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Voices Of Houston Evacuees


This morning Harvey was making landfall once again, this time in Louisiana, but the mess and chaos the storm left behind here in the nation's fourth largest city is something meteorologists and experts in natural disasters say they have never seen before. Catastrophic flooding has forced tens of thousands of people into emergency shelters.


The biggest is the Houston Convention Center. There are 10,000 people, about, who were there, double what the Red Cross had planned for. Our reporters at the convention center spent time listening yesterday, listening to people describing the dangerous conditions they braved just to get there.

ERICA BROWN: The helicopter came over my house, and I heard him and he saw me waving the white shirt. And he came on down and he got us in the basket and pulled us up. I was thanking God that they came and got us. I thank God they came and got us from over there before it got any worse.

GREENE: That's Erica Brown (ph). She's 29 years old. She and her four small children arrived Monday. She is thankful to have been rescued, but also frustrated that local 911 services were not responsive.

MARTIN: Emergency teams were having trouble reaching flooded neighborhoods, some of which look like they're submerged under a lake. We also heard from Taisha Kirk (ph) and her friend, Jasmine Johnson (ph).

TAISHA KIRK: Sunday we woke up out of our beds, and the water was on our - above our knee. And we kept calling and calling for help and they never came. So the water got higher and higher. So we went outside to the street and started waving, you know, shirts and stuff and so forth. So we seen the help team coming - the boats and stuff. They said, just follow me, just follow me. So we're in there walking behind them, and water was, you know, above our mouth. So, you know, we had the - the nasty water. We just - they just told us to keep our mouth closed and just walk to the boat. The rescue team came then we ended up here, you know, on buses.

GREENE: Well, Patrick Nelson (ph) and some other men in his neighborhood in northeast Houston started calling 911 on Saturday, but they never received help.

PATRICK NELSON: The community helped the community. They did not come to help us. They did not. When they finally got there, we had already been got out.

MARTIN: But Nelson says he understands that local emergency services were overwhelmed. He thinks the federal government and military could have done more, though.

NELSON: The water was so high. You know, we had infants, babies, pregnant women and everything, dragging them on floats through waves of water. And the trucks are passing us up. The army trucks. Everyone just kept passing us up. No one stopped to pick us up.

GREENE: Some other people in the convention center said that they just had not gotten enough information about the magnitude of this storm and also the risk of riding it out. Toni Valero (ph) and her sister were camping in a hallway along with nine children between their two families.

TONI VALERO: They should have warned us that this flood was going to happen. We didn't have nobody to tell us nothing. It just happened, like - like, a minute. Just everything was gone in, like, less than five minutes. We lost family, friends, pets, you know? We lost our house.

MARTIN: The voices this morning from the packed Houston Convention Center, where more than 10,000 people have sought refuge, and conditions there seem to be deteriorating. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.