Preparing for the Storm in Groves, Texas

Steve Inskeep talks with Mayor Brad Bailey of Groves, Texas, about what the city has done to prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Rita. He says mishaps in New Orleans ahead of Hurricane Katrina have not altered his city's evacuation planning.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And we're going next to Groves, Texas, population 15,000, and it could be right near Rita's path near the Texas-Louisiana border. In fact, when you look at this map showing the track of the hurricane, it passes right near Groves, Texas. Groves Mayor Brad Bailey says he is evacuating the city and preparing to leave himself.

Mayor BRAD BAILEY (Grove, Texas): We're inundated with chemical plants and refineries here, so that's a big concern, because if we get 20-foot, 22-foot of storm surge--Port Arthur levees are gauged at about 14 foot, so, you know, we're looking at a whole lot of issues here right now, getting our emergency vehicles and people out of harm's way so that we can turn around and come back. We have two nursing homes and a hospital that have been evacuated, so we're good on that front. And we all have our evacuation routes planned.

INSKEEP: Mayor, have your evacuation plans and overall hurricane plans been modified at all after what everyone saw with Hurricane Katrina?

Mayor BAILEY: And that's what ironic about the whole thing. We have not made any changes to our emergency plan other than trying to convince people to get out. I've been on the TV telling people that they need to get out, period. We called for a mandatory evacuation; they don't heed that, then, you know, the buck stops with them.

INSKEEP: Mayor, as I'm sure you know, blacks and whites in America saw the evacuation and the response to Hurricane Katrina in different ways. Are officials in your area doing anything in particular to try to reassure everyone of any race that everyone is being treated the same?

Mayor BAILEY: You know, we never really--I mean, we identify people would need transportation, you know, irregardless of color, creed or nationality, you know, that's our plan.

INSKEEP: What about issues of class? I mean, is there a part of town where people are less likely to have cars and so you...

Mayor BAILEY: Probably so, the southern part, but we've got a bus stop within walking distance of probably 60 percent, 70 percent of that area, so that's pretty impressive as far as what we've done as far as getting people out.

INSKEEP: Are you able to have a plan at this point for what you will do immediately after the storm?

Mayor BAILEY: No, sir, we haven't got that far. We do know that we're getting some aircraft in here to assess the damage. One of our key concerns is pollution and toxic materials in the water, so that will be one of our key factors in when we get people back in here. And hopefully we can get things back to, you know, some type of normalcy.

INSKEEP: Well, Mayor Brad Bailey of Groves, Texas, thanks very much.

Mayor BAILEY: Thank you, sir. You-all have a great day.

INSKEEP: And for those just joining us, we'll repeat the main news of this hour: Water is pouring over a levee in New Orleans once again. This is a levee that was damaged and was repaired. It is supposed to protect the Ninth Ward, which was severely damaged by flooding. The levee is still standing, but the water is pouring in again. The Army Corps of Engineers is hopeful that levee will stand.

You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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