HOUSTON - Mayor Sylvester Turner asks residents who have water in their homes west of Gessner Road and north of Interstate 10 to evacuate, saying their homes could remain flooded for up to 15 days.
He says the voluntary evacuations could ease a strain on emergency services.
"If you are living in houses with water in areas to the west of Gessner… I'm going to encourage you in the strongest of terms to leave your homes, OK – because things are not going to change over the next 10 to 15 days," Turner said.
The first reason, the mayor said, is "just for your own safety."
"No. 2, it will relieve the stress on many of these first responders, firefighters, and police officers, who are in the area," he said. "They want to make sure that you are safe. From time to time, they are being asked to provide you with water and with food, and they certainly have been doing that. But it is creating an increasing strain on our first responders when we are asking them to cover the entire 640 square-miles, when they are now in the process of going door-to-door."
Turner said he visited with City Council Member Greg Travis, who represents the area, and said he's in agreement with this request that people leave their homes.
The mayor said he wanted to make the request while there's plenty of daylight left Friday.
Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña followed Turner at the podium and floodwater in the home "is a hazardous situation."
"There's dangers of electrocution, dangers of structural compromise. It is not a safe place to remain," Peña said. "If you are on a second or third floor of a complex that has water 4 feet, 5 feet five on the first floor, that is not a safe environment, and we encourage you to evacuate."
In certain places, they may need to shut off electricity, he added.
The fire chief said "it's not a mandatory evacuation," but residents are "strongly encouraged" to seek alternate places to stay for the next two weeks.
Turner told assembled media, "I understand many of these homes that we are talking about did not flood from the direct rainfall from Hurricane Harvey, and for many people in these homes… they will tell you these homes have never flooded. These homes are now taking on water because of the release from the reservoir, and in talking with the [Army] Corps of Engineers, they are, too, making it very clear that they are in a sense obligated to release the water and obviously provide additional capacity on the west side of the reservoir. So, that's the reason why they're having to do it."
Based on the corps' manual, they'd have to do so for another 10-15 days, assuming there's no additional heavy rain, the mayor said.
Police Chief Art Acevedo followed up by saying, "I just want to echo what the mayor and the fire chief have stated: It's just not practical. We cannot spend the next 14, 15, 16 days being a water taxi service when we still have so much work to do from a public safety standpoint."
For those who are afraid to leave their homes, he said police have a lot of aircraft helping them to keep an eye on neighborhoods.
"Our crime rates are lower than on a regular evening," Acevedo said. "We're not seeing widespread looting. One of the directions, again, that … Mayor Turner gave us is that we are not to tolerate any type of victimization of our community."
Citing a reciprocated love between the community and first responders, he added, "Now, we're going to ask you: Do not place us at risk."
This is a developing story, and it will be updated. Stay with FOX 26 News for more details!