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Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner On Hurricane Harvey Preparedness


And we are continuing our special coverage of the storm in Houston by talking to the mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner. He's with us on the line now. Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for speaking with us.

SYLVESTER TURNER: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: What's your biggest concern right now?

TURNER: To reach as many people as we can that are either on top of the roof of their homes or in their attics or in their homes that have been flooded. We want to get to them as quickly as possible. And the goal was to try to reach as many of them, if not all of them, before we lost sunlight.

MARTIN: Now, obviously, there will be a lot of second guessing in the wake of this. And I understand that you have immediate needs that need to be addressed. But I did want to ask you, did you feel prepared for this?

TURNER: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. We prepared for leading up to it. We encouraged all Houstonians to go and make sure that they have enough food, enough water, medication, supplies for a four or five-day event. And by and large, that's exactly what they did. So I'm very proud of Houstonians. We encourage them to stay off the road. And the overwhelming majority of them did. This was a storm that really no one knew which direction it was going to take. But the best thing was for people to get - to hunker down and then be prepared.

MARTIN: Again, not to belabor the point, but we are hearing from Houston residents through various means. And some people are telling us that they felt that they received mixed messages on how to prepare. The Governor Abbott appear to call for an evacuation on Friday. And you, yourself, said in a press conference that moving out this many millions of people would have been a nightmare. Do you feel that a different message should have been delivered? Or is there anything that you wish you could do over?

TURNER: No, not at all. I mean, the county judge and I worked very closely together. The local officials - we were all on the same page that to try to move 6.5 million people two or three days before this hurricane was scheduled to land would have put more people in danger. And then where do you send them when no one knew the direction in which the hurricane was going to take? And so you can't ask 6.5 million people to get on the road and send them - where? Send them to San Antonio? San Antonio received a lot of rain. Send them to Austin? Austin received a lot of rain. And then what do you do when you ask them to leave and they are no longer in the city or in the county where you can meet their needs? They're someplace else. And they're not going to stay. At some point, they come back.

So this storm is going to last, let's say, through Thursday, possibly Friday. Many people, have we had asked them to leave, they were going to be coming back right at the time when almost all the streets were impassable. We're facing tremendous challenges. It would have been chaotic confusion - a lot of confusion and, certainly, would not have been nearly as safe. So, no, there is no mixed message here. I feel very confident that we were able to meet their needs by being right here, being prepared, encouraging people to stay off the street and working with all of the partners to protect their interests.

MARTIN: OK, we have about 45 seconds left. And I need - I'm sure you want to get back to work. Is there any - what's the plan for the next couple of days? As you said, it's going to continue to rain. What's the plan?

TURNER: Well, the plan is, number one, to provide shelter for those who are no longer able to stay in their homes. And we're doing that. It's to make sure that we rescue whatever individuals who are in homes or in apartments who have been significantly inconvenienced - to make sure that we rescue them. Thirdly is to make sure that we provide a suitable transition so that once this storm passes, we can put people in the best position to restart their lives and move forward in this city. And I'm very proud of the first responders and the people in the city on how they have responded.

MARTIN: That's Sylvester Turner. He is the mayor of Houston. Mr. Mayor, we are so pleased to have you with us. Thank you so much and good luck over the next couple of days.

TURNER: Thank you very much.