Veteran Houston police officer drowned responding to flooding, officials say


HOUSTON - The remnants of deadly Hurricane Harvey menaced Texas and Louisiana alike on Tuesday, while a reservoir west of downtown Houston spilled over for the first time in its history due to record-shattering rainfall.

President Trump arrived in Texas on Tuesday to survey the ongoing devastation, while storm clouds continued a drenching onslaught that has already dropped more than three feet of rain in some areas. Trump's visit, following his pledge of swift action by the federal government to provide relief to states affected by Harvey, comes on the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall in Louisiana.

Yet even as Houston officials struggled to determine the extent of the tragedy, authorities there said the toll had hit close to home. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said Tuesday that Sgt. Steve Perez, 60, a veteran officer, drowned Sunday while driving on duty in the floodwater.

"He laid down his life," Acevedo said during a briefing Tuesday afternoon. "He was a sweet, gentle public servant."

Police officers in the city have rescued more than 3,500 people so far amid Harvey's flooding, Acevedo said. But the storm's impact remained unclear, as the Houston mayor said officials are "still trying to assess" how many people are missing.

Trump's visit Tuesday came to a state still figuring out the storm's toll. The death toll had risen to at least 15 people by Tuesday afternoon, officials said, but they warned it could rise as authorities pursue reports of people apparently lost in the torrential downpours unleashed by Harvey since Friday.

Lashing rain continued to pound Houston on Tuesday, falling on people who desperately sought groceries or trudged through water in search of shelter. The streets downtown were littered with abandoned cars, and almost no stores appeared to be open, though people said they needed food and supplies.

Outside a Kroger grocery store in southwest Houston, dozens of people had lined up hours before the store opened. Another crowd had lined up outside Fiesta, a nearby grocery store, where the line grew so long that store officials were limiting how many people they let inside.

"Meat," said Morgan Lewis, 23, who was first in line at Kroger at 7:30 a.m. "I need some meat. I'm tired of eating sandwiches."

The National Weather Service reported that more than 42 inches of rain has already fallen in Houston due to Harvey. Some parts of Louisiana have also seen more than a foot of rain, and flash flood warnings and watches were in effect for much of the Lake Charles region as the rain is expected to continue. New Orleans was under a tornado and flash flood watch until Thursday.

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