Hurricane Harvey had already pushed them from their homes—and now they’re on the move again.
With whatever they could pack into their suitcases and stuff into bulging plastic garbage bags, Port Arthur, Texas evacuees headed to their city’s Bob Bower Civic Center over the weekend to ride out the storm and stay dry as rising flood waters threatened their neighborhoods.
But last night, the safety of that civic center was breached, too, according to KHOU.
Since Hurricane Harvey made landfall late last week as a Category 4 storm, it has dumped more than 50 inches of rain on parts of southeast Texas, even as it has faded to a tropical storm. That’s unleashed flood conditions the National Weather Service has called “life-threatening” and “historic,” like nothing Texas has seen before.
Harvey dumped more than 26 inches of rain on Port Arthur in a 24-hour timespan on Tuesday alone, according to the Weather Channel—meaning the city has taken on more than three-and-a-half feet of water since Saturday. Now Port Arthur and its residents are in “survival mode,” Jefferson County Commissioner Michael Sinegal told KFDM.
At around 8 p.m., flood waters began pouring through the doors of the makeshift shelter from the parking lot, according to KHOU. At one point, several inches flooded in over the course of just 90 seconds.
"Our whole is underwater right now," Port Arthur Mayor Derrick Freeman said in a Facebook post.
In a sign of how exhausting the days-long downpour has been for Texans battling the floods, one evacuee at the civic center even fell asleep on one of the fold-out cots, remaining there as debris-filled floodwaters crept up and started lapping at the legs of the bed.
Early Wednesday morning, officials told KHOU that they would be evacuating the shelter entirely, moving all of its evacuees to higher ground.
But in the meantime, Texans who had fled their flooding homes for the civic center to stay dry had to congregate on the center’s elevated bleachers to escape the rising waters.
Elsewhere in Port Arthur, 50 to 60 evacuees have gathered for safety at a bowling alley.
"We've got dogs, we've got children,” Pam Alford told KFDM, who abandoned her home by boat late Tuesday before ending up at the bowling alley. “We've got older people, younger people."
Alford said she was unsure how the first evacuees got into the bowling alley.
"I think they may have somehow rigged, or jiggled the door open," Alford told the TV station.