Hurricane Harvey Takes The Life Of Houston Police Officer Steve Perez

It is with a heavy heart that we announce the tragic in the line of duty death of Sergeant Steve Perez. pic.twitter.com/cHJxjnFgII

— Houston Police (@houstonpolice) August 29, 2017

Houston Police say 60-year-old Sgt. Steve Perez, trying to get to work despite Hurricane Harvey, drowned in his patrol car in flood waters.

In a somber news conference Tuesday afternoon, Police Chief Art Acevedo said Perez’ wife, Cheryl Perez, had asked her husband not report to work Sunday morning. But Perez, who had been on the police force for 34 years and was just a few days short of his 61st birthday, insisted on going in.

“Unfortunately in the darkness, Sgt. Perez drove into an underpass that’s about 16 and half feet, drove into the water and he died in a drowning-type event,” said Acevedo, his eyes moistening.

“Steve is one of the sweetest people in this department and I’ve been here only nine months. We have 6500 employees and I knew who Steve Perez was because he was a sweet, gentle public servant.”

Perez’ father-in-law, a Korean War combat veteran, also told him not to go because the conditions were so bad. “And his response was ‘we’ve got work to do,'” said Acevedo.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Perez was typical of all of the city employees working in the flood relief.

“Sometimes you find a way to make it happen, or you die in trying. Sgt. Perez lost his life because he tried to make it happen, he tried to get at his post…that’s the ultimate sacrifice,” said Turner, as quoted by the Houston Chronicle.

Perez left his home at 4 a.m. Sunday, but was unable to get to his duty station in downtown Houston. Following protocol, he apparently was trying to report to another station in Kingwood. His body was found Monday night, but officers could not recover it from the water until Tuesday.

Sgt. Steve Perez is survived by his wife and an adult son and daughter.

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'You Only Get One Life In This World': Voices From Houston's Convention Center

Lines of people wait outside the George R. Brown Convention Center, which has been turned into a shelter for people seeking refuge from Tropical Storm Harvey, in downtown Houston.

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Erica Brown called 911 for two days before a helicopter finally spotted her, trapped in her Houston home with her 7-month-old son and three other children. Sometimes when she called, she got nothing, just a busy signal and a disconnection. Multiple times she was told that they’d try to send help. Hours would go by with no rescue.

The family spent two nights in their trailer watching the floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey rise up the foundation. “It was a hard feeling because I thought me and my kids were going to lose our life in this hurricane disaster.”

On Tuesday around 11 a.m., a rescue team finally came.

Erica Brown is from Houston and is now at the convention center with her four kids.

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“The helicopter came over my house and I heard him, and he saw me waving the white shirt. And he came on down and he got us in the basket and pulled us up,” says Brown, 29. They had to go two-by-two in the basket. She sent her two oldest girls, a third-grader and a first-grader, up first with a small suitcase of clothes.

When the basket came back down, she lifted her kindergartner in ahead of her and then carried her infant son. It was still raining.

Erica Brown’s children, JaCorey Landheart, 7 (left), Jazmine Brown, 8 (top right), Cal’Rhyanna Brown, 6 (foreground) play with another girl at the convention center.

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Brown and her family are now among the estimated 9,000 people at the downtown George R. Brown Convention Center, where officials said they had been expecting about 5,000. Outside on Tuesday, the scene is chaotic, with police, Red Cross volunteers and National Guard members patting people down, directing traffic and trying to help new arrivals and people dropping off donations.

Inside, families have spread out their soaked belongings to dry. There are long lines for food. A play area for kids is now a place for people to sleep, as space has become more tight in the past 24 hours.

Rico Smith has been at the George R. Bush convention center in Houston since Sunday. He is with his extended family. “It’s a blessing that we are dry and eating.” Smith was in Houston for Hurricanes Ike and Alison and was a volunteer in New Orleans after Katrina. “I’m numb to it. I’m affected but not too down about it. I’m used to it.”

