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UPDATE: Mayor issues voluntary evacuation for parts of Port Arthur

Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie has called for a voluntary evacuation of the Sabine Pass and Pleasure Island areas as Tropical Storm Beta approaches.

“As the mayor of the city of Port Arthur, I respectfully request the voluntary evacuation of Sabine Pass and Pleasure Island,” Bartie said during a news conference Sunday morning at the Port Arthur Police Department headquarters. “Those two areas in the city of Port Arthur happen to be our lowest lying areas in the city. What we would like is for those citizens to move to higher ground. They have the time now, and if a surge comes, and it will … then they would be probably out of harm’s way being in those areas.”

The National Weather Service forecast Beta to reach the middle of the Texas Gulf Coast late Monday or early Tuesday as a tropical storm, with 5-15 inches of rain to come now through Wednesday and a storm surge of 1 to 4 feet likely to impact Sabine Pass, Texas 87 between Sabine Pass and Port Arthur, Bridge City and Orange.

“What we’re dealing with is a lot of rain, a lot of water,” Bartie said. “We’ve been working with DD7 [Drainage District 7] to make sure the drains are prepared.”

Bartie said residents are responsible for clearing out any debris from drainage systems in front of their own property.

Garbage crews in Port Arthur, however, will collect trash until 7 p.m. Sunday across the entire city.

“What I’d like you to do more than anything is remain vigilant,” Bartie said. “Remain vigilant, and you make the best choices for your family. … COVID is still upon us, even with these other little things coming in, these hurricanes and everything else, we still have COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.”

Abbott’s response

Vigilance was also the calling card from Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday, as the state of Texas announced it has appropriate assets in place to respond and assist communities with potential flooding and rainfall.

The State Operations Center has been activated to Level II (Escalated Response Conditions) in support of the ongoing response to coronavirus and Beta.

“As Tropical Storm Beta approaches, I call on all Texans in the Gulf Coast region to heed the advice of local officials and take the necessary precautions to keep themselves and their loved ones out of harm’s way,” Abbott said.

“The state of Texas is prepared to support communities in the path of the storm, where substantial amounts of rainfall and flash flooding are a significant threat. We will continue to closely monitor the storm and work collaboratively with officials to ensure our fellow Texans are safe.”

Jefferson County and Cameron Vermilion Parishes in Louisiana are already under a tropical storm warning.

Bartie said he informed Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick about his declaration and added Branick would meet with his Office of Emergency Management officials at 10 a.m. Monday to discuss plans regarding Beta.

Nursing homes

Bartie urged loved ones of nursing home patients to “do what is necessary” for them, as the city will not pay the local ambulance service to provide critical care under a voluntary evacuation.

He also recommended nursing homes in Port Arthur “take care of its patients, but taking care of patients doesn’t mean that I, Mayor Pro Tem [Charlotte Moses] or any of these individuals here should tell you what to do. You are the custodians of those individuals. So, nursing homes, you do what is necessary to make sure those persons are safe and you make the right choice in that instance dealing with nursing home individuals.”

Other city services

City hall will remain open for business on Monday (Sept. 21).

Lamar State College, Port Arthur and Sabine Pass independent school districts, Tekoa Academy of Accelerated Studies and Bob Hope School officials will announce later Sunday whether classes will continue, Bartie said.

Residents may fill up sandbags at the Port Arthur Pavilion, the Bob Bowers Civic Center and in Port Arthur. Residents are asked to bring their own shovels.