MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We're going to spend the next hour in and around Houston, which is experiencing a major flooding disaster. Hurricane Harvey weakened to a tropical storm, but then it settled in over Houston and the surrounding areas, where it could dump as much as 50 inches of rain before it's all over. NPR's Jeff Brady is in Houston. He's with us now. Jeff, would you describe what all this looks like where you are?
JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Right now, it is raining, like it has been pretty much most of the day, which, of course, is what is causing this problem. And just a few blocks from where I am, the streets are flooded, like they are over much of Houston right now. It's really just been one stunning sight after another today, and it started early this morning. There were crowds of people. Some people actually woke - were awakened by water in their house.
And then, we saw crowds of people walking down flooded streets, leaving their homes. Huge freeways - you know, Houston has big freeways - and some of those have just been turned into almost, like, vast rivers. We've seen volunteers using their own boats to rescue people - you know, stranded neighbors and - very dramatic rescues. Then, along with all the flooding, there have been tornado watches and warnings all day long.
MARTIN: So what's been the government's response to all this?
BRADY: It's been a big response. Governor Greg Abbott - Texas Governor Greg Abbott - he said 3,000 state and National Guard soldiers have been deployed. Pretty much every state agency has people involved in this - some with search and rescue, other with recovery efforts. The federal government has FEMA here and other resources on the ground. The Coast Guard has been rescuing people off rooftops with helicopters since very early this morning. And, at least, a half dozen states are offering people and equipment to help.
The Red Cross says it's serving 130,000 meals a day. But that's not meeting all the need. Our producer, Marisa Penaloza, has been talking with people at one shelter where there wasn't enough food to serve lunch today. And that's because so many of the roads around here are flooded that delivery trucks couldn't get to the shelter to bring the food to them.
MARTIN: A lot of people are telling us that they did not feel prepared for this, but there were warnings of some kind of significant weather event that would probably affect Houston. Obviously, there's going to be a lot more talking about this in the coming days. But what went wrong? Did something go wrong?
BRADY: You know, there was a lot of debate before if Houston should be evacuating people, and there looked like there was some disagreement between Governor Abbott and some local officials about that. And people here were saying, well, you know, this is Houston. We know how to deal with rain. This is going to be a rainstorm. No need to evacuate. But today, Governor Abbott kind of set all that aside and - at a press conference. And here's what he had to say.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
GREG ABBOTT: We've moved beyond whether or not there should have been an evacuation or not. And we are at the stage where we just need to respond to the emergencies and necessities the people of Houston have. But again, it's not just people around Houston. It's in this large triangle region.
BRADY: And that triangle region that he's talking about - there's a huge area stretching from about Houston to Austin to Corpus Christi. And to give you a better sense of how big that is, if you drove around the perimeter, it would take you about nine hours to do that.
MARTIN: Just briefly, Jeff, before we let you go, is there any indication of when the weather will start to let up?
BRADY: Heavy rain through Tuesday, and then it looks like it's going to start to let up after that but still showers in the forecast.
MARTIN: That's NPR's Jeff Brady in Houston. Jeff, thank you.
BRADY: Thank you.
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