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Texas Capital Austin Is Spared The Brunt Of Harvey But It Still Feels Effects


And I'm David Greene in Houston, Texas. Hurricane Harvey, now a tropical storm, has basically come to a stop here, dumping rain for hours on end and causing flooding. Governor Greg Abbott had this warning yesterday...


GREG ABBOTT: Texans need to be prepared for more rainfall tonight, on occasion very heavy rainfall. We want to emphasize the importance of staying off the road. If you drive into water, you're taking your life into your own hands.

GREENE: And it looked like people heeded that warning. We saw very deserted roads last night. And the rain is just supposed to keep continuing today and maybe into this week. We're hearing a lot of voices from the state this morning. And let's turn now to Ben Philpott. He covers state politics for member station KUT in Austin.

Good morning to you, Ben.


GREENE: So you're in Austin, certainly not getting the worst of it there to the west of where we are. But I know thousands of people, even there, are without power. So you're certainly seeing some of the effects of this storm.

PHILPOTT: Yeah. I mean, we've had around 7 to 10 inches over the weekend from the storms, although most of that has been kind of downstream of Austin. But in those downstream pockets, there are a handful of school districts that are not opening today. So not out of the woods totally but, yeah, we've gotten some stuff.

GREENE: Not out of the woods at all. I mean, 7 to 10 inches would normally sound like so much unless you're dealing with numbers like 20 around Houston. This is just extraordinary.

PHILPOTT: Yeah. This is a historic rainfall across the state. And - but, you know, yeah. It's crazy to say, but 7 to 10 inches in Austin, especially if it hits in the right place - a little bit downstream - is doable.

GREENE: Let's talk about the official response to this so far. The White House declared a federal emergency over the weekend. How has the coordination been so far between - you know, among local officials, state officials, federal officials?

PHILPOTT: You know, in the hours after the storm hit, you know, the governor was saying that we are in a rescue and rebuild mode. Coordination there has seemed to be going pretty well. Obviously, Houston is scrambling to get boats and helicopters and other vehicles to the people that need to be removed from their homes.

But there has been good coordination with the Coast Guard to try and get help there. We've got eight states, at least, as of yesterday afternoon that were sending resources to Texas. So in terms of that phase, the rebuild and recovery things seem to be going pretty well.

GREENE: Really key decision was made in Houston not to order a mandatory evacuation. The feeling that the mayor had was you couldn't put millions of people on the road. That would make things worse. But of course, you have people being rescued now. That's a decision a lot of people are going to be thinking about.

PHILPOTT: Yeah. And I think, unfortunately, right now it's kind of looking at the life cost. Back then, when they did - again, for Rita, when they did put people on the road, you know, about a hundred people died during the evacuation; so far, two by people staying put. So maybe that's a win.

GREENE: All right. That is Ben Philpott of member station KUT in Austin joining us on Skype. Ben, thanks a lot. We appreciate it.

PHILPOTT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ben Philpott covers politics and policy for KUT 90.5 FM. He has been covering state politics and dozens of other topics for the station since 2002. He's been recognized for outstanding radio journalism by the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated, the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters and twice by the Houston Press Club as Radio Journalist of the Year. Before moving to Texas, he worked in public radio in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and at several television stations in Alabama and Tennessee. Born in New York City and raised in Chattanooga, Tenn., Philpott graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in broadcast journalism.