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Harvey broke a national rainfall record for a single tropical storm

It’s more than 4 feet of rain.

Epic Flooding Inundates Houston After Hurricane Harvey
 People walk down a flooded street as they evacuate their homes after the area was inundated with flooding from Hurricane Harvey on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Brian Resnick is Vox’s science and health editor, and is the co-creator of Unexplainable, Vox's podcast about unanswered questions in science. Previously, Brian was a reporter at Vox and at National Journal.

In Southeast Houston, a weather station has registered more than 51 inches of rain from Tropical Storm Harvey. The measurement is preliminary, but if confirmed, it will mean Harvey has broken the record for the greatest amount of rain recorded from a single tropical storm or hurricane in the continental United States. It’s more than 4 feet of rain.

The previous record was 48 inches, also set in Texas, during Tropical Storm Amelia in 1978. (52 inches were recorded in 1950 in Hawaii during a cyclone. Harvey could very well beat that record too.)

The record underscores what a catastrophic flooding event Harvey has been. And it’s not over yet. An additional 6 to 12 inches of rain are expected over much of Houston. As of yesterday, Harvey had dumped an estimated 15 trillion gallons over East Texas.

We wondered what 14 to 15 trillion gallons would look like in one giant raindrop. Its size is reminiscent of a mushroom cloud.

Javier Zarracina / Vox

It will be a long while before the extent of the damage in Houston is assessed. But the cleanup and recovery is likely to take years, as FEMA director Brock Long told reporters Sunday. The damage is likely to amount in the tens of billions.

Here’s the current situation.

Roadways are now rivers. Thousands have been rescued from flooding homes, and search efforts are still underway. A total of 12,000 National Guard members have been called into service, and civilians — from in and outside of Texas — have volunteered their boats for search and rescue efforts. More than 30,000 people will need temporary shelter, FEMA announced Monday, and an estimated 450,000 people are likely to seek federal disaster aid. At least 11 people have died in the storm, including a police officer who drowned in a patrol car, authorities report.

And again, it’s important to reiterate: It’s not over yet.

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