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Houston Area Storm Evacuees Return To Damaged Homes


While Corpus Christi and the surrounding area got the brunt of the storm, strong winds and heavy rains also inundated Houston, damaging many homes. NPR's Jeff Brady spent some time with residents who had fled their homes and then went back to see what the storm had left.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: In a large neighborhood called Sienna Plantation southwest of Houston, there were a lot of downed trees and limbs.


BRADY: Some houses had parts of the roof torn off. Linda Varnado says a strong storm, possibly a tornado, moved through the neighborhood.

LINDA VARNADO: It's true when they tell you that it sounds like a freight train coming through because that's what it is. It sounds like a freight train. And it's a sound that you don't want to hear. And I don't ever want to hear it again.


BRADY: As she swept water off the sidewalk, Varnado said the wind tore shingles off her roof and water was leaking in. Like many other houses here, there's now a blue tarp on top. Roofers say they can't take the time to do a full repair now because more rain is on the way.


BRADY: Tom Swindell and his family shoveled bricks that fell off the house of their 90-year-old neighbor.

TOM SWINDELL: We just started early this morning walking house to house, asking neighbors that we don't even know if they needed help in any kind, whether it's cutting trees or picking up bricks or sweeping their house out.

BRADY: People here took full advantage of the breaks in heavy rain to clean up. Texas Governor Greg Abbott says Houston received about 16 inches of rain so far. Other parts of the state got even more than that. Abbott says 20 to 30 inches more rain is in the forecast.


GREG ABBOTT: That is coming down on already saturated ground and already filled-up waterways, whether they be creeks, bayous or rivers. And so there is the potential for very dramatic flooding.

BRADY: Some neighborhoods already are seeing light flooding. In Nassau Bay southeast of downtown Houston, the driveway into a local marina is now a shallow lake.


MURPHY MASON: Normally you can drive all the way through there and there's never water in there.

BRADY: Murphy Mason lives across the street. In 2008, during Hurricane Ike, his house flooded. Now he's watching as wave after wave of heavy rain brings water levels up and close to his house again.

M. MASON: Another two feet or so, it's going to cross the street. And once it crosses the street, as you can see, we are only about three foot above that.

BRADY: His wife, Geraldine Mason, stays inside their SUV as the rain continues to fall. She says they just stopped by to check on the house. During the storm, they're staying at a hotel a few miles away.

GERALDINE MASON: Oh, well, we didn't want to be here. We are both 70 years old. We don't need the drama of trying to get into traffic. So we left ahead of time to get settled in so we could settle down. And we'll come back when it's over.

BRADY: The wind from Hurricane Harvey left many without power. At midday, Governor Abbott said about 338,000 customers around the state didn't have electricity. Crews are quickly making repairs. The main utility in Houston says that by this morning it had restored power to 140,000 customers. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Houston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers energy issues and climate change. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.
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