With Flooded Streets And No Tap Water, Unknowns Face Beaumont, Texas, Residents Beaumont, Texas, a city of 120,000 people, is without running water after flooding knocked out the city's water supply. Residents are coming to grips with the enormous recovery ahead of them.
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With Flooded Streets And No Tap Water, Unknowns Face Beaumont, Texas, Residents

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With Flooded Streets And No Tap Water, Unknowns Face Beaumont, Texas, Residents

With Flooded Streets And No Tap Water, Unknowns Face Beaumont, Texas, Residents

With Flooded Streets And No Tap Water, Unknowns Face Beaumont, Texas, Residents

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/547774586/547774587" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The city of Beaumont, Texas, is still in crisis mode: flooded and, now, without tap water. Floodwaters from Harvey knocked out the city's water supply, and there's no clear timetable for when pumps might be repaired.

The situation is making life even more difficult for flood victims.

People who were in shelters in Beaumont are being bused to San Antonio. FEMA and the military are trying to get bottled water to residents, but that effort has been hampered in recent days as Beaumont has basically become an island, with flooding on all major roads in and out.

In the meantime, residents in this city of 120,000 have been lining up at whatever stores were open — from big grocery stores to corner gas stations — to stock up on water, ice and other supplies.

And some have been quite resourceful in planning how to cope with no water.

Using 5-gallon buckets, Mike Laro and a friend scooped muddy water from a drainage canal to fill coolers and trash cans in the back of his pickup truck. Laro won't be drinking this water, but using it for sanitation.

"I don't have no water for the toilet," Laro says.

Hotels are using pool water for flushing.

The lack of water has prompted Baptist Hospital here to evacuate patients by life flight and ambulance to other hospitals in the region.

Lack of water at Baptist Hospital in Beaumont, Texas, forced it to evacuate patients by life flight and ambulance to other hospitals in the region. Debbie Elliott/NPR hide caption

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Debbie Elliott/NPR

Lack of water at Baptist Hospital in Beaumont, Texas, forced it to evacuate patients by life flight and ambulance to other hospitals in the region.

Debbie Elliott/NPR

Spokeswoman Mary Poole says no water puts patients in jeopardy.

"We were prepared for Hurricane Harvey. We had food supplies, medical supplies. We were not expecting our city to lose their water system, so that's a game changer for us," Poole says.

Harvey has dealt a blow that no one anticipated, Mayor Becky Ames says. "This is a flood of record proportions, the likes of which are unheard of in our region," she says.

Just responding to all the 911 calls for rescues strained resources — and shelters were packed to capacity. Now, with no water, Ames says the city is evacuating some 1,500 people from emergency shelters.

"Our current priority is to secure the safety of those displaced to safer locations and centers that provide basic needs," she says.

Before the buses for San Antonio started pulling out, people who took shelter at the downtown civic center had to go outside to use the facilities.

"They got port-a-potties — that's the only thing they can do," says Lee McKee, 70. McKee lost everything when a flash flood swamped his home in Nome, Texas, just west of here. Sheriff's deputies rescued McKee, a double amputee who uses a wheelchair, in a boat.

People who took shelter at the downtown civic center in Beaumont, Texas, have had to go outside to use the facilities. Debbie Elliott/NPR hide caption

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Debbie Elliott/NPR

People who took shelter at the downtown civic center in Beaumont, Texas, have had to go outside to use the facilities.

Debbie Elliott/NPR

"They picked me up. Had some good strong boys," he says.

McKee says the shelter is no picnic, but he's thankful to be here.

"I can't feel sorry for myself because everybody here has lost everything they got, have to start over again. It's kinda hard at our age but gotta do it," he says.

Without water and electricity

Air rescues continue, and the military is both trucking and flying in supplies.

Outside the shelter, there are signs of frustration. People were driving up Thursday looking for water distribution only to find it wasn't set up yet. And there's no clear timetable for when the city's water system will be back up and running.

City Manager Kyle Hayes says Harvey took out both of the city's water sources.

"Both of these facilities, located probably 10 miles from one another, are both flooded, underwater," Hayes says.

And the water is still rising. The main water pump is on the Neches River, which won't crest until Saturday.

Some residents are also without electricity. Ashley Robertson says local officials told her to come to the Beaumont Civic Center when her neighborhood was evacuated after losing both power and water. But she was turned away.

Quinita Banks of nearby Port Arthur, Texas, came to the Beaumont Civic Center after her apartment flooded. "I don't know what's going on. I don't know what's the next step," she says. Debbie Elliott/NPR hide caption

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Debbie Elliott/NPR

Quinita Banks of nearby Port Arthur, Texas, came to the Beaumont Civic Center after her apartment flooded. "I don't know what's going on. I don't know what's the next step," she says.

Debbie Elliott/NPR

"What we supposed to do? We ain't got no food, no water," she says.

Awaiting word on just where evacuees would be going, Quinita Banks felt helpless.

"I don't know what's going on. I don't know what's the next step. I can't get to my husband and kids," Banks says.

Banks came here after her apartment in nearby Port Arthur flooded. Her husband and children are with family closer to Houston.

"I heard that in Port Arthur they're flying people to Dallas. I don't know anyone in Dallas. I'm already separated from my children. That's even more far away," she says. "And then once we get to Dallas what are they going to do? Are they just going to just leave us there or is there a plan in place? I'm just lost. I don't know."