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Hurricane Laura Pounds Gulf Coast With Ferocious Wind, Heavy Rain


Let's hear how one Gulf Coast town is bearing up under Hurricane Laura. It was a Category 4 storm when it came ashore overnight in Louisiana and Texas. The center of the storm was over western Louisiana. Thurman Bartie is on the line. He is the mayor of Port Arthur in Texas, one of the towns in the path of the storm. And, Mayor, welcome to the program.

THURMAN BARTIE: Good morning. Good morning. Thank you all for having me.

INSKEEP: And I want to say right up front it's a bad phone line - understandable because the weather. So, Mayor, I'll just ask you to speak slowly. And we're going to lean in and listen because we want to hear how things are going. How did your town do overnight?

BARTIE: Well, we did well. We were blessed. And we are thankful to God that what could have happened and what could have been just a catastrophic event has just really turned into something that we are thankful for. There was minimal damage. We have teams out as I speak assessing the damage - some power outages, some tree limbs in roadways but not as many as we've seen other incidents then. So several of things that we could have experienced, we were just blessed not to have experienced those.

INSKEEP: That is great news, Mayor - glad to hear it. I guess the next question is this - you are hearing, I'm sure, reports of the storm being stronger to the east of you. Might you be in a position soon to begin sending emergency workers that way to help out?

BARTIE: Yes. Yes. Because whenever we had planned for our area, those workers would probably be sent to (unintelligible) Entergy, which is a power provider company. They may not be needed, you know, in this part of the area now because we probably have minimal damage. So that should work in our favor.

And any other resources that we have or that we do have, we are willing to share with those who are on the eastern side. But we are on the west side. There's only about 20 or 30 miles from us, you know. That, you know, (unintelligible). But it meant the world because, you know, it was bad, even the sound, man, the wind and the rain. But it could have been so much worse.

INSKEEP: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely so. Absolutely so. And we'll continue to get reports from the east of you. Mayor, were you able to manage evacuations in a way that people were not put at risk from the pandemic - crowded into tight areas, for example?

BARTIE: Yes. That is the most accomplished thing that I can - I would want to say that we could brag on for our citizens. Their compliance with the request to mandatorily evacuate - or evacuate under mandatory. And it's only because - and it happened to entire counties. And there may be some will be a little angry now and said that they shouldn't have gone. But they made a move because, you know, we experienced Harvey three years ago and no one had even mentioned anything, OK?


BARTIE: And they are - they know what it could be if it's bad. And, well, you know, we didn't want to experience that again.

INSKEEP: So you took the precautions, and everything's OK?

BARTIE: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Matter of fact, I was the first mayor to call for mandatory evacuation in this entire region. And, you know, I'm still confident that I did the right and the correct thing because that was to get all of the people, you know, who I'm responsible for out of harm's way.

INSKEEP: Mayor...

BARTIE: And I would say we're probably at about 70% that evacuated.

INSKEEP: ...OK. Mayor, thank you very much for the time and for the update - really appreciate it.

BARTIE: Thank you all for having me, man.

INSKEEP: Thurman Bartie is the mayor of Port Arthur in Texas. It's been hit hard by other hurricanes - seems largely to have been spared this time. We're going to continue reporting on the Gulf Coast and see how other towns have fared. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.