Harvey moves into Louisiana with at least 25 dead, 17 missing

Gerard Braud, of Mandeville, La., walks across his front yard near a statue of Mary as the lakefront deals with the strong wind and water effects from Tropical Storm Harvey on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017. (Chris Granger/NOLA The Times-Picayune via AP) Top News

Tropical Storm Harvey spun across southeastern Texas into Louisiana on Wednesday, sending more people fleeing for shelter after swamping Houston with record rains and flooding that killed at least 25 and drove tens of thousands from their homes.

The storm has forced 32,000 people into shelters since coming ashore on Friday as the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in half a century. On Wednesday, it pummeled the coast from Port Arthur, Texas, to Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Harvey weakened to a tropical depression on Wednesday night, the US National Hurricane Center said, but the forecaster warned that “catastrophic and life threatening flooding will continue in and around Houston, Beaumont/Port Arthur, eastward into southwest Louisiana for the rest of the week.”

Among the latest deaths reported were a married couple who drowned while driving through high water near Simonton, Texas, Major Chad Norvell of the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter. The Houston Chronicle identified the victims as Donald and Rochelle Rogers of Katy, Texas.

Houston’s KHOU-TV reported that an infant girl was swept away after her parents got out of their pickup truck near New Waverly, Texas, and tried to carry her across rushing water.

Police in Harris County, home to Houston, said 17 people remained missing.

Busloads of people fleeing floodwaters around Port Arthur arrived in Lake Charles, joining local residents who had already packed into shelters to escape waterlogged homes. About 254,000 homes and businesses were without power in Texas and Louisiana, according to figures from four utilities.

Harvey was forecast to drop a further 3 to 6 inches (7.5-15 cm) of rain on Wednesday, with a storm surge of up to 4 feet (1.2 m) along the western part of Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, although the Houston area was finally expected to get a break with no rain forecast for Thursday or Friday.

The floods shut the nation’s largest oil refinery in Port Arthur in the latest hit to US energy infrastructure that has sent gasoline prices climbing and disrupted global fuel supplies.


Moody’s Analytics is estimating the economic cost from Harvey for southeast Texas at $51 billion to $75 billion, ranking it among the costliest storms in US history.

At least $23 billion worth of property has been affected by flooding from Harvey just in parts of Texas’ Harris and Galveston counties, a Reuters analysis of satellite imagery and property data showed.

“The worst is not yet over for southeast Texas as far as the rain is concerned,” Governor Greg Abbott said.

He warned residents of storm-hit areas to expect floodwaters to linger for up to a week and said the area affected was larger than that hit by 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,800 people in New Orleans, and 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, which killed 132 around New York and New Jersey.

The population of Houston’s metropolitan area is about 6.5 million, far greater than New Orleans’ at the time of Katrina. Abbott asked that the federal government spend more on rebuilding Texas’ Gulf Coast than it did after the earlier storms.

A day after visiting Texas to survey the damage, US President Donald Trump pledged on Wednesday to stand by the people of Texas and Louisiana.

“We are here with you today … and we will be with you every single day after to restore, recover and rebuild,” he said during an appearance in Springfield, Missouri.

The storm made it less likely Trump would act on his threat to shut the federal government over funding for a border wall with Mexico, Goldman Sachs economists said. They now estimate that probability at 35 percent, down from 50 percent previously.

Vice President Mike Pence and several Cabinet secretaries will travel to Texas on Thursday to meet with residents affected by the storm as well as local and state officials, Pence’s press secretary said.


Clear skies in Houston on Wednesday brought relief to the energy hub and fourth-largest US city after five days of catastrophic downpours. The first flight out of Houston since the storm hit had boarded, city officials said on Wednesday evening. Mayor Sylvester Turner said he hoped the port of Houston would reopen soon.

But disruptions lingered and even some of the people helping evacuees in Houston said they had lost their homes.

Even those who safely evacuated found further suffering as floodwaters inundated part of Port Arthur’s Bob Bowers Civic Center, forcing evacuees into the bleachers.

A shelter in Lake Charles was bracing for about 1,500 people rescued from floods by the US Coast Guard, said Angela Jouett, who is running the shelter.

Among them was Jacelyn Alexander, 41, who woke up at 4 am when her neighbor in an Orange, Texas, apartment complex warned her the building was flooding. She flagged a rescue boat and escaped.

“I can’t move. I’m wet and tired. I’m trying to find my family,” said Alexander, who last spoke with her parents early in the morning when her father told her by phone he had declined a rescue.

Disputes flared at some shelters, with at least one arrest reported.

Harvey made landfall for a third time early on Wednesday, and was about 50 miles (80 km) north of Lake Charles, near the Texas border at 4 p.m. CDT (2100 GMT), the US National Hurricane Center said.

Texas officials said close to 49,000 homes had suffered flood damage, with more than 1,000 destroyed. Some 195,000 people have begun the process of seeking federal help, FEMA said. The nation’s largest refinery, Valero Energy Corp’s facility in Port Arthur was shut, according to sources familiar with plant operations.

