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Beaumont, Texas, Expected To Bear The Brunt Of Hurricane Harvey


When Harvey slammed into the Texas coastline as a Category 4 hurricane, that was only the beginning. Now as a tropical storm, it has been flooding the Texas coast and driving people from their homes in Houston and beyond. Harvey is slowly moving eastward, extending its reach into Louisiana. NPR's Debbie Elliott joins us now from Beaumont, Texas, which is to the east of Houston. Hi, Debbie.


SHAPIRO: We've been hearing a lot from Houston. What are conditions like where you are in Beaumont?

ELLIOTT: Well, we've had a lot of flash flood and tornado warnings throughout today, bands of heavy rain that come and go. The winds have really picked up to close to tropical force - tropical storm force. The place is like a ghost town. Most of the businesses are closed. There are some roads that are underwater, some neighborhoods. I saw a few businesses. In an industrial part of town, floodwaters had toppled and rolled some small tanks and barrels. There was an RV sales lot that was swamped.

SHAPIRO: Since people saw what happened in Houston, did they have what felt like some kind of a warning? Are they responding differently? Did they the get out earlier?

ELLIOTT: You know, most people are still staying in their homes and waiting to see what happens. They have taken some precautions, putting up sandbags and the like. But for people who are in the heavier flooded areas, once they saw even a little bit of water, they were getting out. They're fleeing.

I ran into this family today. They were unloading supplies. They had their dog. They had pillows and blankets. And they were at the post office. And Laura Blueford works there, and she had opened the doors and brought in her family. She's from nearby Cheek, Texas, which is a rural area, and says they realized they really had to get out quick today.

LAURA BLUEFORD: Well, we woke up, and my mom house is underwater - every room. And the whole - I've got some pictures - the whole - everything is just full. I mean the whole community in Cheek is - we just tried to get out. It's flooded. And we're afraid it's going to get worse, so we just wanted to get out.

ELLIOTT: Everybody's afraid it's going to get worse. Her elderly mother, Anaballe Fontenot, said the street had turned into a river. I went to check it out. I tried to get into to Cheek to see if anybody was left there. I couldn't get through. Water was rushing over the road.

SHAPIRO: We've heard about the strain on resources in urban areas. In more rural areas like you're describing, what's being done to help people who are displaced from their homes?

ELLIOTT: You know, it's neighbor helping neighbor pretty much. There are some shelters set up, but thus far, they're not full. There's capacity. But statewide, that's the issue. Where's the capacity? You know, FEMA says some 30,000 people are going to need shelter. Now, that's the size of a small city. And because the search and rescue is still very active and underway, that number could grow. There is a plan to move some people to Dallas. In Houston, the convention center is near capacity.

You know, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said today that the state is just starting to come to grips with this. They're trying to save lives now. But sooner or later, they're going to have to address, you know, how to help their fellow Texans with the necessities - food, power, water. The problem is getting the stuff to Houston, getting the stuff through the flooded roads.

SHAPIRO: And the rain is still coming down. What's the forecast for what's going to happen next?

ELLIOTT: You know, the storm is sitting off the coast. It's this drifting around, eventually expected to move into Louisiana, which has already been feeling rain. Here's Governor John Bel Edwards.


JOHN BEL EDWARDS: The worst is yet to come for us in Louisiana. As you all know, we've had more than our fair share of afternoon thunderstorms throughout the summer. And so the rain had already saturated the ground before this event ever started.

ELLIOTT: So, Ari, here we are again - potential for serious flooding. They're really worried about storm surge that would push the rivers and bayous in instead of letting all this rainwater drown - drain out into the Gulf - so another problem.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Debbie Elliott speaking with us from Beaumont, Texas. Thank you, Debbie.

ELLIOTT: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.

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