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Residents Prepare As Hurricane Harvey Threatens Texas

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Hurricane Harvey is rolling towards Texas. It's expected to make landfall near Corpus Christi late tonight or early Saturday morning. There could be up to 35 inches of rain. And just north, along the coast, flood-prone Houston is getting ready. Florian Martin of Houston Public Media reports.

FLORIAN MARTIN, BYLINE: Hurricane Harvey is already being compared to Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. That was one of the most expensive and deadly weather events in Texas history. That's why the head of Galveston County, Judge Mark Henry, is urging residents to evacuate.

MARK HENRY: The thing we're most concerned about is people not taking this seriously. It's going to be a water event more so than a wind event. We are concerned about storm surge and freshwater because it's going to sit here and rain for days and days.

MARTIN: In Houston, the Texas Medical Center suffered hundreds of millions of dollars in damage during Allison. But they've learned their lesson. Roberta Schwartz is the executive vice president of operations at Houston Methodist Hospital. She says there are many parts to the preparation for Harvey.

ROBERTA SCHWARTZ: Our perimeter protection, our floodgates - that we have enough food, that we have enough supplies, that we have enough everything to take care of our patients during this time.

MARTIN: And then there's the petrochemical industry, which is centered on the east side of Greater Houston and also in Texas City, right by Galveston Bay. Phil Bedient is a professor of engineering at Rice University. He says since Houston won't feel the full strength of the storm, the refineries should be OK.

PHILIP BEDIENT: In the absence of any significant storm surge, it's going to be a much safer situation for them. If this storm had come in much closer to Houston, we would be having a very different conversation.

MARTIN: And what about the residents? Many Houstonians are getting ready to hunker down. Manuel Valadez was finishing up his emergency shopping at a Walmart, including water, canned food and propane. He, too, learned his lesson when Allison struck.

MANUEL VALADEZ: Last time we went out for, like, seven days without light. You know, we couldn't cook inside, stuff like that, you know. Have a generator, gas - like gasoline, stuff like that, you know - to be prepared.

MARTIN: Meanwhile, the Houston Independent School District has canceled the first day of school on Monday. The plan is currently to resume on Tuesday.

For NPR News, I'm Florian Martin in Houston.

(SOUNDBITE OF EVERSHAM'S "SYMMETRY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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