The storm has shut about one-quarter of US fuel production, sending gasoline futures surging to a two-year high on Wednesday. Royal Dutch Shell sent staff back to the Perdido oil and gas platform in the US Gulf of Mexico to begin to restart production.

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What Dara Khosrowshahi must do to save Uber

span.p-content div[id^=div-gpt] { line-height: 0px; font-size: 0px;} Uber’s board has picked Dara Khosrowshahi, leader of the online travel company Expedia, to replace the embattled chief executive, But the company’s troubles run deeper than Mr. Kalanick’s flubs and scandals, and new leadership alone won’t be able to right this distressed ship.
If Mr. Khosrowshahi is to succeed, he’ll have to do what his predecessor refused to do: confront the reality that Uber’s business model simply doesn’t work.
While has become popular as a taxi company for the digital age, and has been valued at nearly $70 billion — more than Ford, G.M. or — the company has been losing money faster than any technology company ever. It lost nearly $3 billion in 2016 (plus another billion or two in China), and it has already lost over $1.3 billion in the first half of 2017.
The dirty little secret of Silicon Valley is that seven out of 10 venture-backed start-ups fail because they never become profitable. The company Mr. Khosrowshahi will take over is on track to becoming one of those failures.
That’s in part because has never figured out how to offer taxi service at a lower price and still earn a profit. Consequently, it has become stuck in a trap, using its venture capital funding to subsidize at least 50 percent of every ride to cut fares and try to gain a monopoly position that can drive the competition out of business. As a result, the more customers use Uber, the greater into debt it goes.
can subsidize rides for only so long. At some point, investors want a return on their money. They want to get to the stage where they can profit from the company’s I.P.O., or they turn off the spigot. is standing at that precipice. More than anything, that’s what the recent revolt by board members has been about. Uber’s initial investors and board members were willing to look the other way as scandal after scandal erupted because the business model seemed to be on track. But now some investors are publicly saying is worth far less than $70 billion, and the board is offering shares to new investors at a discount.
These are troubling signs. Every start-up must one day fulfill the market’s demand that it turn a profit, but has never figured out how to do that. While ride sharing in some form will probably survive, it’s more likely that without some drastic changes, won’t be around in three to five years.
Mr. Khosrowshahi must avoid the mistakes of his predecessor by accepting that “pivots” (Silicon Valley-speak for the desperate changes troubled make to reassure their venture capitalist funders) are not the answer. None of the pivots Mr. Kalanick tried — like on-demand delivery of food and packages through UberEats and UberRush, packing in more passengers via UberPool, and expansions into China, India and Russia — improved the bottom line.
Why? Because none introduced efficiencies or changed the basic underlying economics of the taxi industry, the way Amazon did with retail by getting rid of brick-and-mortar stores through online sales.
Confronted with this reality, a desperate Mr. Kalanick set his sights on deleting drivers and their wages from the expense sheet through the development of autonomous vehicles. But it is increasingly clear that this is another huge gamble that cannot win, at least not in time to save itself. Most experts (including those previously bullish on self-driving technology, such as the editors of The Economist magazine) have recognized that autonomous vehicles are at least 20 years from fruition. We will continue to see various experiments, and autonomous service vehicles used in very limited settings, but Mr. Kalanick’s promise of a self-driving transportation grid dominated by is pure science fiction.
Uber’s only chance to survive at this point is to actually make its taxi business work. If he’s to have any chance of doing that, Mr. Khosrowshahi will need to make major changes.
First, he should parlay Uber’s popularity among its users into a significant increase in fares.
Second, he should follow the recommendations of Eric H. Holder Jr., the former attorney general, to root out the company’s destructive “bro culture.”
Third, he should find a way to repair Uber’s poor relationship with its drivers, since the company will need them for a good while longer. One study found that only 4 percent of people who sign up to drive for are still driving a year later. burns through drivers as fast as it burns through its investors’ cash.
Fourth, Mr. Khosrowshahi should drop foolhardy futurist ideas like self-driving or self-flying vehicles (the latter was Mr. Kalanick’s latest brain storm) that have no chance of success in the near future and are a waste of resources and attention span.
Fifth, he should shut down Uber’s foreign operations everywhere except London, where it has had a degree of success.
Finally, he should head off the coming backlash over urban congestion by cooperating more with local officials to use the company’s tracking technology to reduce the horrible traffic (much of it caused by and its competitor Lyft) that is plaguing cities. That would mean sharing driver data so cities can track traffic flows and create congestion zones like the ones in London and Stockholm.
If Mr. Khosrowshahi follows this blueprint, the company has a chance of surviving. If not, will burn through its remaining estimated $6.6 billion in cash and go out of business in three to five years, and he’ll be its final chief executive. ©2017 The New York Times News Service

Hurricane Harvey: Indian-American doctors form relief fund for victims

Volunteer rescue boats make their way into a flooded subdivision to rescue stranded residents as floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey rise in Spring, Texas. (Source: AP/PTI) Related News

Indian-American doctors have started a relief fund to help those affected by the catastrophic floods brought by Hurricane Harvey in the US state of Texas. “Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas with severe winds and flash flooding. This serious natural disaster inflexed a grave loss of lives and property. Our hearts are with the victims of the disaster,” said Gautam Samadder, president of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI).

