Hurricane Harvey: Harris County bats down false, viral storm assessment

Harris County officials are batting down false information making the rounds from a Sugar Land lawyer, warning people not to fall for online hysteria.

The false information, in an email from the address of lawyer Ross Bale, indicated officials believed the approaching Hurricane Harvey could be far more devastating than first estimated.

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Within minutes of the rumor gaining traction, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett had batted it down and spoken to the email’s author, telling him to leave the emergency warnings to Emmett and other officials.

A representative from the law firm told Chron.com that the email was inaccurate. Asked if the entire email was fabricated, the representative declined to comment.

County officials said they are making all the reasonable precautions as the storm advances. Those preparations are not based on forecasts of 15-to-20 inches of rain or even double that amount, Emmett spokesman Joe Stinebaker said.

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“There’s no number,” he said. “All you can do is be prepared for unheard of amounts of rain.”

Mayor Sylvester Turner also encouraged residents to follow mainstream news organizations, the National Weather Service and the Office of Emergency Management for updates on the storm. 

“False forecasts and irresponsible rumors on social media are interfering with efforts by the city of Houston, and its government and news media partners, to provide accurate information to the public about the expected effects of Tropical Storm/Hurricane Harvey,” Turner said in a statement.

“Rumors are nothing new, but the widespread use of social media has needlessly frightened many people today.”

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