >> with the possibility of flooding being what it could be, again, i would urge people to strongly consider the evacuation process. >> reporter: in 2005, millions did. as hurricane rita barrelled towards the coast. traffic jams stretched for hundreds of miles. dozens of people died in car accidents and from the heat. all before the storm even hit. scenes city officials were eager not to repeat, even though evacuation plans have been improved in the last decades. >> many of us in the city remember when the evacuation order was ordered before, and we've learned our lesson from that. >> reporter: in a neighborhood on the west side of town, even as they struggled with rising water, some residents support their mayor. >> i think they handled
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everything appropriately. i really do. telling people to run, you know, where are they going to go? >> reporter: the mayor's message tonight, check on your neighbors and stay put if you feel safe, if not, head it one of the many shelters open around the city including the convention center. there are already 500 people there. les per. >> stephanie goss tonight. for more on the issue and the response of this disaster, we are joined by the governor of texas, greg abbot. governor, we're glad you're here. let's dive right into this evacuation issue. do you wish they had heeded your suggestion to get out here? >> lester, now is not the time to second guess those decisions. what it is time for is for all of us to work together as texans to help our fellow texans. we have lives on the line right now, that's why i have deployed 3,000 national guard members as well as almost 2,000 dps officers across the endangered regions. so that we are going to be able to save texas lives. that's all that matters right
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now. >> and i know you're looking at the same weather data we are, but you also know the capabilities here on the ground. governor, how much more can you take? half of the rain that we're talking about, this 50 inches hasn't even fallen yet. >> well lester, of course this is really unprecedented. but we're going to find a way to deal with it. we've dealt with hurricanes and storms before. we will rebuild here. one thing that will help us rebuild is that i quickly asked for a presidential declaration of a disaster, we are already getting help from fema. fema's going to be on the ground here with us tomorrow, in fact, we've been working hand in hand with them this past week. we will be able to rebuild from this very swiftly because of the swift action from the white house making this a national disaster declaration. >> all right. governor abbot, good to come on today. thanks so much, we appreciate it, sir. >> thank you. the white house announced late today that president trump will visit texas on tuesday. the president tweeted his comments on the storm today, praising the coordination
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between the federal, state, and local government, and saying effort was going well. nbc's kelly o'donnell has more tonight. >> reporter: late today president trump returned to the white house from camp david where he held a second video link conference with senior officials planning the federal government response. but the president did not respond to shouted questions about the storm. >> mr. president, what do you need to do by going to texas? >> reporter: instead, he let social media do the talking. with a burst tweets, and just four words appeared to frame the scope of this crisis. major rescue operations under way. he also seemed eager to get high marks on the response in realtime. good news is that we have great talent on the ground. a more urgent, even dire tone came from fema administrator brock long. >> we are deep into the life safety mission of helping people be rescued through swift water,
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swift water rescue, search and rescue. >> reporter: homeland security advisor says the trump administration expects the worst is still to come. >> what we're focussing now is saving lives and that's rightly so. >> reporter: the president's attention was drawn away to unrelated issues like the wall, mexico will pay for it. and a planned trip to missouri that i won bay lot in '16. but most of his tweets were focussed on harvey. the president said, he will be going to texas, but wants to avoid causing disruption. and that texas trip will be tuesday when conditions will still be difficult. rain will still be falling. the white house says they're working with state and local officials to find ways for him to visit without interfering. and tonight governor abbot says the president will be able to see parts where the hurricane hit, but where clean-up and recovery has already started. lester. >> kelly o'donnell at the white house. thank you. still ahead tonight, the question that a lot of people are asking, just why is flooding so common in houston? we're going to look at mt.
