Beaumont’s running water starts to flow but hard-hit Texas city may feel Harvey effects ‘for years to come’

Beaumont, Texas, is among the state's cities that were hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey. John Yang talks with Beaumont Police Department Chief James Singletary for an update on restoring running water to residents and how the storm has affected the community.

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    About 80 miles east of Houston, which is the nation's fourth largest city, Harvey also battered Beaumont, Texas, population of 120,000.

    The city is among the hardest-hit in the state.

    For the latest on the situation on the ground, I'm joined now by phone by Beaumont Police Chief James Singletary.

    Chief, thanks for joining us.

    I have got to ask first about the water situation. Late last week, the water plant shut down because of being swamped by floodwater, and backup pumps went down. What's the situation now?

  • JAMES SINGLETARY, Chief, Beaumont Police Department:

    The water situation now is that we're getting water slowly but surely back to most of our citizens.

    It would be a totally different interview to tell you how that happened. But we had some private industries and working with our water folks and getting it restored. So that in itself is an amazing story. But we're slowly but surely getting the water restored. It's going to be a while before we are going to lift the boil water notice right now.


    So, people, everyone in the town, in the city still has running water now, is that right?


    Not everybody. But most of them do. And it is trickling right now in some places. And some of them are, you know, better than others.


    What about other conditions, Chief? Has the water started to recede yet?


    Yes, sir.

    The water has started to recede. We have a very big river here next to Beaumont, the Neches River, and it's starting to recede a little bit. It crested a couple days ago, I think. So, the water is starting to recede.

    There are still about 3,000 homes that we have not been able to get to, to see what their situation is. We have done a bunch of flyovers with the drones and helicopters, and, gosh, it's just — it's horrific. I have lived here my whole life. I have been a cop for my whole adult life and I have never seen anything like this.


    Chief, have people been able to get back to their homes? You say the water is going down. Have they been able to get back to their homes yet, or is that still a little bit away?


    Yes, that still a bit away.

    There are still areas that we can't even access. And it will be a while before some citizens are able to get back to their homes. And then there's areas north of us and east of us and even south of us that are in pretty bad shape also, but it's going to be a while.

    This thing has impacted this us, this area for years to come, I'm afraid, in so many different areas.


    Chief, I have got to ask you. You and your force are not only working this disaster. You are living through it.

    I would imagine some of the homes of some of your force have been affected by this. What's that been like for you, for the men and women of your police department?


    Well, that's another horrible thing that's happened to our officers and our city workers.

    We have had over 130 of our — Beaumont's first-responders, the firefighters and police officers and emergency personnel that have been adversely affected or had actually significant damage to their home.

    And most of these officers — and this is what's amazing — this is why I love these guys — most of these officers are here working, and they have no idea how bad their homes are destroyed or how badly their homes are damaged. But they're here working. And, man, it makes you feel great, if you live here in Beaumont, especially if you're the chief of police.


    Chief James Singletary of Beaumont, we're glad to hear thing are getting better. And we appreciate your work, your department's work. And our thoughts are with you.


    You got it. Thank you very much.

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