As Texas continues to reel from the impact of Hurricane Harvey, with even the National Weather Service calling it “unprecedented,” with “all impacts unknown and beyond anything experienced,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston has instructed Catholics in the area to stay safe and not worry about missing Sunday Mass.
DiNardo issued a message to parishioners, which read:
“Your safety and the safety of your loved ones is paramount during this emergency. Please do not be concerned about attending Mass today, and heed the warnings of civil authorities to shelter in place.
“I ask you to join in me in prayer for all those impacted by Harvey,” said DiNardo, who also serves as the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
At least five people were reported dead in and around Houston on Sunday morning, while emergency services workers scrambled to respond to large numbers of distress calls as catastrophic flooding hit the nation’s fourth-largest city with a population in the greater metropolitan area of over 6 million people.
More than 1,000 people were rescued overnight from record flooding in the Houston area, authorities said. Law enforcement agencies advised people trapped in their houses not to take shelter in their attics unless they carried axes so they could break through to their roofs and within sight of rescue workers.
So far, Florida, Virginia and New York have announced plans to dispatch emergency workers and equipment to Texas.
“After Superstorm Sandy, so many cities stepped up to help our people. We’ll do all we can to help those affected by this storm,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Twitter.
So far, at least 250,000 people are believed to be without electricity due to the storm, and observers believe recovery will take a while.
Brock Long, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the recovery effort will take a long time.
“FEMA is going to be there for years,” he said.
Although forecasters say Harvey likely will soon weaken into a tropical depression, warm winds from the Gulf of Mexico mean that the storm will continue to linger for as much as a week, pounding the area with up to twenty inches of rain and triggering what are predicted to be “catastrophic” floods.
Catholic relief organizations have also gone into overdrive, trying to meet the immediate humanitarian needs of people dislodged by the storm before shifting to the reconstruction that will inevitably have to be done.