A MARTINEZ, HOST:
Houston, Texas, is experiencing a major disaster. Tropical Storm Harvey has dropped waves of heavy rain on the city. It has trapped people in their homes, and dramatic rescues are under way. The storm has claimed at least two lives, and the death toll is expected to rise. NPR's Jeff Brady is in Houston. Jeff, what's happening now?
JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Well, I just talked with NPR producer Marisa Penaloza, and she's at a Red Cross shelter north of downtown Houston. She says there are about 400 people there. The shelter is at capacity, and evacuees are sleeping on the floor. And Marisa - she talked with a 62-year-old man, Raymond Holden (ph), who says he was evacuated at about 2:30 this morning.
RAYMOND HOLDEN: Well, it's fine. Red Cross is doing a very good job of taking care of everyone, getting food, shelter. You know, what more could you ask for?
BRADY: But Marisa told me that that food - it came from McDonald's. And others at the shelter told her that there was no food. And they're getting fed because some police officers actually went to McDonald's and bought a couple hundred dollars' worth of food and brought it to the shelter. Marisa talked with a police captain, who told her that because so many roads are flooded, the Red Cross supply trucks can't get through. So Mr. Holden may be satisfied with his shelter experience, but the situation there could get desperate pretty quickly.
MARTINEZ: Jeff, looking at video from Houston, it's just - it looks unbelievable. I just can't believe what I'm seeing. Looking at the National Weather Service - they're saying that it could have 50 inches of rain in Houston by the time this is all over with. What are you seeing?
BRADY: Right. They were saying 40 inches before. They've increased that to 50 inches. And just looking outside right now, it is raining hard just like it has been all morning. And, sometimes, that rain - it gets so thick it just looks like it's fog out there. Now, as daylight has approached, we've added on top of that tornado warnings. So another thing for folks here to worry about. And, you know, those rescues - they were starting in the middle of the night. And people just woke up and found that there was water in their homes. And they started packing what they could and wading out to safety. Other people got up on their roofs. And there have been dramatic rescues with helicopters. The 911 center was receiving more calls than it could answer. And Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner asked people to call only if water is rushing into their home, and it's a life-threatening emergency.
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SYLVESTER TURNER: If you are stranded in your vehicle, but you are in a safe place or a dry place, let's give preference to those who are in a situation in their home, where water is rising quickly, and they need our assistance - a life-threatening call.
BRADY: Mayor Turner said even if people have water in the house - you know, a couple of inches or maybe almost up to your knee - but their life is not in danger, they should not call now. They need to reserve those lines for people whose lives are threatened.
MARTINEZ: So, Jeff, really more rain on the way? I mean, it just sounds like it's already a back-breaker for that area.
BRADY: It really is. And, I mean, the ground is completely saturated. And this storm, Harvey, is just sitting over the region. And wave after wave after wave of rain is coming through. As you said before, the National Weather Service is now saying up to 50 inches of rain in some places. And they're saying that could last for a couple of days. So I think a lot of people weren't clear that this was how it was going to play out. But this is exactly what the forecasters were predicting. And now it's happening here in Houston.
MARTINEZ: That's NPR's Jeff Brady in Houston. Jeff, thanks a lot.
BRADY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.