He said some AAPI members and their families in Texas have also been hit by Harvey. The amount collected through donations will be given to the governor of Texas.

AAPI physicians represent 10 percent of all physicians in America but service approximately 30 percent of the patients in the country, Samadder said. He said the AAPI is concerned about the devastation caused by Harvey and is in the forefront to support and help people affected by the historic storm.

He called upon his fellow physicians to offer help for the purpose. “At this time of the need, it is our responsibility to provide all the possible assistance to the victims of this grave natural disaster in Texas. Our physicians in Texas will serve the victims at no charge for next the 2-4 weeks,” Samadder said.

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US Coast Guard reopens some Texas ports with restrictions

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The United States Coast Guard on Wednesday said the ports of Houston, Texas City, Galveston and Freeport have been reopened with restrictions on vessel traffic after they were closed due to storm Harvey. All vessel traffic is limited to daylight hours, it said in a statement.

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Harvey floods US refineries, roils global fuel markets

Floodwaters from the San Jacinto River inundate condominiums in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017, in Kingwood. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP) Related News

Tropical Storm Harvey inflicted more damage on the heart of the US energy industry on Wednesday, churning into Louisiana after flooding the biggest US refinery in Texas, causing major fuel pipelines to Midwest and East Coast markets to suspend operations and threatening to squeeze supplies across the country for weeks.

Benchmark US gasoline prices and margins surged to two-year highs as Colonial Pipeline, the biggest US fuel system, said it would shut its main lines to the Northeast by Thursday due to outages at its pumping points and lack of supplies from refiners.

At least two East Coast refineries have already run out of gasoline for immediate delivery as they scrambled to fill barges to markets typically supplied by the Gulf Coast, two refinery sources said. Others were seen operating at higher rates in order to boost profitability by meeting supply shortages.

The Explorer Pipeline, which has a capacity of 660,000 barrels a day (bpd), said it shut its main fuel line from Houston to Tulsa, Oklahoma as supplies dwindled.

Refinery damage from Harvey has driven gasoline futures prices up nearly 20 percent over the past week, and prices at the pump are rising too, particularly in the US South. More refineries could close now that Harvey has made landfall in Louisiana, where refiners can produce 3.3 million barrels per day.

The Gulf accounts for nearly half of total US refining capacity. As the United States is the world’s largest net exporter of refined petroleum products, effects of the disaster are starting to ripple through global flows.

Traders in Europe and Asia were working to reroute cargoes to the United States and Latin America to fill the gap left by refining and shipping closures in the Gulf.

The outages and limited supplies have hit wholesalers. The premium for Chicago-area gasoline above benchmark futures is at the highest since June 2016, while the Gulf Coast price is at its widest above futures since August 2012.

About 4.4 million barrels of US refining capacity have been shut by Harvey, based on company reports and Reuters estimates. That is about 24 percent of US refining capacity and almost equal to the national daily consumption of Japan.

That includes the biggest US refinery, Motiva’s Port Arthur facility, which can handle more than 600,000 barrels a day. Portions of the refinery were flooded after more than a foot of rain dropped overnight.

Other Port Arthur refineries also shut overnight, including Total’s plant, where sources familiar with operations said they expected water to recede by the weekend.

“The refineries shut down as a precaution might be able to restart. The others in a worst-case scenario could take weeks and months to repair,” said Antoine Halff, director of Global Oil Markets at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.

More rain fell on the area in the last 24 hours than any other part of the region since the storm began last week, according to David Roth, meteorologist at the US Weather Prediction Center.

The coast took a step forward and a step back on Wednesday. Refiners further south on the Texas coast, including Marathon’s Galveston Bay, were beginning restarts, while Citgo’s 425,000 bpd Lake Charles refinery, on the Louisiana coast in the path of the storm, cut capacity in half.


Restarts after a storm are especially dangerous for refiners, though the Corpus Christi area received much less rain than the Houston metro area.

“The continued increase in flooding creates high uncertainty on the amount of damage that U.S. refineries will incur, the pace at which the shutdown will reverse and the magnitude of capacity that will be impaired over the next few months,” Goldman Sachs analysts wrote in a note.

They added that they would expect about 10 percent of what is currently offline would stay shut for several months.

Just last week, refiners pushed output to their highest percentage of capacity since 2005 as gasoline demand hit an all-time weekly record of 9.85 million barrels, according to US Energy Department data on Wednesday.

Gasoline futures gained 7 percent on Wednesday alone. Refinery shutdowns and fuel shortage worries have also boosted retail fuel prices, particularly in the US South and Southwest.

Overnight, the AAA said retail gasoline prices were up 6 cents from a week ago at $2.404 per gallon of regular gasoline nationwide. Some states, like Georgia, have seen prices rise as much as 12 cents a gallon. In addition, shale production has been sharply curtailed in the Eagle Ford region of Texas due to the storm.

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