HURRICANE HARVEY: As flooding continues, Beaumont’s water supply fails


“Beaumont is basically on an island,” a Beaumont police spokeswoman said.

Beaumont City Manager Kyle Hayes: “We will get through this, just like we did with Hurricanes Rita and Ike.”

In Beaumont, a Southeast Texas city of 118,000 about 75 miles east of Houston, the problem is simple, stark and stifling: too little drinking water caused by too much floodwater.

After Tropical Storm Harvey in the past days caused severe flooding throughout the area, residents awoke Thursday to another crisis that would send officials scrambling for help and cause evacuations at a local hospital and shelters and long lines for water at grocery stores.

“At this time there is no water supply for the city water system,” a statement from the flood-ravaged city said. It contained this ominous note about repairs and resumption of service: “There is no way to determine how long this will take at this time.”

HURRICANE HARVEY: Grim homecoming is the first step in recovery

All this while the city – which got more than 30 inches of rain in the past three days from Tropical Storm Harvey – remained under a flood warning.

“Beaumont is basically on an island,” Carol Riley, spokeswoman for the Beaumont Police Department, said during a news conference Thursday.

In Port Arthur, soldiers used 11 helicopters to rescue 183 residents at two nursing homes. They were taken to Conroe.

In nearby Orange County, officials ordered the evacuation of residents in an area threatened by the flood-swollen Neches River. The river is expected to crest Saturday, as is the Sabine River, east of the Neches and on the Texas-Louisiana border.

Water crisis

Despite the daunting and mounting challenges, Beaumont City Manager Kyle Hayes sounded an optimistic note during a news conference Thursday: “We will get through this, just like we did with Hurricanes Rita and Ike.”

Rising water in the Neches River took out the city’s main water pumps, Beaumont City Manager Kyle Hayes said. He didn’t give a timetable for when officials expect the water system to be back in service.

Long lines of floodwater-weary residents waited to buy drinking water at stores. KFDM-TV reported a two-hour wait at a Kroger supermarket. So precious was drinking water that the Beaumont Enterprise newspaper posted updated lists of where it was available.

Austin, other Texas areas see some Harvey-related gas shortages

City officials were working with state agencies to have water tanks and other water resources brought in via military helicopters or other vehicles.

Surrounding counties still had water service. In Beaumont, fire officials worked to arrange delivery of water tanks from neighboring communities to fight any potential fires.

No water meant no medical services at Beaumont Baptist Hospital, which houses about 200 patients and sees about 250 a day in its emergency room. Depending on medical need and proximity, patients were flown to medical facilities elsewhere.

“We started with 193 evacuations at midnight,” said hospital spokeswoman Mary Poole. “We’ve cleaned out the ER. The dialysis patients have been transferred, and we are starting in the ICU now. We will get everybody out until the water returns here.”

Officials at Christus St. Elizabeth, Beaumont’s other major hospital, said they didn’t plan to move patients but were operating under “extreme emergency conditions.” Spokeswoman Katy Kiser said the hospital has two water wells.

Meanwhile, at the Beaumont Civic Center, one of two Red Cross shelters in the city, the water shortage forced hundreds there to go without showers and other water service, though there were portable bathrooms.

The shortage, as well as the flooding threat from the nearby Neches River, which was rising Thursday afternoon, forced the shelter to be evacuated, said Chester Jourdan, regional director at the Red Cross. Buses were expected to begin picking up the hundreds there Thursday night to drive them to a shelter in San Antonio.

The water shortage could also cause the other Red Cross shelter, at Lamar University, to be evacuated in the coming days, Jourdan said.

People at the civic center swarmed trucks carrying water Thursday.

“It’s a bad situation turned worse,” 28-year-old Jessica Wimbley said. She went to the civic center shelter after her southern Beaumont apartment was flooded Tuesday. “It’s scary. I’m getting out of here.”

Flooding continues

Various parts of Beaumont, as well as nearby Port Arthur, continued to flood Thursday. Officials feared streets and homes by waterways such as the Pine Island Bayou in northern Beaumont would see rising waters, even as the sun began to beam across Beaumont.

By the afternoon, Beaumont emergency officials had made more than 1,000 water rescues, city spokesperson Haley Morrow said. The number of fatalities in the city due to flooding caused by Harvey had climbed to three.

How many people did Hurricane Harvey kill? Counting isn’t easy.

Police spokeswoman Riley said the latest storm-related death in the city was an apparent drowning. The victim’s identity hadn’t been announced Thursday afternoon.

On Tuesday, Colette Sulcer, 41, died after she and her 3-year-old daughter were swept away by floodwaters after they fled their vehicle near Interstate 10, according to police. The child, found clinging to her mother, is recovering in a hospital.

Another storm-related death was reported when a body was found in water Wednesday morning. The identity of that person hasn’t been released.

Local officials have reported that 5,500 homes were destroyed and an additional 16,000 sustained major damage in Jefferson County, which includes Beaumont and Port Arthur.

Additional material from The Associated Press

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Austin school district chooses buyers for high-profile properties
Austin school district chooses buyers for high-profile properties

Austin school leaders are moving forward with the sales of the district’s downtown headquarters, the Baker Center and the Millett Opera House (home of the Austin Club), among other surplus properties. The school board next Monday is scheduled to vote on the sales of these properties: • The Carruth Center, the 2.7-acre district headquarters...
Rally planned tonight at Austin City Hall for Transgender Day of Remembrance
Rally planned tonight at Austin City Hall for Transgender Day of Remembrance

A rally is planned tonight at Austin City Hall as part of the international Transgender Day of Remembrance. The purpose of this event is to raise awareness of hate crimes committed against the transgender community. Austin’s event will begin at 7:30 p.m.   The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was...
Lawsuit prompts UT to lift student’s suspension for sexual misconduct
Lawsuit prompts UT to lift student’s suspension for sexual misconduct

The University of Texas has lifted – at least for now – the suspension of a student it accused of sexual misconduct for having sex with another student who says she was intoxicated when she gave consent after a 2016 sorority formal. In a document filed Monday in U.S. Western District Court, the university asked a federal judge to cancel...
Union leader: Border agent might have been beaten to death with rocks

A U.S. Border Patrol agent who was killed while on patrol in West Texas might have been beaten to death by attackers wielding rocks, according to the president of the National Border Patrol Council. Brandon Judd, president of the labor union, said Agent Rogelio Martínez, 36, died Sunday of blunt force trauma to the head. “I have been told...
Proposed police contract heads for City Council after union approval
Proposed police contract heads for City Council after union approval

After approval from the Austin police union, a proposed five-year police employment contract is now ready to go to the Austin City Council, which will decide whether to implement it or scrap it. The proposed deal, approved by 85 percent of the union members, would raise officers’ base pay 9.5 percent over five years. Patrol officers also...
More Stories