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Brown says the kids got fresh clothes at the convention center. Overnight, they slept on cardboard and army blankets on the floor, but on Tuesday morning an air mattress arrived. “They were very nice to us. It’s helpful for now until everything clears over,” she says.

“I was scared for our life,” Brown says. She says she found out on Monday that a friend died in the flooding over the weekend.

Another woman at the convention center, Michelle LaVan, 49, says she escaped her flooded home with seven family members.

They wanted to evacuate to a shelter beginning on Sunday, when their street flooded, but they couldn’t get through to emergency responders to help them. By midday Monday, they decided they needed to leave, or risk drowning in their four-bedroom apartment. They loaded suitcases with extra clothes and walked out into waist-deep water, yelling after a passing Coast Guard rescue boat.

Michelle LaVan, 49, escaped her flooded home with seven family members.

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“Someone flagged them down, said, ‘Hey, no no, stop! [There are] kids!'” LaVan recalls. The boat took them to a dump truck that took them to a parking lot where a private citizen drove them in the back of his pickup to the convention center.

Now she’s worried about what comes next. “Hopefully it stops raining tomorrow,” she says. “I know the water will go down in my subdivision if the rain stops.”

Dannie Harris and his sister Betty Shaw arrived at the convention center on Monday night. “When it first started the water rose and went down twice,” Betty says of the water in their home. “So we thought maybe it was gonna stop. I started sweeping up.” Dannie said “[Hurricane] Ike had just gone through.” After they realized it wasn’t going to subside they called for help.

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Her niece, 11-year-old Journey Booker, says the evacuation was mostly scary but a little bit fun. “All the water,” she says, smiling. “It looked like I just walked out of a bath after getting too much mud!” But it’s hard, knowing some of her friends and family are still in flooded homes, and that her middle school is flooded. Booker likes school, and she was excited to start sixth grade on Monday.

“I was excited. I was supposed to start yesterday, but Hurricane Harvey had a change of plans,” she says, sitting under a Red Cross blanket on the floor of the convention center.

Nearby, volunteer Emma Jones, 27, is handing out markers and paper to kids, and watching children while exhausted parents get food or use the bathroom. Jones is a social worker who works in crisis mental health at an outpatient clinic at UT Health in Houston.

Jazmine Brown, 8, and volunteer relief worker Emma Jones, 27, spent the morning drawing and writing notes.

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“I think I wasn’t expecting this many people to be here. Especially yesterday, there weren’t as many people,” Jones says. She says she’s talked to many people who don’t have their usual psychiatric medications and are struggling to handle the trauma of the storm.

“As I walk around, I’m hearing a lot of people saying ‘I don’t have my medications for bipolar disorder or schizophrenia for the first time.’ So we have these people who have this extreme experience, and also don’t have the medications they need for mood regulation,” she says.

Emergency officials have asked social workers and other mental health professionals to help as they can at shelters.

For those waiting out the rain at the convention center, many say they are just thankful to have a dry place to stay but are anxious for the future.

“It’s not a joke,” Brown says. “You only get one life in this world, so I’m glad we’re safe and sound now. But we have to start all over again.”

Joseph Guilroy, a server at IHOP got to the convention center via a city dump truck which took him to a transit center and then he got on a bus. “My apartment is done. It’s been hell. This is my city, I been here all my life. We are gonna get through it though. We always do.”

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Keep It Simple And Stay Open: The Waffle House Storm Menu

This view of Tropical Storm Harvey flooding in Houston on Tuesday shows why even the storm-hardy Waffle House had to close two of its restaurants in the city.

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The massive flooding in the Houston area has brought much of the city’s commercial life to a halt. For those venturing out it can be hard to find a place to eat. The Houston Chronicle posted a list of bars and restaurants that are open in the aftermath of Harvey. It’s not a big list. There are some cafes and diners serving up meals, but most of the locations are McDonald’s or Waffle House restaurants.

