Texas Officials Respond To Damage Caused By Tropical Storm Harvey

Aug 27, 2017
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A MARTINEZ, HOST:

We return now to our main story, the torrential rains from Tropical Storm Harvey and flooding in East Texas. Ben Philpott of member station KUT in Austin, Texas, is on the line. Austin is the state capital. Ben, we're hearing that there hasn't been a coordinated response between the governor and local officials. What can you tell us about how they're working together right now?

BEN PHILPOTT, BYLINE: Yeah. There there was some confusion, I guess, maybe on Friday, in terms of evacuation orders - the governor saying that he certainly suggested everyone who could, especially in Houston, get out, while local officials had told people to shelter in place. And, of course, if flooding came in, stay off the roads. You know, now, of course, the coordinated effort is on any kind of rescue attempts. We've got the Coast Guard doing water rescues. We've got hundreds of different swift water boats from across the state that are coming to Houston to pick people up. And, of course, now the mayor is telling people - the mayor - law officials and the mayor - saying, you know, stay in your home. Get on your roof if you have to. If you need to be picked up, we'll come get you.

MARTINEZ: We've been on hold here waiting for the governor to speak, Greg Abbott. Do you have any idea why that's been on hold for a bit?

PHILPOTT: Well, he's just getting a major briefing. You know, his briefing was supposed to have begun around 11:30 local time here. And there's just, you know - again, with with one of the largest cities in the country underwater, there's just a lot to go over. I don't believe that there's anything, you know, beyond that happening now.

MARTINEZ: I know we were supposed to learn lessons after Hurricane Katrina. How have those lessons been applied here?

PHILPOTT: Well, you know, I think the biggest one you see is actually from Hurricane Rita, which hit the Houston area. They had - you know, over 100 people died in that hurricane. And the vast majority of them were attributed to people getting - you know, evacuating the city, people getting stuck on roads, not being able to get out. And so I think that, you know, has led to local officials there in Houston saying, you know, look, it's - you can shelter in space. You know, Houston's not getting, like, crazy hurricane-force winds. They are getting some localized tornadoes. But, you know, flooding is the big issue. And they're just saying, don't try to get out somewhere and get stuck. Stay where you are.

MARTINEZ: Ben, is the storm on the move at this point? Is there any relief in sight?

PHILPOTT: No. It's on the move but not in a way that's going to help anyone, especially Houston. I think the last thing I was told is that it's either kind of just stationary in a position where the vast majority of the water - the rain - is hitting the Houston area. Or it might sink back down into the Gulf a little bit. But then it would come back and hit Houston again. So nothing great right now.

MARTINEZ: That's Ben Philpott of member station KUT in Austin. Ben, thanks a lot.

PHILPOTT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.