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Key Texas Oil Town Assesses Damage


NPR's Adam Davidson is in Port Arthur, Texas, an oil refinery town.

Hello, Adam.


Hi, Debbie.

ELLIOTT: How bad of a hit did that city take?

DAVIDSON: It got a pretty bad hit, probably one of the worst hit cities in Texas. The mayor says that almost every structure in town suffered at least some damage; some of it pretty superficial, but some of it pretty bad. The Super Wal-Mart had its roof ripped off, a big tough bank building collapsed, a lot of houses were wrecked mostly by trees and a few tornadoes that came through.

ELLIOTT: Can you tell me what's going on around you?

DAVIDSON: Yeah, I'm in the Holiday Inn Hotel which has become the police station, because their police station is unoccupiable because of damage. There are--the entire Port Arthur Police, they are very proud to say, 100 percent of them are here doing search and rescue, securing certain facilities. There are a lot of state troopers here. They're expecting federal troops tomorrow. They are trying to find if anyone has been hurt or injured or killed. They haven't found anyone yet. They're also securing the city. There's been a decent amount of looting, not excessive, but enough that makes them nervous. So they are making regular patrols. They're securing certain key stores, some of the bigger stores; liquor stores in particular, they tell me.

ELLIOTT: Did people mostly evacuate that town or are there still people that stayed behind?

DAVIDSON: They believe that about 95 percent of the city did evacuate. They say that Hurricane Katrina certainly scared people into doing that. But even 5 percent in a city of 65,000 still leaves a few thousand people here. One--the police chief said that there was looting, believe it or not, even during the hurricane, and they've arrested several people. Seven people are being held in the Holiday Inn because the city jail is unoccupiable right now. They've just designated one room as the jail here.

So--and the big concern is the sick and the elderly. They were trying to evacuate as many as possible, but they didn't get the ambulances they had asked for. They asked for 700 ambulances. They got 15 and so they do know that there were several people left in their homes and they're trying to get to those homes as quickly as possible.

ELLIOTT: And that's what's going on there now?

DAVIDSON: Yeah. The biggest concern, the mayor said, was the lack of gas. They only have enough gas to run the police cars maybe into tomorrow morning. Basically, each car has whatever gas it has. There's no other sources of gas right now. FEMA has promised to bring them gas either later tonight or tomorrow, but they haven't seen any sign of that and they're quite nervous about it, because without gas they won't be able to patrol the city and keep it safe.

ELLIOTT: Briefly, do you have any sense of the damage to the oil facilities there?

DAVIDSON: Yes. This is very much a refinery town. There are several key refineries, and almost all of them are reporting moderate to serious damage. Most of them are saying it'll be two weeks to a month before they're back on line. They're only making their initial assessments now, so they're not for certain. But this town provides 6 percent of our refined oil, so if they don't get them up quick, that's a serious problem for the rest of the US.

ELLIOTT: NPR's Adam Davidson in Port Arthur, Texas.

Thanks, Adam.

DAVIDSON: Thank you, Debbie.

ELLIOTT: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Adam Davidson
Adam Davidson is a contributor to Planet Money, a co-production of NPR and This American Life. He also writes the weekly "It's the Economy" column for the New York Times Magazine.