Waffle House, the 24-7 comfort-food chain, is notable for keeping the doors open when hurricanes and natural disasters strike. The Federal Emergency Management Agency even measures the severity of a storm’s damage by something called the Waffle House Index. When a Waffle House restaurant shuts down, it’s really bad. “Waffle House stays on when the wind’s blowing — they never close,” Philip Strouse, FEMA’s private sector liaison, told Yahoo Finance last year.

Well, Harvey’s storm surges have been so severe that two Waffle House locations in the Houston area have indeed closed – one owing to flooding and one because nearby roads are impassable, said Pat Warner, Waffle House director of external affairs. But 30 Waffle House restaurants in Houston remain open, serving up hot meals and giving people a place to congregate and charge their cellphones.

Because Waffle House tells customers it never closes, the company feels a special obligation to stay open under the most severe weather conditions. That means a lot of planning and storm logistics. In the case of Harvey, Waffle House “jump teams,” restaurant managers from Ohio, Tennessee and Georgia, headed to Houston to keep the grills going — in some cases doing the shifts of storm-stranded local employees.

“We go to a limited menu,” said Warner, meaning fewer choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner. “That makes it easier for our production teams and for our supplier.” Fortunately, power and water have been available at the Houston-area restaurants. But every restaurant has a “Waffle House storm playbook” with protocols for how to keep operating if the electricity and running water go out. Without natural gas, however, Waffle House is cooked. The restaurants need gas to keep the grills running.

Warner says keeping everything as simple as possible helps Waffle House stay on track during a crisis.

“To be honest, we just cook bacon and eggs. But sometimes you need bacon and eggs.”

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He Survived Hurricane Katrina, Now He's Had To Evacuate Houston

John Livious started over in Houston after evacuating New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Now, flooding has caused him to evacuate this new city.

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Much of Beaumont, Texas, is an island, with major roads cut off by floodwaters.

John Livious is standing in front of a hotel, looking out as rescue trucks navigate the flooded road in. Conditions here are getting worse.

“Winds picking up. Rain getting heavier. Water rising. Very bad sight,” he says. “Wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”

Livious came here to escape rising water in Houston early Sunday. Evacuating was an easy call he says.

“Gotta go with your gut,” Livious says. “After what I experienced. I ain’t climbing through no attic and waiting for no boat to come get me off the roof again. Period.”

Twelve years ago, Livious was 18 and living in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward when Hurricane Katrina struck, and the levees failed. Catastrophic flooding sent thousands of storm refugees like Livious, to Houston. Now, that city is gripped by a catastrophic flood.

“Unbearable, because it’s like déjà vu,” he says. “Witnessing the same thing again.”

The scars feel fresh of those first days in the Katrina disaster.

“Trying to stay that extra day or two turned into 10 feet of water, 9 feet of water,” Livious recalls. “So this time around we did want to get away, which we did beat the flood in Houston. Thank God for that. But now, we’re stuck in Beaumont.”

He’s stranded here, but back in Houston, it’s worse.

“Area that we’re staying at is completely underwater,” he explains. “But we were able to get memories out this time. Because that’s what we didn’t save in New Orleans – like pictures and stuff. So we got memories out because that’s something you can’t replace no matter what.”

He’s worried about his mom, who also evacuated with him and is staying at another hotel across the flooded roadway. They were among the estimated 250,000 Katrina refugees who ended up in Houston. As many as 40,000 stayed, including Livious’ family. He says his mom started over in Houston 12 years ago, but now, they’re back to square one.

“That’s another hard thing,” Livious says. “It’s kinda different when you move to a city or state when you have family already. But to move to a city or state where you just know no one? That’s different.”

But, they did it.

“We did it. Absolutely. It’s America. Home of the brave. You gotta figure it out,” he says. “No other way around it. Just gotta pray, stick together, get your head up and just get through it.”

Livious says he’s a survivor, and that the people being rescued in Houston right now will get there too. But he warns it takes time.

