As Texas Begins Long Recovery, Pets Caught by Harvey Find Shelter Out of State

Experts estimate some 60,000 to 70,000 household pets died in the wake of hurricane Katrina in 2005

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Dogs rescued from floodwater wait to be transferred to a shelter after torrential rains pounded Southeast Texas following Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey causing widespread flooding on September 3, 2017 in Orange, Texas.
Dogs rescued from floodwater wait to be transferred to a shelter after torrential rains pounded Southeast Texas following Harvey causing widespread flooding on September 3, 2017Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP

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The damage Harvey wrought on Texas is testing the state's infrastructure like never before, challenging regulators, politicians and others on several fronts in the hurricane's aftermath. A look at what's happening:

Dirty water

Experts say wastewater treatment plants sprawled across Houston and Southeast Texas are facing unprecedented challenges , with ramifications for human safety and the environment well after the floodwaters eventually recede.

There have been several dozen sewer overflows, private septic tanks in rural areas could fail and the system also faces contamination from spilled fuel, waste site runoff, lawn pesticides and pollutants from petroleum refineries and chemical plants.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Sunday that of the 2,300 water systems contacted by federal and state regulators, 1,514 were fully operational. More than 160 systems issued notices advising people to boil water before drinking it, and 50 were shut down.

Politics of disaster relief

The demand for federal disaster relief funds comes as the Treasury Department has been using various accounting measures to cover expenses because the debt limit has already been reached.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday that Congress should combine a $7.9 billion disaster relief package for Harvey with an increase in the nation's $19.9 trillion borrowing limit. Before Harvey, Mnuchin had said Congress would need the limit to be raised by Sept. 29 to let the government keep borrowing money to pay bills such as Social Security and interest.

"Without raising the debt limit, I'm not comfortable that we would get the money that we need this month to Texas to rebuild," Mnuchin said.

President Donald Trump expressed hope for quick action on relief aid when he visited storm-ravaged areas over the weekend. The aid request would add $7.4 billion to Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster aid and $450 million to finance disaster loans for small businesses.

Preaching to pain

Each day is now a flurry for a church of unconventional priests perhaps made for this unconventional time.

At the Catholic Charismatic Center south of downtown Houston, the Rev. Mark Goring is in a race to help meet spiritual and material needs at a time when people who come in are searching for all kinds of help.

The lobby of the church is a swarm of volunteers at tables full of donations for the storm's victims. Meanwhile, he bounces from the church to the community center to the streets, looking for signs of need so he can send teams of volunteers to help.

Pets displaced by hurricane Harvey are finding new homes across the U.S.

He understands how Harvey's suffering can cause people to lose faith - he decided to become a priest only once he returned to religion after renouncing his Catholic faith as a teen, declaring himself an atheist.

Displaced pets

Their owners in Houston didn't want to give them up, but felt they had no choice. Hurricanes often take a dire toll on residents' pets, CNN estimated that in the wake of hurricane Katrina in 2005 some 60,000 to 70,000 dead household pets.

So volunteers from PAWS Chicago drove three vans with 43 cats and dogs about 1,000 miles (about 1,600 kilometers) to give the pets new homes, according to the Chicago Sun-Times .

Volunteer Mark Lukas says the owners were tearful but happy the animals would find shelter.

Want to help? Here's how

Charities and philanthropy experts say the best way to help during times of disaster is to send money directly through a website.

That gets the funds to charity faster than a text donation, even though the text might seem easier. And while sending clothes and other supplies can be a natural urge, household items can complicate and hinder relief efforts, experts say.

The U.S. Center for Disaster Information says unsolicited goods generally compete with priority items for transportation and storage.