Brad Robichaux: Imelda was a test and our area passed

Published 12:08 am Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Imelda certainly was no Harvey, at least for the Greater Port Arthur area.

Port Arthur, Nederland, Groves and Port Neches managed to keep their collective heads above the water, thanks in no small part to the efforts of city officials, fire departments, plenty of residents and the lessons learned and improvements made since the last time the area faced flooding.

The Nederland Fire Department mounted a few rescues, but, thankfully, Nederland Frist Baptist Church was gracious enough to open its doors to provide shelter for the flooding victims.

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“The people really appreciate it, we got a lot of compliments,” Nederland Fire Chief Terry Morton said. “First Baptist Church was very instrumental in rescues. They opened their building up and provided some personnel and food for evacuees. It was a huge help for us.”

Some of that food was donated by Golden Croissant. Owner Anita Nguyen had helped during Hurricane Harvey by providing her baked goods for first responders and others in need, and she saw an opportunity to do her part again.

“It’s just what we do,” she said. “We’ve done it twice. We had the food available, why wouldn’t we help?”

Port Neches was on top of its obligations. Once the city dispatched with its power outages and street flooding, it answered the call of neighboring Fannett, which received on Thursday the highest reported rainfall levels — 42 inches.

“We all band together no matter what,” Port Neches Police Chief Paul Lemoine said. “When Harvey hit we had all kinds of volunteers and agencies that helped us out. That’s how it works. That’s what we do.”

Groves didn’t have a single report of a home flooding by Friday. Nevertheless, city officials were out in force making sure ditches were clear and the drainage systems were working. Groves Assistant Fire Chief Kelley Moore was out with Mayor Brad Bailey clearing ditches of blown-away garbage cans.

“We were going by my neighborhood and saw that garbage cans — including mine — were knocked over, so we got out and picked up our garbage to make sure it didn’t get caught in the drainage,” Moore said.

Drainage District 7 stayed on storm duty until all the water was gone. Luckily for the area, there wasn’t nearly as much water as there could have been.

“This (Imelda) was completely overshadowed by Harvey because it was such a big storm,” DD7 general manager Phil Kelley said.

This wasn’t the first rodeo for the Greater Port Arthur area when it comes to flooding. People here know what it takes to weather sever weather events because they’ve gone through it all before. They know it takes vigilance, planning and community support.

It takes luck, too, and the Greater Port Arthur Area was lucky to avoid the worst Imelda had to offer. People were still ready, and still willing to do what it takes. Harvey was a harsh lesson to learn, but it seems to have been well-learned.

If Imelda was, for us, only a test to see how we handle the next 100-year flood, we certainly passed.

Brad Robichaux is a reporter for The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at