“The hardest thing … what I know they don’t want to hear right now, is they have to be patient,” he says. “You couldn’t tell me that in 2005 – to be patient when I’m stuck in the Superdome or when we got to Houston and stuck in the Astrodome. But, you have to be patient.”

Now, as Tropical Storm Harvey’s deluge has turned to Louisiana, Livious is watching closely. His four sons live in New Orleans with their mother.

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Bernard Pomerance, Playwright Of 'The Elephant Man,' Has Died

Bernard Pomerance, playwright of “The Elephant Man,” in New York in 1979, the year the play debuted.

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Bernard Pomerance, who wrote the Tony Award-winning play The Elephant Man about the life of a seriously deformed man in Victorian England, has died at the age of 76, according to his agency.

His agent Alan Brodie told The Associated Press that Pomerance “died Saturday of complications from cancer at his home in Galisteo, New Mexico.”

Pomerance’s 1979 play tells the true story of Joseph Merrick, referred to in the play as John Merrick, who leaves a traveling “freak show” and is admitted to a London hospital by a surgeon. It documents his rise to fame in London high society and eventual death at the age of 27.

Pomerance portrays Merrick as having an almost “magical innocence,” The New York Times wrote in its original Broadway review of the play. The newspaper described it as a “haunting parable about natural man trading his frail beauty and innocence for the protection and prison of society.”

It has been played 916 times, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The role of Merrick has attracted some of Hollywood’s most prominent leading men, such as Bradley Cooper, David Bowie and Billy Crudup.

In a 2013 interview with Fresh Air, Cooper describes convincing his graduate school to stage the play – and his eagerness to reprise the role 10 years later.

Merrick “just had this will to survive that is just daunting to me,” Cooper said. “So I just find him to be such a fascinating, fascinating person.”

Pomerance said in a 2014 interview with Blouin Artinfo that Cooper and other actors seem to personally commit to the role because “there is something about Merrick that creates in many people a sense of vocation. It’s a curious phenomenon because I don’t think it’s common in many roles.”

He says he felt the same kind of impulse while writing the play: “I have to do something right for this figure, to do justice. … I suspect that it has something to do with making the audience see past the surface of the figure and the man. And to be able to see a human being or a spiritual being.”

Merrick’s story was also the subject of an unrelated 1980 Oscar-winning film with the same name directed by David Lynch.

According to The Associated Press, “Pomerance also wrote ‘Quantrill in Lawrence’ and ‘Melons,’ produced at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1984.”

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Pomerance sat down with Santa Fe High School students who were putting on The Elephant Man in 2013.

School Theater Director Reed Meschefske told the newspaper that the playwright stressed empathy during his conversation with the young actors:

“Paraphrasing Merrick’s appeal to be viewed not as an animal or a monster but as a human being, Meschefske said: ‘It doesn’t get any simpler [or] more profound than that.'”

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Floods In South Asia Have Killed More Than 1,000 People This Summer

Residents walk through flood waters in Malda, West Bengal, India, on August 24. The death toll from floods sweeping South Asia has climbed above 1,000, according to news services following official tallies.

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Weeks of flooding across Nepal, Bangladesh and India have killed more than 1,000 people, according to news agencies keeping track of official death tolls.

And while waters are receding in some areas, the monsoon season isn’t over. A new round of flooding has brought life to a near standstill in Mumbai, India’s financial center and one of the world’s most populous cities.

Late summer often brings heavy rain, floods and landslides to the region, with deadly consequences.

“Seasonal monsoon rains, a lifeline for farmers across South Asia, typically cause loss of life and property every year between July and September, but officials say this year’s flooding is the worst in several years,” Reuters reports.

Millions of people have been displaced or stranded by the storms, which have stretched on for weeks.

Bystanders look on as floodwaters rage near a house in Kurigram, northern Bangladesh, on August 14. Tens of millions of people are affected by what aid agencies are calling the region’s worst monsoon disaster in recent years.

