Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt spent the day handing out truckloads of relief supplies to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey as the online fund he started a week ago reached more than $18 million in donations.
Watt lead a team of volunteers, including several of his teammates, as they spread out over parts of Houston on Sunday to deliver boxes of donated goods.
Ten semi-trailers filled with food, water, clothing, baby products, pet food and cleaning supplies were given out to those hit by the devastating floods.
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt lead a team of volunteers on Sunday as they handed out boxes of relief supplies to those hit by Hurricane Harvey.
Volunteers Anna Ucheomumu and Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt load a car with relief supplies. Ten semi-trailers filled with food, water, clothing, baby products, pet food and cleaning supplies were given out
Watt had started an online fundraising page a week ago when the hurricane first struck with the hope of raising $200,000. As of Sunday, his Houston Flood Relief Fund had surpassed $18 million.
The NFL star said Sunday’s efforts were part of ‘phase one’ and he would ensure the donated funds would be used effectively.
‘Phase two is what’s going to happen with all of the money. Not a single dollar has been spent yet. All 10 semi-trucks were donated… so we haven’t even spent a single cent yet and that’s a testament to the community,’ he said.
It came as crews went door-to-door in parts of western Houston shutting off power on Sunday and warning anyone still in homes that more flooding was possible as engineers relieved pressure on overtaxed city reservoirs.
Some people took a break from their cleanup efforts in the sweltering heat to worship on a declared National Day of Prayer, while others worried about looters and scavengers in storm-ravaged neighborhoods.
Houston officials stressed that the recovery was already beginning despite the renewed flood threat, but an official in the town of Liberty, northeast of the city, said some people in outlying areas there had yet to even return to their homes.
Watt had started an online fundraising page a week ago when the hurricane first struck with the hope of raising $200,000. As of Sunday, his Houston Flood Relief Fund had surpassed $18 million
Volunteer Anna Ucheomumu high fives NFL Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt after loading a car with relief supplies
Elvira Vera jumps out of her car to embrace Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt while he was distributing relief supplies to people impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Houston
Volunteers help unload a truck of relief supplies that were distributed to needy families across Houston on Sunday
Julia FitzGerald helps unload a truck of relief supplies for people impacted by the hurricane
Authorities also warned that fires from a chemical plant rocked by previous blazes and explosions were still a possibility in the suburb of Crosby and residents of nearby Beaumont remained without potable water.
At least 4,700 Houston dwellings were under new, mandatory evacuation orders, though about 300 people were thought to be refusing to leave. The Army Corps of Engineers said the water release is necessary to relieve the Addicks and Barker reservoirs from several feet of rain from Harvey and to create space in case of more.
Mayor Sylvester Turner said anyone staying in already-waterlogged homes were endangering themselves and first responders.
Harvey hit Texas on August 25 as a Category 4 hurricane, but brought the worst flooding to Houston and other communities as a tropical storm. It is blamed for at least 44 deaths.
Still, Turner insisted that much of the nation’s fourth-largest city was hoping to get back on track by Tuesday.
‘The city of Houston is open for business. Anyone who was planning on a conference or a convention or a sporting event or a concert coming to this city, you can still come,’ Turner said on CBS’ Face the Nation.
‘We want you to still come. We can do multiple things at the same time.’
The NFL star tweeted this photo of all the supplies that had been donated in the wake of Hurricane Harvey
JJ Watt tweeted this photo of the 10 semis filled with donated supplies before they distributed them to residents on Sunday
Houston Texans defensive end Christian Covington carries water while distributing relief supplies to people impacted by the hurricane on Sunday
Debris lined a street on Sunday that was flooded in the Hunterwoods Village neighborhood of Houston
A man walks past debris from homes that were flooded by rains from Hurricane Harvey in the Hunterwoods Village neighborhood of Houston
In the southwest Bellaire neighborhood, police received reports of scavengers picking through water-damaged possessions and urged those cleaning up to keep anything left outside to dry closer to their homes and separate from what was considered a total loss.
Repairs continued on the water treatment plant in Beaumont, about 85 miles from Houston, which failed after the swollen Neches River inundated the main intake system and backup pumps halted.
Authorities continued to monitor Crosby’s Arkema plant where three trailers of highly unstable compounds ignited in recent days, sending thick black smoke and tall flames into the air. There were no active fires at the facility on Sunday but six more trailers were being watched.
Floodwaters also have inundated at least five toxic waste Superfund sites near Houston and some may be damaged, though Environmental Protection Agency officials have yet to assess the full extent of what occurred.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union” that the EPA is ‘working on some of them already,’ but ‘they have restraints on their ability to check out some of them just simply because of the water.’
Volunteers Travis Adair, right, and Matt Vinks throw a kitchen sink damaged by floodwaters onto a pile of debris in Spring, Texas
Volunteer Max Stenger, left, helps flood victim Gloria Bancker go through her flooded clothes in Spring, Texas on Sunday
Edward Woods takes a break from cleaning up his mother’s home, which was destroyed by floodwaters in Spring, Texas
The people of West Houston were urged to put their safety first and to flee the area before the water release will continue to keep floods high in about 4,000 homes
Eventually, the rain stopped and the storm moved on to Beaumont, Lake Charles and Port Arthur. Those areas are still at the mercy of the floods. Pictured: Residents hang out in front of homes which are surrounded by floodwater in Orange, Texas
Paul England, Jr. helps Michael Brown, not pictured, move bedroom furniture floating in his flooded home, in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey, in Port Arthur, Texas on Saturday
The city of Houston issued a new mandatory evacuation for inundated homes in West Houston on Saturday ahead of a release of water from the city’s reservoirs and a power cut-off on Sunday
Sunday was declared a day of prayer in Texas by Abbott and across the nation by President Donald Trump. He and the first lady attended services at St. John’s, an Episcopal church in Washington a day after visiting Harvey evacuees in Houston and Louisiana.
Popular televangelist Joel Osteen told his congregation on Sunday that God knew Houston could ‘handle’ the devastating hurricane – as he once again refused to apologize for not opening his multi-million church to flood victims.
‘Quit being upset by something you can handle’, the popular televangelist told his Texas congregation, just days after the hurricane ripped through the state, destroying homes and livelihoods.
‘God never promised we would reach our destination without a battle and without disappointments and without things we don’t understand,’ he added.
Sunday’s service was back to business for Osteen who refused to address the scandal that has surrounded him and Lakewood Church after he failed to immediately open the doors of the Houston megachurch to shelter victims.
The pastor was eventually shamed into opening the church after blistering criticism on social media.
Trump has asked Congress for a $7.9 billion down payment toward Harvey relief and recovery efforts – a request expected to be swiftly approved when lawmakers return to work on Tuesday. Abbott called that a mere ‘down payment’ and suggested the total cost of recovery could be as much as $180 billion.
Pastor Joel Osteen said that God knew Houston could ‘handle’ the devastating Hurricane Harvey during his Sunday service
Parishioners of the Lakewood Church led by Pastor Joel Osteen pray together during the service
Osteen drew criticism after initially not opening the doors of his church to victims of Hurricane Harvey but refused to comment on that on Sunday