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Southeast Texas Suffers From Catastrophic Flooding

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It is likely to be another difficult day in and around Houston, Texas. Overnight, officials there worked to clear freeways and abandoned vehicles after Tropical Storm Imelda reversed course and hit Houston and southeast Texas for a second time. Michael Marks is a reporter with the Texas Standard, and he joins us from the outskirts of Houston this morning. Michael, thanks for being here.

MICHAEL MARKS: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: I understand it's been really tough for you to actually get to the parts of this area of Texas that have been hard hit by the flooding. Where do things stand right now?

MARKS: Yeah, that's right. So I'm actually in Cypress, which is a suburb northwest of Houston. So I'm fairly close to areas of Houston that flooded, not that close to the rural areas to the west that were really profoundly affected, those places that got over 40 inches of water dumped on them in less than 48 hours.

When I tried to get there yesterday, the roads were just absolutely impassible. It wasn't logistically possible for me to get there. So today, people are waiting for the water to recede, and I'm one of them.

MARTIN: Yeah. So we are hearing these reports about chaotic evacuations, that people just seem to have been caught off guard by this. What are you hearing?

MARKS: I spent some time yesterday at a gas station in Katy, which is just west of Houston, talking to people who were fleeing from the storm. One of those folks was a man named Edgar Aloman (ph). He was driving west from his home in southeast Houston with nine kids. Here's part of what he told me about that journey.

EDGAR ALOMAN: We left early, like around 1:00, 12:00. But we're stuck in traffic this whole time. We barely made it out here.

MARKS: And I was speaking to him at about 4:30 in the afternoon. It took him that long just to get through Houston traffic...

MARTIN: Wow.

MARKS: ...Since there were so many road closures. They were on their way to San Antonio. They were going to stay with his wife's family. He said the day started normally - kids had gone to school, he was running errands. And he gets this call, you know? You need to come pick up your kids.

So he did, takes them back to the house. And that's when he finds 5 inches of water inside his home. They just grabbed some bottled water and a few sets of clothes for each kid. They don't know when they're going to be coming back to Houston.

MARTIN: So have you been able to hear from first responders, anyone giving, like, the government response here? What's the biggest challenge on that front?

MARKS: So initially, I think the biggest challenge was the speed with which this storm hit. You know, officials knew it was coming, but the quickness and the intensity, I think, caught a lot of people off guard. A local paper, the Beaumont Enterprise, they described it as a sucker punch, which I think is accurate.

So the immediate emergency response was the challenge. Now the task is going to be how to best support these people who are going to have to make repairs to their home or their business or start over entirely. Unfortunately, that's not a new job for a lot of people in this part of the state. It's something they've been doing since Hurricane Harvey.

MARTIN: Michael Marks, a reporter with the Texas Standard. Thank you so much. We appreciate it.

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