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Louisiana, Texas Prepare For More Rain From Tropical Storm Harvey


Harvey is also going to be a problem for Louisiana. The state's governor, John Bel Edwards, warns today that the worst is likely to come for us here. The National Weather Service forecasts heavy rains for southwest Louisiana through Thursday. Right now there are flash flood watches in effect through Thursday night. And this also goes for southeast Texas.

We're joined by NPR's science editor, Geoff Brumfiel, who's been tracking Harvey from the beginning, and also NPR's Jason Beaubien, who is on the road. He's been traveling from Dallas to Louisiana today. And we're reaching him in Jasper, Texas. Jason, let me start with you. What have you seen on your drive?

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: Well, I've been seeing a lot of rain, which obviously is really concerning because, you know, right now I'm about 150 miles northeast of Houston and it's been raining hard since being about 200 miles north of Houston. So you're getting a lot of rain that's falling in this really wide area north of Houston, north of Beaumont, Texas. And, you know, that whole system is moving more towards Port Arthur, Texas, and then into Lake Charles, La. And that's the great concern, that you've got this big area of the country, of this region that's getting dumped on right now. And all that water has got to get down to the Gulf.

SHAPIRO: Geoff Brumfiel, when you hear that description from Jason Beaubien on the ground, how does that fit into the larger picture that you've been tracking for several days now?

GEOFF BRUMFIEL, BYLINE: Well, I mean, I think what Jason's talking about is what we've been seeing. This is a massive storm. It's very large. It's been soaking up moisture from a very warm Gulf of Mexico and bringing it out over Texas and now soon to be Louisiana. I think, you know, the scope of what Jason was driving today is just a hint of how much rain we're talking about. It's not just a lot of rain falling at once. It's over a large area.

SHAPIRO: And the next phase of this seems to be Louisiana. Jason, tell us more about what Governor John Bel Edwards said today.

BEAUBIEN: Well, he's saying that the worst is yet to come. And that's what we've been hearing from some other forecasters as well. But he's saying that people really need to be aware, be prepared, and that it's going to be over the next three days, that this area is probably going to get the most flooding. He said there's been reports of a lot of roads that are covered in water.

So far they haven't been getting a lot of reports of damage. But he said that's really unlikely given the amount of water that's out there on the roads. Obviously it's been getting into some people's homes. So he's saying this is a major event, and he's warning people to really be ready.

SHAPIRO: Geoff Brumfiel, so often when we hear about damaging hurricanes the damage is caused by storm surge - at least the water damages. And in this case, it really seems to be caused by rainfall. What's going on here?

BRUMFIEL: Well, I think the big thing is the way this storm is moving. I mean, big hurricanes dump a lot of water, but they often have more of a sense of direction. One scientist I spoke to today described this as a top spinning on a perfectly flat table. Now, if there was a groove on that table, it would go somewhere. But there really isn't. And so it's moving, but it's moving very slowly. And as it moves this slowly, we get these incredible rainfalls we're seeing in Houston and elsewhere in the Texas region.

SHAPIRO: Jason, does the sense that it's moving so slowly give people in Louisiana a chance to perhaps prepare in a way that people in Houston did not?

BEAUBIEN: Yeah. And I think hopefully people will take it more seriously. I think that Louisiana is a state that gets hit with a lot of big storms. And, you know, often times people think, oh, you know, it'll blow through. I think there might have been a little bit of that complacency in Houston. And so I think people in Louisiana are aware that this is coming. They can also see these patterns.

I mean, everywhere I go into a shop it's up there on the screen. You can see this big mass of a storm moving across east Texas towards Louisiana. Right now I'm at a grocery store. People here are stocking up. I'm still on the Texas side. But people seem to be taking this very seriously.

You know, and I'm still, as I said, a good hundred miles away from the coast. And you got people in there. They're stocking up on water. I'm assuming that that's happening in Texas as well - in Louisiana as well. Obviously that's where I'm headed at the moment. But people in this region clearly are taking this very seriously.

SHAPIRO: And, Geoff Brumfiel, is it possible to say what role, if any, climate change is playing in the strength and magnitude of this storm?

BRUMFIEL: Well, very briefly, we've been looking at that today. And I think that, as I said, the main factor here is this storm isn't moving very fast. Climate change doesn't have much to do with that. But a warmer world means that there's more moisture in the air. And that means heavier rains when you get a big storm like this one.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR science editor Geoff Brumfiel. Thanks a lot.

BRUMFIEL: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: And NPR's Jason Beaubien on the road, heading towards Louisiana. Jason, stay safe out there, and thanks for joining us.

BEAUBIEN: Will do.

(SOUNDBITE OF MNDSGN AND SOFIE'S "ABEJA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Geoff Brumfiel works as a senior editor and correspondent on NPR's science desk. His editing duties include science and space, while his reporting focuses on the intersection of science and national security.
Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.