Texas Evacuation Orders Yield Mixed Results

Houston's streets were virtually deserted Friday afternoon. i i

hide captionHouston's streets were virtually deserted Friday afternoon.

John McChesney, NPR
Houston's streets were virtually deserted Friday afternoon.

Houston's streets were virtually deserted Friday afternoon.

John McChesney, NPR

Guy Goodson, mayor of Beaumont, Texas, discusses the mandatory evacuation order there and other preparations. Naomi Rodriguez, a clerk in a liquor store on the outskirts of downtown Houston, says she and others are going to stick it out through Hurricane Rita.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Guy Goodson is the mayor of Beaumont. I spoke with him earlier about that city's evacuation.

Mayor GUY GOODSON (Beaumont, Texas): We used every school bus; we use every bus. They're all at evacuation centers. North, we marshaled private resources, ambulances. Anybody who truly wanted to get out of Beaumont bad enough could.

BLOCK: As mayor there in Beaumont, then, what else do you feel you need to do before this day is over and before this storm hits?

Mayor GOODSON: Well, I don't have a lot left to do except the horrible part of waiting, which is to me worse than working, getting ready for the storm. What we also did down here because we're close to the Port of Beaumont--it's right next to our city. We took literally hundreds of pieces of municipal equipment--vehicles, fire trucks, police cruisers, emergency personnel and equipment--and put them on board two ready reserve fleet ships, and we loaded all of our equipment with the operators on those ships. They'll ride high and dry out of the weather. And as soon as the storm is over and they can put the ramp down on that vessel onto a dry dock, they'll be rolling out in our city to remove tree limbs, to pick up debris, trash, to keep looters off the street. All I had to do is go to the captains of these two vessels and they said, `Use our vessels in any manner you want.'

BLOCK: Mayor Goodson, as you make your way around Beaumont, can you describe what it looks like right now?

Mayor GOODSON: A ghost town. Most people's homes are closed and they are tied up. We're not--we're very happy with the level of response that we've gotten from our community, and we're really proud of the effort that's put in by our police, fire and ambulance. But I'm telling you, I've got 240 uniformed police officers who didn't leave. I've got every firefighter that didn't have another job responsibility. I've got enough public works people to man 50 different pieces of equipment to put on the street. So what I'm so proud of is all these people's willingness to stay and take care of their community after this storm blows through.

BLOCK: Well, Mayor Goodson, thanks very much for talking with us.

Mayor GOODSON: OK. Thank you.

BLOCK: Guy Goodson is the mayor of Beaumont, Texas.

MICHELE NORRIS (Host): To the south and west of Beaumont in Houston, Naomi Rodriguez(ph) is a clerk at Speck's Liquor Store(ph). She's planning to ride out the storm. We asked why.

Ms. NAOMI RODRIGUEZ (Liquor Store Clerk): I don't feel like sitting in traffic, for one. Two, if something happens, well, you know, it just happens. And number three is I'm at work. I don't know if we're going to be open tomorrow; it depends on the weather.

NORRIS: So what are you doing to prepare for the storm?

Ms. RODRIGUEZ: Just got some canned meats, canned vegetables, got plenty of water. We got some generators. But other than that, I live in an apartment. We didn't board up anything. We're just playing it by ear.

NORRIS: Well, so what have people been buying this afternoon?

Ms. RODRIGUEZ: They've been buying batteries, sodas, canned meats, charcoal, propane, all the essentials, like soap. They're buying alcohol, that's for sure.

NORRIS: This is a liquor store.

Ms. RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. Yeah, they're buying liquor, all right. I don't know why, but they are.

NORRIS: More than you'd normally be selling on a Friday afternoon?

Ms. RODRIGUEZ: Well, we sell more of the cheese and meats and things like that and bread that than we have in a long time. Hold on just a moment, OK?

NORRIS: I'll hold.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. RODRIGUEZ: Sorry about that.

NORRIS: And let me guess, was that someone calling to ask if you're still open?

Ms. RODRIGUEZ: Right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: Still...

Ms. RODRIGUEZ: Oh, yeah, they'll ask for it and it--all day long.

NORRIS: You're quite a ways from the coast there in Houston. What are you expecting?

Ms. RODRIGUEZ: Hopefully, just water and wind. I hope nothing too severe.

NORRIS: Houston is prone to flooding even, you know, with heavy rain.

Ms. RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, you're right about that.

NORRIS: The store is closing in just a few minutes. Where do you go after closing time?

Ms. RODRIGUEZ: Well, I'll either go back to my apartment and get a couple of things, and then I'll probably come back to the store and just hang out at the store because it is very secured.

NORRIS: But you expect that you might see some flooding. How do you protect against that?

Ms. RODRIGUEZ: We have a second floor, we have a third floor and we have a fourth floor.

NORRIS: And so you'll just keep heading north, keep climbing the stairs if the waters rise.

Ms. RODRIGUEZ: Exactly.

NORRIS: Naomi, thanks for talking to us.

Ms. RODRIGUEZ: You're welcome.

NORRIS: Naomi Rodriguez at Speck's Liquor Store in Houston.

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