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Prepare here, but don’t forget Houston

The flooding in Houston, the country’s fourth largest city, is almost unbelievable. If not for the photos and videos showing the magnitude of Harvey’s damage, it would be.

Outside of Houston, the story is the same. Smaller cities and rural areas that don’t make the news are also covered in water.

Mississippi residents have seen hurricane flooding before, but not on this scale.

Rainfall estimates range anywhere from 2 to 4 feet. That’s an incredible amount of water in such a short period of time, especially for a city that sits in a swamp. And while forecasters fear more rain is in store for Texas, it appeared things were looking better for Houston late Tuesday. Only 2 to 3 more inches were expected as the storm headed east, toward Louisiana and Mississippi.

Other parts of Texas could still see another 6 to 12 inches of rain. As much as 4 to 6 inches is expected in Southwest Mississippi.

Houston will be the face of Harvey, and how the city and its emergency services respond will define how this storm is remembered. City officials there opted not to issue a mandatory evacuation. They feared more would die in a mass exodus from the city than the rainfall would kill.

With the death toll at fewer than 20 late Tuesday, they may be correct. But officials fear many more dead will be found once flood waters recede.

Aside from the sheer magnitude of the flooding, the other striking thing about this disaster has been the response from volunteers. Once Houston emergency officials realized they didn’t have the boats and manpower to adequately respond, they put out a call for help. And volunteers responded with bass boats, jon boats, canoes, just about anything that floats.

These private citizens put their lives on the line to rescue those stranded and trapped in flooded homes. Images of a flotilla of rescue boats floating down a Houston highway are both heart-warming and terrifying.

Here in Mississippi, we feel helpless as we watch thousands flee to shelters. Officials have told Mississippians to stay put, to not travel to Texas as volunteers at this point. Doing so might further tax an overwhelmed emergency response effort. So what can we do? We can donate money, food, clothing — even blood. As we prepare for what Harvey might bring to our part of the state, don’t forget those in Houston who have lost everything.

Here are some reliable ways to donate to make sure hurricane victims get your help:

• The American Red Cross — Visit RedCross.org or call 800-RED-CROSS; or you can text HARVEY to 90999 to donate $10.

• AmeriCares — Visit Help.AmeriCares.org to donate for medicine and supplies.

• The Salvation Army — Visit Give.SalvationArmyUSA.org or call 800-SAL-ARMY or text STORM to 51555.

• AABB.org coordinates blood collection efforts. Type O-positive is the most in-demand. To donate blood you can contact AABB at 301-907-6977, Armed Services Blood Program at 703-681-5979 or the American Red Cross.

• To help animals, visit the website of the Houston Human Society or the San Antonio Humane Society.

• The Texas Diaper Bank in San Antonio is asking for donations of diapers and wipes, which can be mailed to 5415 Bandera Road, Suite 504, San Antonio, TX 78238.