ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Many places along the Texas coast are under mandatory evacuation orders. One of them is the town of Victoria, population around 70,000. It's roughly an hour's drive inland and right in the path of the storm. Earlier today, I spoke with Victoria Mayor Paul Polasek. And he told me despite the evacuation order, not many people have left town.
PAUL POLASEK: A small percentage did leave. So right now we're buttoning up last-minute issues in preparing for landfall of the storm, actually.
SHAPIRO: You say most people did not leave. So are you telling them it's too late now; stay where you are, and get safe? Or are you telling them get out in these final hours?
POLASEK: Well, a small percentage left, and that's just my personal estimate. I don't have hard numbers on that. Yes, those who are remaining - we're telling them to shelter in place and make sure that they have what they need for several days - you know, water, medication, et cetera.
SHAPIRO: Does it worry you that so few people follow the order to evacuate?
POLASEK: It does worry me somewhat. But at this point, we'll just have to do the best we can.
SHAPIRO: You're also advising people in low-lying areas to make immediate preparations for possible flash flooding. What does that involve?
POLASEK: Well, we've gone out on location and started to visit with people who are still out in some of those low-lying areas. And we have two shelters set up, one in the city, one outside the city limits. And that is an option for some of those folks.
SHAPIRO: What's the worst-case scenario that you're preparing for?
POLASEK: Well the storm, you know, as we expect it to land, is a Cat 3 - worst case if it actually got stronger to Cat 4. This flooding and structural damage from the wind - the sustained winds will be high and for 24 to 36 hour period. And that is a concern if we start to have structural damage.
SHAPIRO: And what does that mean for the infrastructure of a town like Victoria? I mean are you anticipating houses could be washed away or merely minor flooding?
POLASEK: Yes, both of those. If residences are flooded and/or affected by the wind, then those people will be displaced for a period of time, you know, after this blows over the next few days. And we want to make sure that they have somewhere to go in the short term and then, of course, long-term solution for that.
SHAPIRO: Has the city ever been in the path of a storm this big before?
POLASEK: We have. It's just been several decades for a really strong storm. We had Claudette in '03, which was a good reminder. It was not quite this bad, so we did not have the structural damage nor the flooding. It's been a while.
SHAPIRO: And that makes it sound like many of the people in Victoria perhaps don't know what to expect.
POLASEK: I think that's a true statement. There's a younger group that have not experienced a hurricane of this nature or stronger, and so that - it's worrisome. They may not appreciate the destructive power of something like this. So it does concern me personally.
SHAPIRO: And so what's your message to those people?
POLASEK: Well, make sure you have the provisions. Stay indoors. Shelter in place. And just do the best you can. Take care of each other. You know, Victorians are very self-reliant people, and we do help our neighbors. I expect to see a lot of that once this blows over.
SHAPIRO: We know the things that are often needed after a major storm - water, ice, generators. How well-stocked are you with those essential supplies for the city?
POLASEK: Oh, I'd say we're in pretty good shape. And we have had others reach out to us in the last, you know, few days about preparing to come in after the fact. I think we'll be fine after the fact.
SHAPIRO: I know that we're speaking to you now from the Emergency Operations Center. Is that where you plan to be during the storm? How are you personally going to spend the next 24 hours?
POLASEK: Well, my family left, and I will be here at the EOC. And there's a point here in the next few hours when I cannot leave. So I expect to stay here overnight and help with policy decisions or in any other way I can.
SHAPIRO: Mayor Paul Polasek of Victoria, Texas, stay safe, and thank you for speaking with us.
POLASEK: Thank you, Sir.
SHAPIRO: And stay with NPR News throughout the weekend for the latest on Hurricane Harvey. Tomorrow morning on Weekend Edition, we'll be hearing more from our correspondents in Texas and from our member stations there.
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