Port Arthur: Better late than never?

Published 12:26 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Saturday’s surprise rainfall — really, can any deluge around Greater Port Arthur be called a surprise anymore? — caught some of our neighbors in places where it hurt them the most: In the wallet. Or in their patience.

Some weather forecasts Friday called for an inch of rain here. Others called for as much as 2-4 inches. Ominously, some forecasts said there could be street flooding, even at those modest predictions.

Forecasting is a science but an imprecise one. Forecasters said as much Saturday, as torrents of rain fell where it wasn’t expected. Sometimes, we were told, specific areas bear a heavier burden than others. Again, this time, it was Greater Port Arthur.

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Residents in several Port Arthur subdivisions — Port Acres, Dominion Ranch, Stonegate, among them — awoke Saturday to find floodwaters rising relentlessly. It rained 8 inches in some places, 10 in others.

Cars stalled in the streets, taking on water. Some residents said they had just moved back into their homes, which were finally repaired months after Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey damages. Now, they said, they were flooded again.

Frustrating, it seemed, was that Saturday’s rain, while unexpected in its volume, did not reflect the sort of storm that should have had such devastating impact. Beleaguered residents suggested human error: Someone failed to turn on the pumps, perhaps. Piles of trash, some of it left along the roadways, had blocked ditches, exacerbating flood situations.

Could any of that be true? Could all of that be true? If you’re the one flooded, there’s little solace.

On Monday we learned Port Arthur was offered some federal clean-up help last summer that it rejected. At first glance, it appeared to be an appealing offer.

The deal was the federal government would provide a pick-up sweep at a favorable rate: The feds would pay 90 percent; the city, 10. Later, Gov. Greg Abbott worked out a deal that enabled the state to pay the 10 percent, as well, giving hard-pressed local governments like Port Arthur’s a free pass.

Most flooded eastern Texas and coastal Texas governments said, “Yes, please,” and got quick service. Jefferson County was among them. Port Arthur, we learned, said no and debris pick-up here, with just municipal and private contractor service, proved painfully slow.cccac

Mayor Derrick Freeman defended that earlier decision this week, saying that in some cases, cities that took federal help found their contracted private servers went elsewhere to work, where they found greater profits. Others disagreed, and said there were guarantees for the cities to be served.

Was Port Arthur’s decision the right one? It was one voting residents will surely weigh next election.

This week, the governor has renewed an offer to help pick up debris and Port Arthur, it appears, will take the deal. For that, at least, we’re grateful.