Lee Padilla walking down a streeted flooded by tropical storm Harvey in Houston, Texas, Aug. 27, 2017. (Photo/JTA-Scott Olson-Getty Images)
Lee Padilla walking down a streeted flooded by tropical storm Harvey in Houston, Texas, Aug. 27, 2017. (Photo/JTA-Scott Olson-Getty Images)

The situation in Houston, and how to help

Dozens of Jewish families in Houston have either been evacuated or moved to upper floors of their homes due to flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, the local Jewish Family Service said.

Houston, the fourth largest city in the country, and much of southeast Texas have been inundated with unprecedented flooding.

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 Jewish Herald-Voice of Houston reported.

Many of the affected families also were flooded out in 2016 and 2015. Some have flood insurance and others do not, according to the report.

The Evelyn Rubenstein JCC also reported flood damage. Prior to the hurricane it had collected emergency supplies, and it is serving as a distribution center for the community. At least three Houston synagogues reported flooding.

“Parts of our community have been impacted by the severe weather of the past two days,” the Jewish Federation of Houston posted Sunday morning on Facebook. “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 Federations of North America opened an emergency relief fund to support communities and individuals in Houston, San Antonio, Galveston, Corpus Christi and other areas in Texas that have been hammered by the hurricane.

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.

A Reform Jewish summer camp, Greene Family Camp, in Bruceville, Texas, between Austin and Dallas, has turned itself into a makeshift refugee center, spreading the word among the camp’s many connections in the Houston area via Facebook.

GFC is asking for donations of Walmart gift cards, which can be purchased online and sent to gfc@urj.org.

Another on-the-ground Jewish agency looking for donations to help provide relief is Jewish Family Service of Houston.

“Jewish Family Service in Houston is the best of the best when it comes to nonprofits who deliver human services and value to their community. They serve Jews and non-Jews and are nothing short of amazing,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi of disability nonprofit RespectAbility in an email today.

“Their brilliant and brave CEO, Linda Burger, is holed up with weeks of water and food on the second floor of their home. She prepared and stayed because as a leader she needs to be there for the community. Her first floor is full of water.”

The hurricane first made landfall the evening of Friday, Aug. 25, near Corpus Christi, about 200 miles southwest of Houston.

On Monday morning, Harvey’s center was entering the Gulf of Mexico, according to the National Hurricane Center.

“Catastrophic and life-threatening flooding continues in southeastern Texas and flash flood emergencies are in effect for portions of this area,” it warned. At least five people have been confirmed dead in the flooding.

The update said that an additional 12 to 25 inches of rain is expected to accumulate through this week 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 2 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 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.

President Donald Trump will visit the stricken area on Tuesday, a spokesman said.

JTA

JTA news agency