President Trump visited Texas and Louisiana on Saturday as flood waters receded in some parts of the storm-ravaged area.
But the situation remained grim in Beaumont.
As the city of 118,000 east of Houston struggled without power or clean running water, fears of more flooding from the Neches River led authorities to evacuate about 1,000 people from Beaumont shelters to Dallas and San Antonio, CNN affiliate KHOU reported.
The river’s water level is nearly 7 feet above the record and is still rising, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a news conference Friday.
“This flooding poses an ongoing threat to Beaumont and the surrounding area,” Abbott said.
The city lost water pressure early Thursday when floodwaters disabled pumps at a water plant.
The good news is that six pumps were delivered Friday from New Orleans, said Jeff Hawk, a spokesman for the US Army Corps of Engineers. The Neches is still too high for engineers to conduct an assessment that’s required before installation, he said, but they hope to do so Saturday.
After officials said they had no timeline on getting running water to residents, people lined up Friday to pick up bottled water distributed by the city.
An estimated 6,000 vehicles came through a distribution point Friday, and the city hopes to set up additional distribution points Saturday.
A few Beaumont residents report having a trickle of water thanks to a temporary fix, but the city is still warning everyone to boil water before using it.
The loss of drinking water has 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. As of Friday, 14 patients were still awaiting evacuation.
A federal official told CNN the US Coast Guard, Texas National Guard and American Airlines combined to rescue nearly 2,100 people in Beaumont.
Trump’s second visit to region
President Donald Trump arrived in Houston around midday Saturday at Ellington Field.
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’s schedule called for him to visit “individuals,” a relief center and members of the Texas congressional delegation.
Trump then arrived in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where he planned to meet some Louisiana lawmakers 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.
Trump will try 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.
It’s Trump’s second trip to the region this week. He plans to return to Washington on Saturday night.
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
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.
On 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.