Dozens of Jewish families in Houston were either evacuated or moved to the second floors of their homes due to flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, the local Jewish Family Service said.
Some 150 neighborhood blocks in the city that are home to members of the Jewish community have been damaged in floods as part of the hurricane, the JFS said in a conference call with community leaders, the Texas Jewish Herald-Voice reported.
“Parts of our community have been impacted by the severe weather of the past two days. We are working with our partner agencies to assess the current situation in our community and determine priority on action items. We will communicate out as soon as we know how best to move forward in the short and long-term,” the Jewish Federation of Houston posted Sunday morning on Facebook.
The post did not specify what in the Jewish community had been damaged. But the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC, which is located next to Brays Bayou in the Meyerland section, reported suffering flood damage. Prior to the hurricane it had collected emergency supplies and will serve as a distribution center for the community. The Jewish Family Service also reported flood damage, as did at least three Houston synagogues.
About 63,000 Jews live in Houston, many of them residing in the Meyerland area, which was hit hard by flooding, according to federation officials. A cantor at Congregation Brith Shalom, David Krohn, told Haaretz, “The level of rain that we’re seeing here is biblical. … Many people’s homes are completely lost.”
At least 10 people have been confirmed dead in the flooding, and the Texas governor, Greg Abbot, warned Monday that Houstonians should prepare for a “new and different normal for this entire region.” The storm is expected to drop more rain on the Houston area until midweek; by Tuesday, parts of Harris County near Houston have received 30 inches of rain.
Prior to the onset of the hurricane, the Federation wrote on its website that it was “preparing to mobilize a community response to Hurricane Harvey in the event it is necessary… We are here to help manage the recovery, as needed.” The Federation said it had met with Jewish Family Service, the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center and Seven Acres – to spearhead a community-wide recovery response.
The Houston JCC announced on Facebook that it would close Friday and remain closed Sunday, with an update Sunday evening. Prior to the hurricane it collected emergency supplies for the community including bottled water, work gloves, packing supplies, plastic storage bins, heavy trash bags, heavy-duty razor blades to rip out wet and damaged carpet, cleaning supplies and gift cards for home repair stores and grocery stores, according to the Texas Jewish Herald-Voice.
The newspaper reported that homes in heavily Jewish populated Houston subdivisions were reporting flooding Sunday morning, for the third time in as many years.
Many of the families affected by the floods also were flooded out in 2016 and 2015. Some of the families have flood insurance and others do not, according to the report.
A special Sunday SAT testing to accommodate Sabbath-observant high school students at the Robert M. Beren Academy Orthodox Jewish day school was cancelled in anticipation of the hurricane.
The hurricane first made landfall on Friday evening near Corpus Christi, Texas, about 200 miles southwest of Houston.
The Jewish Community Center of Corpus Christi was closed Friday and Sunday, and said in a Facebook post it hoped to resume normal operations on Monday.
Congregation Beth Israel in Corpus Christi closed from Friday, cancelling all Shabbat services and Torah studies, it said in a Facebook post.
The Jewish Federations of North America opened an emergency relief fund to support communities and individuals in Houston, San Antonio, Galveston, Corpus Christi and other areas that have been hammered by Hurricane Harvey.
Several Jewish communal institutions that flooded two years ago have flooded again, but communities in the affected areas won’t be able to start assessing the scope of damage to institutions and members of their communities until the rain stops and roads become passable, according to JFNA.
Harvey, now a tropical storm, is expected to continue to drop torrential rains and catastrophic flooding on the region for the coming days, according to the National Hurricane Center. Some 15 inches to 30 inches of rain are expected in the Houston area, South Texas and parts of Louisiana. Thousands remain without power.
“This rain will lead to a prolonged, dangerous, and potentially catastrophic flooding event well into next week,” the National Weather Service said.
On Monday, Harvey’s center was entering the Gulf of Mexico, according to the National Hurricane Center. Forecasters said Tuesday that the storm was tracking northeast toward eastern Texas and Louisiana.
“Catastrophic and life-threatening flooding continues in southeastern Texas and flash flood emergencies are in effect for portions of this area,” it warned.
The update said that an additional 12 to 25 inches of rain are expected to accumulate through Friday over the upper Texas coast and into southwestern Louisiana, with some isolated areas receiving up to 50 inches of rain, including in the Houston-Galveston metropolitan area. It also warned of possible tornadoes over the next day.
More than two feet of rain fell between late Saturday night and late Sunday night. City residents who were not in a safe place were evacuated from their homes by boats and helicopters. Many were taken to makeshift shelters, since the emergency shelters prepared for the natural disaster proved not to be enough.
Houston’s two main airports reportedly suspended commercial flights and two hospitals evacuated their patients. Freeways throughout the city were under water, with some flood waters nearly reaching the bottom of road signs.
Here are some of the Jewish organizations collecting funds for relief efforts: