Houston begins taking steps toward the long recovery ahead

HOUSTON — A city that lost its drinking water system is struggling to restore service and a crippled chemical plant that twice has been the scene of explosions remains a concern nine days after Harvey ripped across Texas. 

Officials in Beaumont, population almost 120,000, worked to repair their water treatment plant, which failed after the swollen Neches River inundated the main intake system and backup pumps failed. The Army Corps of Engineers sent pumps, and an ExxonMobil team built and installed a temporary intake pipe in an effort to refill a city reservoir. Exxon has a refinery and chemical plants in Beaumont.

In Crosby, outside of Houston, authorities continued to monitor the Arkema plant where three trailers of highly unstable compounds ignited in recent days, sending thick black smoke and tall flames into the air. A Harris County fire marshal spokeswoman said there were no active fires at the facility, but six more trailers were being watched.

The soggy and battered city of Houston began burying its dead and taking steps toward the long recovery ahead. As of early Sunday, there were 45 confirmed storm-related deaths. 

Houston’s school district said up to 12,000 students would be sent to different schools because of flood-damaged buildings. Harvey flooding is believed to have damaged at least 156,000 dwellings in Harris County, which includes the nation’s fourth-largest city. 

Kim Martinez, 28, waited Saturday for insurance adjusters to come to her Southbelt/Ellington neighborhood, a devastated middle-class area of southeast Houston.

“You can be prepared for anything but not a monster storm like Harvey,” said her mother, Maria Martinez, 63.

Some were able to count their blessings even as they faced a daunting recovery.

“I’m just praying on some help right now so I can get this over, behind me and try not to think about it,” said Georgia Calhoun, whose family is sleeping on air mattresses inside her damaged home after taking ruined furniture to the curb. 

Not everyone was able to think about rebuilding yet.

About 200 people waved signs and shouted as they rallied Saturday outside a still-flooded subdivision in the west Houston suburb of Katy, demanding answers about when they will be able to return home. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has warned residents that their homes could remain flooded for up to 15 days because of ongoing releases of water from two reservoirs protecting downtown. Turner on Saturday ordered mandatory evacuations for an…

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