Nikki Staner and her husband, Brett, sloshed through water Friday to the front door of their house on the outskirts of Beaumont, Texas. Inside, Hurricane Harvey had ruined their furniture and left behind a boggy smell.
“My family’s been in this area for more than a hundred years, and this never flooded,” Nikki said with a rueful laugh. “This time it did. It’s a mess and it stinks.”
They were actually a little giggly from exhaustion. “We’re a little rum-dum,” Brett said. “Some friends showed up and gave us a hand.”
Nikki’s parents live nearby in a house that’s still high and dry, so they have a place to sleep. Others weren’t so lucky as Beaumont continued to struggle without safe drinking water and with whole neighborhoods still underwater.
Beaumont’s water pumping station near the rain-choked Neches River was overwhelmed on Thursday. Authorities also warned residents that high water could remain in some neighborhoods for days or even weeks.
A half-hour’s drive outside the city on Highway 90, people who didn’t have a local place to take refuge were jammed in the westbound lane. The exodus stretched for miles, often moving at a crawl.
“We didn’t have drinking water,” said Gregory Blood from Beaumont, talking through the window of his car. “I’m thinking about going up to Alma where I have some friends.”
Highway 90 was jammed in part because so many roads and highways in and out of Beaumont were still flooded Friday.
Despite warnings from authorities, many drivers in Jefferson County used routes swept by high water. At least nine of Hurricane Harvey’s 39 fatalities so far have been caused by cars or vans being swept from water-covered roads.
Motorists told NPR they took the risk because there was no other way to reach their homes and farms the rural area outside Beaumont.