Nearly 2,100 people in the Texas city have been relocated in Harvey aftermath
HOUSTON — Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Saturday he’s ordering nearly 300 west Houston residents who’ve stayed in flooded homes to evacuate, starting at 7 a.m. CT Sunday.
As part of this order, the CenterPoint Energy utility will turn off power to those inundated homes at that time, Turner said.
Turner said he’s ordering the evacuation in part out of concern for the safety of firefighters, who would have trouble responding to emergencies in inundated areas.
Workers in the Texas city of Beaumont on Saturday scrambled to restore water service eight days after deadly Hurricane Harvey struck, as President Trump visited flood victims and relief workers in Texas and Louisiana.
While floodwaters are receding, Beaumont, a city of 118,000 east of Houston, still was dealing with floods well above record stage and an interruption of water service that stretched into its third day Saturday.
“This flooding poses an ongoing threat to Beaumont and the surrounding area,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a news conference Friday.
The city lost water pressure early Thursday when floodwaters disabled two pumps that send water to a treatment plant. By Saturday evening, workers had installed six temporary pumps, again sending water to the plant.
Service could resume soon, but even when it does, people should boil the water they intend to consume until further notice, the city said.
“There will be periodic interruptions in water service as well as changes in water pressure throughout the plant start-up process,” the city said in a news release.
The tap water outage, which prompted city officials to begin distributing bottled water to residents Friday, was just one headache for a community struggling with a severely flooded Neches River.
The river began receding Friday evening but still was about 16 feet above flood stage and 7 feet above record level late Saturday morning.
The US Coast Guard, Texas National Guard and American Airlines combined to rescue and relocate nearly 2,100 people in Beaumont, a federal official told CNN. At one point late this week, the rising river persuaded officials to move about 1,000 people from Beaumont shelters to Dallas and San Antonio, KHOU reported.
The loss of drinking water forced an evacuation of patients from Beaumont’s Baptist Hospital. Patients in intensive care, including 11 babies born prematurely and three other newborns, were airlifted or taken out of the city by ambulance.
Trump’s second visit to region
President Donald Trump arrived in Houston around midday Saturday at Ellington Field — his second trip to Texas in a week.
Traveling with the President were first lady Melania Trump, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and White House chief of staff John Kelly.
Speaking briefly with reporters as he toured a Harvey relief center in Houston at NRG stadium, Trump said, “Really, I think people appreciate what’s been done. It’s been done really efficiently, really well and that’s what we want. I’m very happy with the way it’s been going.”
He continued, “As tough as this was, it’s been a wonderful thing, I think, even for the country to watch, even for the world to watch. It’s been beautiful. Have a good time everybody, I’m going to be doing a little bit of help over here.”
Trump then went to Lake Charles, Louisiana, where he met with Louisiana politicians as well as members of the National Guard and Cajun Navy, a grass-roots group that came together after Hurricane Katrina and has helped Texans in Harvey’s aftermath.
“It was an honor to meet him,” said Ben Husser, a Cajun Navy member. “I’m glad to know that he cares enough to come down here and spend time with the people in this area that were devastated and were affected by this storm. It means a lot.”
Trump is trying to reassure those in need that federal resources will be there as they begin rebuilding. The administration on Friday asked Congress for $7.85 billion in disaster relief funding as part of an initial request for funds.
Saturday, Trump made additional assistance available by authorizing an increase in the level of federal funding for debris removal and emergency protective measures.
Major damage at schools
The Houston Independent School District is scrambling to recover from the storm.
Harvey and its aftermath caused so much damage that 10,000 to 12,000 students will have to move temporarily to new schools, the district said Saturday in a series of tweets.
The hurricane delayed the first day of school this week.
Houston superintendent vows schools will be ready to open on September 11
Superintendent Richard Carranza told CNN’s “New Day” on Friday that school would start September 11.
But it’s possible the opening will have to come later to avoid putting children “in harm’s way,” the district said Saturday via Twitter.
Many of its schools suffered major damage. The district has looked at 245 of its schools so far, and of those, 115 will be deep-cleaned and ready for classes to start September 11, the district’s Chief Operating Officer Brian Busby said.
With 218,000 students, the district is the largest in Texas and the seventh-largest in the country.
Chemical plant fire
Fires broke out over two days at a chemical plant near Houston that was flooded by Harvey, and authorities said they expect more fires. Three containers burned since Thursday at the Arkema site in Crosby after Harvey’s floodwaters knocked out equipment used to keep the plant’s volatile chemicals cool, Harris County Assistant Fire Chief Bob Royall said.
Officials decided to let the remaining six containers catch fire and burn out rather than endanger firefighters, the US Environmental Protection Agency and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said in a joint statement.
Hundreds of evacuees from Port Arthur and Beaumont are taking humanitarian evacuation flights to Dallas, where more than 9,000 evacuees are being sheltered.
Death toll hits 50
At least 50 people have died from the storm, including a high school football coach and a family of six whose van was swept away by floodwaters.
Other statistics only begin to hint at the scope of the punishing deluge and what the months of recovery will entail:
- About 27 trillion gallons of rain fell on Texas and Louisiana over six days.
- More than 72,000 people have been rescued.
- About 10% of the structures in Harris County were flooded, the county says.
Ahead of Trump’s visit, Houston’s mayor made a plea to the federal government: Advance money and other assistance quickly.
“We need immediately, right now, just for debris removal alone, anywhere between $75 million to $100 million,” Mayor Sylvester Turner told CNN’s “New Day” on Friday.
“We need housing assistance. We need an army of FEMA agents on the ground to be assisting people, not just in shelters, but (also) people who are in their homes, so we can get them financial assistance they need (so) they can start transitioning.”
After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, $5.8 billion in individual assistance money was given to nearly 916,000 people affected by those storms.
The Texas governor said that more than 440,000 people have registered for emergency assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has approved $79 million to help victims of the storm.
Trump personally plans to donate $1 million to help storm victims, according to the White House.
As the government works to help those affected by Harvey, Hurricane Irma, is looming in the Atlantic as a threat to Caribbean islands — and potentially, by next week, to the United States.
Houston mayor: Leave your homes
After living nearly a week in a flooded home, Isaac Davila left his Barker Cypress neighborhood in Houston on Friday to get food and supplies for his family.
“We have electricity and we got running water, but everybody is afraid to leave because of the looters,” said Davila, 41.
He is among an uncounted number of people who have managed to stay in their homes despite the floodwaters.
While the rate of rescues has slowed in Houston, firefighters and other emergency personnel are going door to door looking for those in flooded homes who may need aid.
Friday, the mayor urged west Houston residents whose dwellings were inundated to evacuate their homes.
Authorities have said floodwaters are not expected to recede completely in Houston for 10 to 15 days.