Beaumont Struggles To Restore Water Service In Harvey Aftermath

AP/Gregory Bull

HOUSTON (AP) — A Texas city that lost its drinking water system to Harvey struggled Saturday to restore service, and firefighters kept monitoring a crippled chemical plant that has twice been the scene of explosions and fires since the storm roared ashore and stalled over Texas more than a week ago.

Officials in Beaumont, population almost 120,000, worked to repair their water treatment plant, which failed after the swollen Neches River inundated the main intake system and backup pumps failed. The Army Corps of Engineers sent pumps, and an ExxonMobil team built and installed a temporary intake pipe in an effort to refill a city reservoir. Exxon has a refinery and chemical plants in Beaumont.

On Friday, people waited in a line that stretched for more than a mile to get bottled water.

In Crosby, outside of Houston, authorities continued to monitor the Arkema plant where three trailers of highly unstable compounds ignited in recent days, sending thick black smoke and tall flames into the air. A Harris County fire marshal spokeswoman said there were no active fires at the facility, but six more trailers were being watched.

The soggy and battered city of Houston began burying its dead and taking steps toward the long recovery ahead. The school district said up to 12,000 students would be sent to different schools because of flood-damaged buildings. Harvey flooding is believed to have damaged at least 156,000 dwellings in Harris County, which includes the nation's fourth-largest city.

The storm is blamed for at least 43 deaths. Also, fire officials in the community of New Waverly, about 55 miles north of Houston, said a 6-month-old baby was missing and presumed dead after being ripped out of its parents' arms and swept away by floodwaters when the family fled their pickup truck last Sunday, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Some were able to count their blessings even as they faced a daunting recovery.

"I'm just praying on some help right now so I can get this over, behind me and try not to think about it," said Georgia Calhoun, whose family is sleeping on air mattresses inside her damaged home after taking ruined furniture to the curb.

The remnants of the storm were fading fast in the Ohio Valley. National Weather Service meteorologists expect what's left of Harvey to break up and merge with other weather systems late Saturday or Sunday.

Harvey came ashore Aug. 25 as a Category 4 hurricane, then went back out to sea and lingered off the coast as a tropical storm for days. The storm brought five straight days of rain totaling close to 52 inches (1.3 meters) in one location, the heaviest tropical downpour ever recorded in the continental U.S.

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