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Massive Flooding Continues In Houston As Harvey Stalls Over East Texas


Houston continues to experience massive flooding as Tropical Storm Harvey stalls over East Texas. At least two are dead, and it's feared the death toll may rise. We have reporter Gail Delaughter of Houston Public Media on the line now with the very latest. Gail, where are you? What are you seeing around you right now?

GAIL DELAUGHTER, BYLINE: Well, right now, I'm in the area north of downtown Houston, and I'm near I-45. That's the major north-south route that runs through the city. And this section of roadway is depressed underground. And it's totally flooded right now. It's like a river. The water's all the way up to the embankment. And you can't even see if there's any vehicles down there right now. Once the water drains out, who knows what they're going to find down there?

But yeah, it's a pretty amazing sight. Everybody in the neighborhood is going out to look at it. And it looks like a river. You can't even see there's a freeway there.

MARTÍNEZ: I know Houston's on the coast. Right? They're on the Gulf Coast, so you get your share of storms. Have you ever seen anything like this?

DELAUGHTER: Well, this is being compared to Tropical Storm Allison that happened 16 years ago. That was the most expensive tropical storm to hit the U.S. And there was massive flooding all over the city. There was flooding in areas along bayous and waterways but also floods in low-lying areas of neighborhoods and places you didn't expect. So a lot of people are comparing it to that. And that could be a rain event that lasts for the next few days, so we could get even more water than what we experienced then.

MARTÍNEZ: We spoke to one of your colleagues at Houston Public Media a while back. He's stuck in his apartment. He can't move. Are you OK? Are you in a place where you can move around?

DELAUGHTER: Well, I'm in an area right now where I'm kind of at the high point of the neighborhood.


DELAUGHTER: I have a bayou right down the street from me that's flooded over. And like I said, I'm just down the block from I-45. But I'm in a high spot in the neighborhood like a lot of folks here. So it just depends on what your drainage patterns are. I've covered other floods here in Houston where you go into a neighborhood and most people are OK, and then you find an old apartment complex or a house back in the far part of the neighborhood that's, you know, experienced devastation.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, there was no mandatory evacuation of Houston. I'm wondering, was there an understanding of how bad this might be?

DELAUGHTER: It was made clear all along that it was going to be a very bad storm. And people were - you know, it's basically left to the individual's decision whether or not they wanted to go to higher ground. A lot of people are very familiar with their neighborhood. They know it's going to flood. But then you have other people, too, who are maybe in low-income neighborhoods that don't have the means to leave. So those are a lot of folks that experience problems because of these storms.

MARTÍNEZ: Does it look like this would have been too much for any city to handle? I mean, it just seems so overwhelming watching what I'm seeing on screens around me.

DELAUGHTER: Well, in our neighborhood, we put out a rain gauge, and we've gotten about 12 inches of rain or more since 6 p.m. on Friday. So it - yeah, it would just be very difficult for any city to deal with, especially since you've had so much development in Houston. You have a lot of large-scale townhome developments going up, apartment buildings. And that takes away green space for the water to drain, so that's also played a factor in this.

MARTÍNEZ: And you mentioned how you were in the north part of the city. Do you have any sense of how the flooding has affected other parts of the city?

DELAUGHTER: We're seeing right now just different pockets. There's some areas out to the east and the eastern parts of Houston. I've covered floods out there before, and that's getting some devastation. There's Brays Bayou, another major waterway that runs through the city, a lot of problems over there. They've historically had problems with flooding. Buffalo Bayou, the waterway that goes through downtown Houston, is well over its banks right now and, last report, was even covering up a bridge, and that's something I don't think we've seen before.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Gail Delaughter of Houston Public Media. Gail, thank you very much, and please stay safe. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.