In Harvey's Wake

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The floodwaters are beginning to recede, and Houstonians are preparing for a long road to recovery. 

The Hurricane Harvey death toll was 39 as of Thursday evening, after Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences spokeswoman Tricia Bentley told ABC News her office had confirmed seven more storm-related deaths.

In a Sept. 1 memo, a spokesperson for Entergy Texas, an electric power and distribution company based in the cities of Beaumont and The Woodlands, said more than 61,000 customers did not have power as of this morning.

“Significant progress was made assessing damage yesterday,” said Chance Sampson, director of public affairs for the company, adding that power had been restored to more than 200,000 households since Harvey made landfall one week ago.

In the city of Beaumont, more than 9,200 customers don’t have power, which is down from around 15,000 who were without it Tuesday.

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More than 3,200 customers don’t have power in the Port Arthur area, Sampson said — and around half of those are still inaccessible due to flooding.

In Orange County, around 30,000 residents are without power thanks to broken poles and power lines, and in the Silsbee, Woodville and surrounding areas, around 15,000 customers are without power. 

Gov. Greg Abbott was briefed Friday afternoon on the latest Harvey-related updates at the Texas Department of Public Safety's Operations Center in Austin. Speaking to reporters afterward, he said that there is plenty of gasoline in Texas and that the state is ensuring  it has an "even greater supply of gasoline so that we can tamp down on any concern about accessibility."

"Don't worry," Abbott said. "We will not run out, and we will be back into our normal pattern before you know it."

Abbott also warned that there are still areas in the state that are "deadly dangerous" due to flooding from Harvey, including the Beaumont area. About 1,000 people were evacuated from the city Thursday night, he said, adding that he expects that number to rise.

There are now 258 shelters open across Texas, Abbott said. As of Thursday night, the total shelter population numbered 42,399 people, with 6,000 in state parks. Another 3,000 Texans were occupying shelters in Louisiana.

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Here's where things stand:

Overnight havoc

  • Late Thursday night, Abbott said he was easing restrictions on truckers bringing fuel and other supplies into the state. His announcement comes hours after scattered reports that Texas was experiencing a fuel shortage — a myth debunked by Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton and other state leaders. They cautioned against Texans rushing to fill up their tanks, saying the unnecessary rush was creating a problem. "As Texas begins the recovery process in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, it is important that Texans have access to much needed resources, including gasoline and fuel," Abbott said in a statement.
  • The city of Beaumont — which is home to roughly 120,000 people in Southeast Texas — is continuing to suffer after the city lost its water supply. The Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas started transferring patients to other acute care facilities Thursday morning.

A city looking to rebuild

  • On Friday morning, Abbott announced that the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and the OneStar Foundation will partner to form a relief fund for Harvey victims. The Dell Foundation will be contributing $36 million to the fund, Abbott wrote in a news release. In a tweet, Abbott said he wanted to raise more than $100 million over Labor Day weekend. “A storm the size of Texas deserves a Texas-sized response,” he wrote. 

  • Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt set up a flood relief fund earlier this week, backing the effort with his own $100,000 donation. On Friday, the amount donated surpassed $13.5 million and Watt increased the donation goal to $15 million.

  • The Texas Secretary of State’s office announced Friday that it was directing all calls regarding Harvey relief efforts to the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Office of Emergency Management.
  • During his weekly address, President Donald Trump announced that he had declared a major disaster in Texas to ensure federal aid is available for Harvey recovery efforts. Trump said he and Abbott would remain in close communication. “The heartbreaking devastation and suffering caused by Hurricane Harvey has profoundly affected our entire nation.  Many homes and communities have been destroyed, many lives have been upended, and tragically, some have lost their lives in this catastrophic storm,” Trump said. “We pray for the victims and their families — and all of those who have been displaced from their homes.”

Looking forward 

  • As of this morning, the Texas Department of State Health Services had relocated 1,700 patients from hospitals and other health care facilities in areas affected by Harvey. A number of hospitals are currently closed or evacuating their patients, including six in the Houston area, four in the Beaumont area, three in the Victoria area and two in the Corpus Christi area, according to the department.

  • Friendswood ISD will resume normal operations after the Labor Day weekend. Students will return to school on Sept. 6. 

  • Dickinson ISD students will return to school Sept. 11. 

  • Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner will appear Sunday on “Face the Nation” and “Meet the Press,” POLITICO reported. Abbott will appear on “Fox News Sunday.”

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Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.

Disclosure: The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • A week after Hurricane Harvey began menacing the coast, Texans and state and federal officials are just beginning to get a sense of what could be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. [Full story]

  • As several school officials along the Gulf Coast determine whether their districts can start classes next Tuesday, superintendents across the state are encouraging families displaced by Hurricane Harvey to enroll in their schools. [Full story]

  • In the coming days, weeks, months — and even years — it will be up to the state’s 38-member congressional delegation to imagine and legislate what Southeast Texas' "new normal" will look like after Hurricane Harvey. [Full story]

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