NEW INFO: Harvey death toll rises to 31

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HOUSTON (AP) - Authorities say they have confirmed six more deaths from Harvey, bringing the toll to at least 31.

Harris County - which is home to flood-ravaged Houston - confirmed the additional deaths Wednesday night and said they still needed to do autopsies on another eight people to see if their deaths were storm-related.

The deaths announced Wednesday included a man who stepped on live electrical wire in floodwaters and an evacuee who was found unresponsive on a charter bus. Most of the other deaths were drownings.

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Authorities in the Houston-area say they are investigating 17 more deaths to see whether they qualify as storm-related.

Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences spokeswoman Tricia Bentley says that the medical examiner is doing autopsies Wednesday and the agency will update its storm-related death toll in the evening.

She says authorities expect to find more bodies in homes and cars as the waters from Harvey begin to recede. The 17 bodies at the morgue do not include the bodies of six relatives found in a van in Houston on Wednesday.

The overall death toll from Harvey is at least 21.

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A sheriff's official north of Houston says two men died this week in separate drownings, bringing the number of confirmed Harvey-related deaths to 20.

Montgomery County sheriff's Capt. Bryan Carlisle said Wednesday that 33-year-old Joshua Feuerstein of Conroe died when he disregarded a barricade and drove his pickup into standing water Monday.

Carlisle says witnesses saw the pickup's reverse lights illuminate, indicating that Feuerstein was attempting to back out of the water. But the pickup was carried into deeper water. The witnesses swam to help, but Carlisle says he was already dead.

Separately, an unidentified man died as he tried to swim across a flooded roadway Monday.

Carlisle says people nearby saw the man sink under the fast-moving water. His body was found a day later in the same area.

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The Texas community of Port Arthur found itself increasingly isolated Wednesday as Harvey’s rains flooded most major roads out of the city and swamped a shelter for victims fleeing the storm that ravaged the Houston area.

The crisis deepened in the coastal city after Harvey rolled ashore overnight for the second time in six days, this time hitting southwestern Louisiana, about 45 miles from Port Arthur.

Jefferson County sheriff’s Deputy Marcus McLellan said he wasn’t sure where the 100 or so evacuees at the civic center in Port Arthur would be sent. Most were perched on bleacher seats to stay dry, their belongings left mostly on the floor under about a foot (30 centimeters) of water, he said.

“People started coming to the shelter on Monday,” McLellan said. “And now it’s just all the rainfall that’s coming in, and there’s a canal by there also that’s overflowing.”

In the Houston area, meanwhile, some sunshine was finally in the forecast after five straight days of rain that totaled close to 52 inches, the heaviest tropical downpour ever recorded in the continental United States. But the crisis was far from over.

At least 18 deaths have been recorded, and authorities fear many more bodies may be found when the floodwaters start receding.

The dead include a former football and track coach in suburban Houston and a woman who died after she and her young daughter were swept into a rain-swollen drainage canal in Beaumont. The child was rescued clinging to her dead mother, authorities said.

Some 13,000 people have been rescued in the Houston area, and more than 17,000 have sought refuge in Texas shelters. With the water still rising in places and many hard-hit areas still inaccessible, those numbers seemed certain to increase, too.

Harvey initially came ashore as a Category 4 hurricane in Texas on Friday, then executed a U-turn and lingered off the coast as a tropical storm for days, inundating flood-prone Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city.

Early Wednesday, Harvey paid a return visit, coming ashore near Cameron, Louisiana, and bringing with it 45 mph winds and a heavy dose of rain.

Houston’s largest shelter housed 10,000 of the displaced — twice its initial intended capacity — and two additional mega-shelters opened Tuesday for the overflow.

Louisiana’s governor offered to take in Harvey victims from Texas, returning a favor done by Houston after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. And televangelist Joel Osteen opened his 16,000-seat Houston megachurch after he was blasted on social media for not acting to help families displaced by the storm.

In an apparent response to scattered reports of looting, Houston imposed a midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew, with police saying violators would be arrested.

Houston has asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for more supplies, including cots and food, for an additional 10,000 people, said Mayor Sylvester Turner.

In Port Arthur, Sheriff Zena Stephens told KFDM-TV that authorities were struggling to rescue residents from the flooding.

Mayor Derrick Freeman posted on his Facebook page: “city is underwater right now but we are coming!” He also urged residents to get to higher ground and to avoid becoming trapped in attics.

Harvey is expected to weaken as it slogs through Louisiana and makes it way northward, with Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri on alert for flooding in the next couple of days.

“Once we get this thing inland during the day, it’s the end of the beginning,” said National Hurricane Center meteorologist Dennis Feltgen. “Texas is going to get a chance to finally dry out as this system pulls out.”

But Feltgen cautioned: “We’re not done with this. There’s still an awful lot of real estate and a lot of people who are going to feel the impacts of the storm.”

Still, the reprieve from the rain in Houston was welcome.

Eugene Rideaux, a 42-year-old mechanic who showed up at Osteen’s Lakewood Church to sort donations for evacuees, said he had not been able to work or do much since the storm hit, so he was eager to get out of his dark house and help.

“It’s been so dark for days now, I’m just ready to see some light. Some sunshine. I’m tired of the darkness,” Rideaux said. “But it’s a tough city, and we’re going to make this into a positive and come together.”

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The death toll from Harvey has risen to at least 18 as three more fatalities have been confirmed in the Houston area.

The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences updated its storm-related deaths Tuesday night to include an 89-year-old woman, Agnes Stanley, who was found floating in four feet of floodwater in a home. A 76-year-old woman was found floating in floodwater near a vehicle. Her name was not released. A 45-year-old man, Travis Lynn Callihan, left his vehicle and fell into floodwaters. He was taken to a hospital, where he died Monday.

Family members and authorities have reported at least 18 deaths although the bodies of some victims apparently swept away in the floodwaters have not been found.


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Harvey has gained a bit of strength but stayed a tropical storm. Its winds increased from 45 mph to 50 mph.

But the National Hurricane Center says that reading Tuesday afternoon may be unusual because it was from a low flying hurricane hunter airplane.

Forecasters say heavy rains are continuing to spread over southeastern Texas and southern Louisiana.

The rains in Cedar Bayou, near Mont Belvieu, Texas, reached 51.88 inches as of 4:30 p.m. That's a record for both Texas and the continental United States but it doesn't quite pass the 52 inches from tropical cyclone Hiki in Kauai, Hawaii, in 1950 (before Hawaii became a state).