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>> reporter: in the nation's fourth largest city, floods are a way of life. >> it's pretty scary. i've never seen anything like it. >> reporter: until 2015, a memorial day flood racked up almost half a billion dollars in damages. last year, houston led the u.s. in flood-related deaths, mostly due an april storm that claimed eight lives. why is the bayou city so prone? the development has exploded. the houston area has added 25% more pavement over 15 years. replacing soil rich wetlands that could absorb water with concrete covered sue besh ya. >> the human development is what's really driving and exacerbating flood losses over time. >> reporter: professor sam brodie of texas a & m says this was the view from his front door. he researched houston floods and says the recent increase in their severity is mostly a manmade problem. >> we're adding about 100,000
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people a year and with those people come parking lots, pavement, rooftops, roadways, and that makes it very difficult for the water to drain slowly and then into the bayous into the bay. >> reporter: shoouhouston is un with no zoning laws. new structures here are required to be built 12 inches above 100 year flooding levels. chuck blank lived in the neighborhood for 20 years and says herself never seen rising water like this. >> we have too much concrete i think is what part of the problem is. water doesn't have any place to go when something like this happens. >> reporter: tonight experts expect the metro area's population will grow by more than 3 million people over the next three decades. meaning this flooding problem could get even deeper. >> gabe gutierrez, thank you. we are back in a moment with
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first responders from across texas are converging on this region to help with rescues and relief, but the demand as you can imagine is staggering. the people in the city however are treating this as sort of an all hands on deck moment. in many cases, ridesing to the occasion. they are not helpless as choppers scour flooded neighborhoods looking for those trapped. he set out on his own rescue mission. checking on a neighbor. >> i called him on the phone and he didn't answer. i'm assuming he's gone. >> reporter: no luck, but he'll keep checking. >> his dogs are there, but he's not there. >> reporter: everywhere people were doing for themselves, this man wading to the storm waters
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to retrieve his wife's medication. so you walk through the water -- >> yes. >> reporter: and came back through the water. >> yes. >> reporter: they were doing for others, parents separated from their children, reunited thanks to a neighbor with a boat. >> how are you doing? >> pretty bad. >> reporter: her and her mother and friend were chest-deep in water in their home, rescued by neighbors. >> serving destroyed. we called 911 like not even 50 times, nobody answered. >> reporter: but a virtual 911 is at work in houston. people lending a hand, lending a boat, and wading through this disaster any way they can. how many people have you brought out? >> like 12. >> reporter: 12 people. all right. the neighborhood first responders. a big help no authorities here as they consider understandably to give prior toy to immediate life and death situations. we're
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no doubt it's going to be a challenging and unpredictable night here in the houston area. and this entire region. let's get one last update on the forecast from meteorologist dylan driver. >> and that's the way it's going to be until at least wednesday morning. these heavier rain bands will continue to just develop off the gulf of mexico and the stream of moisture comes into eastern texas and most of louisiana as well. the storm, look at that, moving now it's southeast at two miles per hour, still not enough movement to get this storm out
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of here though. it's going to meander in the houston area and then not weaken until possibly thursday, even still, it's more the rain at this point, not just the rain falling from the sky, but look at these rain gauges. we are seeing most at moderate to major flood stage already. all of the water that's on the ground, still needs to trickle into the rivers and as it does so, these rivers will mostly go into major flood stage. and that is a concern that doesn't end until possibly into next week. >> hard to believe. all right, dylan, thank you. we appreciate you spending part of your evening with us. that is nightly news. much more on the situation here in houston throughout the night. i'm lester holt for all of us, thank you for watching and good night. right now on nbc bay area:
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boiling over in berkeley. thousands of demonstators -- on both sid right nowa nbc bay area. boiling over in berkeley. you can see it there. thousands of demonstrators on both sides of the political spectrum marching in the streets. we saw pockets of violence and plenty of arrests. we're live on the scene. good evening. thanks for being with us. i'm raj mathai. >> it's been a tense afternoon in berkeley. at this hour, things are calming down. the crowds are gone but the police officers and s.w.a.t. teams still very active. this is video from our nbc bay area sky ranger taken just moments ago. there's a chance demstrators will gather again this evening. >> at times today it did get ugly. kristi smith is

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