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On Friday afternoon, Hurricane Harvey was bearing down on the Gulf Coast as a Category 3 hurricane. Soon, it would gain even more strength and grow to full-fledged Category 4 strength.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner shut down regular offices hours in the city and had emergency personnel stay behind, but he urged people to stay at home, rearrange their furniture, and get ready for the storm:
He called on Houstonians to do the neighborly thing and check to make sure the people next door were safe and to make sure residents were equipped to ride out the storm:
CNN reported that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, as he had done the day before, urged people to get out of area:
“If you wait until you realize how serious this condition is, you likely will find that it's too late for you to be able to evacuate.”
But a frustrated Mayor Turner urged them to stay home instead:
ABC 13 reported that local emergency operations backed up the mayor:
"The spokesman of emergency operations in Houston's Harris County was even more direct. Francisco Sanchez tweeted: LOCAL LEADERS KNOW BEST.
Moments later, the mayor announced there would be no effort to flip the direction of freeway lanes to help people get out because it wasn’t necessary:
A local flood control district meteorologist with the Office of Emergency Management, Jeff Lindner, told ABC 13 on Friday there would be minimal storm surge impact to Houstonians:
“We do not need people inland evacuating the coast. We don't even need people in the Harris County portion evacuating the coast. We are not going to have that significant of a storm surge in Galveston Bay that you need to leave.”
And CNN reported the local judge in charge of emergency operations supported the decision not to call for an evacuation:
“At this time I can reemphasize there will be no mass evacuations called.”
On Saturday, the mayor was calmly telling reporters they had things well in hand:
And he was still appealing to people to stay off the streets and stay inside:
But by Sunday, the evidence that an evacuation order might have been a good idea began to materialize. It was too late to get out.
Patients at a senior center were sitting in waist-high flood waters waiting for rescue:
And then the tornadoes came:
As the severity of the storm became plain and the flood waters kept rising, there was a surge of calls to 911 lines in the Houston area.
More than 75,000 people called for help in the first couple of days, according to the mayor.
People began to make rescue appeals online:
Heroic rescues became the norm:
CNN reported that because so many stayed behind, the city was "wrestling with a massive effort to find shelter for displaced residents.”
In one night, 1,000 people who stayed behind were rescued as Tropical Storm Harvey continued to pour 30-plus inches of rain.
The mayor was ridiculed for “completely” failing "the city” for his decision:
Still, Turner said Monday during a news conference he made the right decision not issuing any kind of evacuation.
The mayor, who was so sure his city would be spared the storm surge and flooding, now said Monday there was no way to predict an unpredictable and unprecedented storm.
He reiterated it would have been a “nightmare" to have so many thousands of people on the roads at the same time because it would be hard to coordinate:
“You literally cannot put 6.5 million people on the road. If you think the situation right now is bad, you give an order to evacuate, you are creating a nightmare.”
Instead, Houstonians found they were facing another kind of nightmare.
As Houston Rockets player James Harden pointed out, all we can do now is pray.