Government officials have been talking for years about the urgent need to upgrade America’s old and crumbling infrastructure. In many parts of the country, though, infrastructure investment has been minimal or nonexistent. A case in point is southeastern Texas where portions of the region’s levee system are proving no match for the ferocious flood waters of Hurricane Harvey.
In Port Arthur, Texas, about 90 miles east of Houston, residents are experiencing a nightmare flood caused in part by the delay in infrastructure upgrades. A levee that protects Port Arthur and surrounding Jefferson County failed three weeks before Harvey even hit the Gulf Coast of Texas.
In early August, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a warning that the failed levee “could compromise a portion of Jefferson County south of Beaumont — mainly Port Arthur and its surrounding refineries — if a tropical storm or hurricane hit the area.” Unfortunately, the Army Corps’ predictions came true.
With the record rainfall from Harvey, Port Arthur’s mayor reportedly said the city is underwater, referring to the situation as “survival mode.” The city’s residents have resorted to using social media to request immediate help for themselves and their friends and family from the rising flood waters.
Evacuation centers in Port Arthur are reportedly getting inundated by flood waters. Water has entered the city’s Bob Bowers Civic Center. Officials are using bleachers inside the civic center to keep evacuees off the floor.
Crumbling infrastructure played a major role in the destruction of a large part of New Orleans in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina. There were more than 50 failures of the levees and flood walls protecting New Orleans, resulting in flooding that impacted 80 percent of the city.
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