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Houston Weatherman Serves As A Voice Of Reason Throughout Hurricane Harvey


Jeff Lindner has been working pretty much nonstop since Harvey hit Texas. In fact he's working today. Lindner is a meteorologist for the Harris County Flood Control District, and he's been a voice of reason throughout this crisis, giving full details in calm press conferences like this one.


JEFF LINDNER: And so I want to try to get the best information possible out to those folks along the bayou. The first thing I'm going to do is go through in order from upstream to downstream.

SHAPIRO: That's Jeff Lindner last Wednesday. People in Houston noticed that he hasn't taken a break, and so they set up a GoFundMe account to raise money to send him on vacation. The fund quickly grew over the weekend. Now it's above $20,000. But there's a problem. Jeff Lindner joins us from one of the flood control vehicles where he's out collecting data in the field right now. Jeff, thanks for making the time today.

LINDNER: Good afternoon.

SHAPIRO: What's the problem? Why can't you use these $20,000 to take a vacation?

LINDNER: Well, as a government employee, I'm not allowed to accept anything over a hundred dollars. So what we're going to do is we're going to turn this into a fundraising campaign to help the flood victims here in the Houston area. There's a lot of people who need help obviously. And you know, I would - I'd rather do that anyways than go on a vacation with money that's being raised. So we're going to let that fund run through the end of the week and see how much we can raise.

SHAPIRO: You've been working as a meteorologist for years now. Does this feel different from anything else you've ever done?

LINDNER: Yeah. The expense of this and the scope of it is really large. I worked Tropical Storm Allison back in 2001 and obviously Hurricane Ike back in 2008. And Ike is probably the closest thing that comes to this with respect to how large it was.

SHAPIRO: But I'm just thinking in terms of the impact on you, the way people are depending on you, the way you've become kind of a local hero through this.

LINDNER: Oh, yeah, that's definitely something new, you know? And I certainly appreciate all of the kind words and everything that have come out of this. But you know, really the word hero and everything I think, you know, is kind of much for what I do. Certainly the first responders out there and everything were heroes in this, you know, rescuing people and saving lives and all that type of stuff.

SHAPIRO: Although there are a lot of people who said your information did save their lives by telling them to get out, by warning them what to expect, by telling them how to deal with difficult situations that were coming.

LINDNER: Yeah, and that's really what I was hoping - that that information that I was getting out was doing and, you know, making people able to make the decisions that they needed to make, you know? Something like this is scary to go through, especially the enormity of what we went through and the unprecedented nature of this. And most people who've lived here have never experienced anything like it. And so I knew people were going to be scared, and I knew people needed direction at that time. And in hindsight, I see that I offered that when it was happening. I wasn't sure if what I was saying was resonating with everybody, but apparently it was.

SHAPIRO: Have you actually slept through a night? Are you just catching little catnaps? Like, what's your life been like these last several days?

LINDNER: So the last time I slept really well was probably three or four days before the hurricane. Any meteorologist will tell you when you have a system in the Gulf of Mexico with the potential for rapid intensification like Harvey was and a little bit of uncertainty in that forecast track, it's - you can't even sleep. You're constantly looking at stuff because there's so much preparation that has to be done before the storm.

And then during the event when we were having the flooding, I caught a couple hours here and there, an hour and - in a chair in the back room of the emergency operations center. It's not just me. A lot of the people who worked this went on very little sleep, and we all kind of have been talking about it. And what we realize is we can get by with a lot less sleep than you think you can. A couple hours here and there will really rejuvenate you, if you will.

SHAPIRO: I hate to ask you this question, but what's your take on Hurricane Irma, which is now out in the Atlantic?

LINDNER: Well, Irma's one of those hurricanes that is what we call a Cape Verde hurricane formed out there in the eastern Atlantic. It's heading toward the Leeward Islands and potentially Puerto Rico. And then it has that track over toward the Bahamas and south central Bahamas. So it's something to keep an eye on.

And I would certainly advise people in the southeast United States and Florida that you need to be watching Irma very carefully right now. It's a little bit uneasing if you see the - that five-day forecast track from the Hurricane Center into the south central Bahamas continue on that west-northwest track, especially if you're down there in South Florida, the Keys right now. You need to be really paying attention to it.

SHAPIRO: Jeff Lindner is a meteorologist for the Harris County Flood Control District. Thanks for everything you've done for your city, and thank you for talking with us today.

LINDNER: Absolutely. It was my pleasure. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF DECEPTIKON'S "WAY OF THE SAMURAI") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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