Samaritans pray after helping clear furniture from the flooded house of a neighbor in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston, Texas, US September 3, 2017. (Reuters Photo/Adrees Latif)

Texas Coast Crawls Back to Work, School as Harvey Cleanup Continues


SEPTEMBER 06, 2017

Houston. Houston residents on Tuesday (05/09) picked up the pace of their recovery from Hurricane Harvey, returning to schools and offices to help get the nation's fourth largest city and its vital shipping and oil industries back on track.

With floodwaters having receded and the Labor Day weekend behind them, many large Texas employers, universities and transit services reopened or began full schedules on Tuesday. But not all of the Houston-area's 6.6 million residents were in position to go back to work and instead were dealing with waterlogged houses and sodden possessions.

Daniel Semetko, 60, headed back to his job at a Houston energy company on Tuesday with mixed feelings.

"I’ve got to get work done but I don’t think it’ll be a productive day,” he said. “I have to be sensitive to people who lost their homes and are there because they need to take care of their jobs."

Semetko, who took in a family whose home flooded with some 8 inches (20 cm) of water, said the devastation was made fresh by the piles of debris lining streets on his commute to his office. Harvey first hit Corpus Christi in southern Texas on Aug. 25 and traveled up the coast, with the Houston area especially hit hard. The storm killed more than 60 people, dumped more than 50 inches (127 cm) of rain, damaged 203,000 homes and caused damaged estimated as high as $180 billion.

Oil refineries, pipelines and shipping channels in the nation's energy center have begun a gradual return to operations. Late on Monday, Royal Dutch Shell said it was preparing to restart a gasoline unit at its Deer Park, Texas, joint-venture refinery.

Exxon Mobil, Halliburton and Chevron were among the scores of Houston businesses reopening their doors to office workers. From Corpus Christi to Houston, universities were resuming classes.

Some places are still out of commission. ConocoPhillips closed its Houston headquarters through Sept. 11. BP's Houston offices suffered severe flooding and will be unavailable until December, Chief Executive Bob Dudley told Reuters. About 650 of BP's 6,000 staff in the area are homeless, he said.

Exxon said its Spring, Texas, campus was unaffected by the heavy rains but employees who need to work remotely are encouraged to do so, spokeswoman Suann Guthrie said.

Houston's school district, the nation's seventh largest, remains closed this week to repair flooded schools. The district has said about 75 of its 275 schools suffered major or extensive flood damage but other school districts in the area were open for class.