(Bloomberg) -- Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner opened the city’s downtown convention center to residents fleeing record flooding as he defended his decision not to order an evacuation before Hurricane Harvey slammed ashore.
“You can’t put 2.3 million people on the road,” Turner said during a media briefing on Sunday.
The mayor of the fourth-largest U.S. city said the George R. Brown Convention Center will be available to shelter those forced out of their homes by rising water. All public transit was shut down and the city’s school system announced on Twitter that classrooms will be closed for the entire week.
Houston was paralyzed by Sunday morning after as much as 19 inches (48 centimeters) of rain triggered widespread flooding that impacted every major roadway and numerous residential areas. Motorists have been stranded on freeways for hours because off-ramps were inundated, while neighborhoods normally immune to storm-induced flooding were under several feet of water.
Turner said a total evacuation of Houston before Harvey made landfall more than 100 miles south of the city on Friday night would have been impossible and probably would have resulted in disaster.
The city dispatched 39 dump trucks around the city to snatch flood victims from the water, he said. Turner urged homeowners to resist the temptation to flee into attics if their homes become flooded, saying they may only become trapped.