‘If you called, we are com­ing’

Del­uged Port Arthur strug­gles to cope

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - John Ba­con and Ja­son Pohl

Res­i­dents of Port Arthur posted ur­gent pleas for res­cue on so­cial me­dia Wed­nes­day as the Texas city strug­gled to func­tion af­ter days of ham­mer­ing rains from Trop­i­cal Storm Har­vey that forced the na­tion’s largest oil re­fin­ery to close.

The city was slammed by more than 2 feet of rain over 24 hour, which flooded the civic cen­ter that had been serv­ing as a shel­ter for more than 100 evac­uees. A com­mu­nity cen­ter then was set up to house peo­ple.

“Our whole city is un­der­wa­ter right now but we are com­ing!” Mayor Der­rick Free­man, whose own home was swamped in 3 feet of wa­ter, said in a Face­book post. “If you called, we are com­ing. Please get to higher ground.”

Free­man sounded a com­mon theme across the re­gion, im­plor­ing vol­un­teers with boats to help. “We need it,” he said.

Wa­ter flowed like rivers in streets. At the Gulf Health nurs­ing home, about a dozen boats were lined up out­side in chest­deep wa­ter. Emer­gency crews, along with fish­er­man and vol­un­teers, worked to re­move res­i­dents, many of whom were bedrid­den and in wheel­chairs. Video showed some res­i­dents in their beds, the wa­ter up to their mat­tresses.

Res­cue ef­forts at one point were slowed by an apart­ment fire that forced first-re­spon­ders to evac­u­ate res­i­dents of the com­plex. Light­ning also de­layed the op­er­a­tion, Free­man said.

Free­man said the Coast Guard has he­li­copters and boats de­ployed around the city and the Na­tional Guard is op­er­at­ing out of the lo­cal Wal­mart park­ing lot.

“Con­tinue to call 911 if you are un­safe,” Free­man said in a Face­book post Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon. “We’re com­ing y’all.”

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