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Houston mayor defends decision not to issue evacuation order ahead of Harvey

Houston Police SWAT officer Daryl Hudeck carries Catherine Pham and her son Aiden after rescuing them from their home surrounded by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he has no regrets about not calling for an evacuation of Houston residents ahead of Tropical Storm Harvey.

Turner reiterated at a Sunday night news conference that the best course of action was for residents in Houston and surrounding areas to stay in place.

Factors in his decision included not knowing where Harvey, when it was still a hurricane, was headed and the "crazy" logistics of trying to plan an evacuation of 2.3 million people within a couple of days.

Turner also cited the experience the city had when residents evacuated ahead of Hurricane Rita in 2005 and gridlocked local roadways, leaving many people in traffic for more than 20 hours as they fled the city and resulting in dozens of deaths. Rita had been predicted to hit Houston but ended up making landfall well east of the city.

"The decision that we made was a smart one. It was in the best interest of Houstonians," he said. "It was the right decision in terms of their safety and always we must put the interests of the city and Houstonians first. That's exactly what we did. We did what was the right thing to do."

Turner said he has no concerns that the shelter that has been set up at the George R. Brown Convention Center will turn into New Orleans' Superdome following Hurricane Katrina. At the football stadium, 30,000 evacuees spent days packed inside the sweltering dome with limited power and water and a roof that was shredded in the howling wind.

"I think in this city we know how to do it in such a way that is not chaotic. It's respectful, it's dignified," Turner said.

Turner said he wants to transition people staying at the shelter to more suitable housing as quickly as possible.

Related Topics:
weatherhurricane harveyhurricaneu.s. & worldtropical stormTexasHouston
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