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In Bangladesh, the death toll is at least 140, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. More than 700,000 homes have been destroyed, the office says.

So much farmland has been ruined by the monsoon rains that the country faces long-term food insecurity, the U.N.’s World Food Program said last week. The WFP has been feeding more than 200,000 people, according to its statement. “Many flood survivors have lost everything: their homes, their possessions, their crops,” representative Christa Räder said.

Flood victims walk past damaged houses in Itahari, Sunsari district, Nepal, on August 16. Severe flooding has left tens of thousands of homes totally underwater in the populous southern lowlands of Nepal.

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In Nepal, at least 143 people have died, the U.N. resident coordinator says, and more than 460,000 people forced to leave their homes. Dozens of people are still reported missing, the Himalayan Times reports. The floodwaters have been receding, the Himalayan Times reports, but relief efforts are only beginning.

And in India, the U.N. says more than 32 million people are affected by the monsoon floods. Last week the news service AFP, tallying official death tolls across five regions, found 726 victims of flooding and landslides, while Reuters looked at six states and found at least 850 people have died.

Almost 2,000 relief camps have been established, the U.N. says.

Some aid groups active in the region are simultaneously responding to the devastating floods in Houston. The challenges are different, Jono Anzalone, the vice president of international services at the American Red Cross told NPR.

“If you compare the shelter conditions in Bangladesh to Texas, as dire as the condition may seem in Texas, typically, we would at least have safe structures on safe ground — not in flood plains,” he said. “For better or for worse, when people look at the U.S. response system, we have a very mature federal disaster response system … You don’t see that in Nepal, Bangladesh or India. In Nepal and Bangladesh, the government simply doesn’t have the resources.”

Residents affected by flooding navigate high water to collect relief materials in Udaynarayanpur, West Bengal, India, on August 1. Weeks of flooding have left more than 1,000 people dead in India, Bangladesh and Nepal.

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The past few weeks of monsoon flooding have had their most devastating effect on India’s east and north, as well as neighboring Bangladesh and Nepal.

But over the weekend, relentless rain began falling on Mumbai, on India’s western coast. The resulting floods brought the city’s transportation systems to a standstill.

Several trains have derailed after tracks were washed away, the Hindustan Times reports. The Times of Indiadescribes roads “under knee- to waist-deep water for several hours,” filled with abandoned vehicles.

After four continuous days of heavy rain, the city struggled further during high tide on Tuesday, when water couldn’t drain into the sea as usual, the Times of India reports.

Heavy rain showers for several days left some streets in Mumbai flooded waist-high on Tuesday. India’s financial capital was brought to a virtual standstill by the widespread floods, and more rain is in the forecast. More than 20 million people live in the Mumbai metro area.

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“Thousands waded through waist-deep water to reach home,” Reuters reported on Tuesday. The wire service continued:

“Floods in 2005 killed more than 500 people in the city. The majority of deaths occurred in shanty town slums, which are home to more than half of Mumbai’s population.

“Unabated construction on floodplains and coastal areas, as well as storm-water drains and waterways clogged by plastic garbage, has made the city increasingly vulnerable to storms.”

There’s flooding in a major public hospital, the Times of India reports. Officials have asked cars outside the city to turn back instead of driving toward the center, as waterlogged roads back up traffic and create perilous conditions.

At least 5 people have died in Mumbai’s floods, according to NDTV.

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Uber Ends Its Controversial Post-Ride Tracking Of Users' Location

Uber says it will once more provide users the option to give the application location data only sometimes. Above, a sign marks an Uber pickup point at LaGuardia Airport in New York in March.

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Uber says it has ended its tracking of users after they complete their rides – a practice that caused immediate concern when the company added it in November.

A spokeswoman for Uber tells NPR that users will now have the option to share their location with the company only while using the app. That setting had been available before November’s change.

“Uber’s latest update allows the ride-hailing app to track user location data even when the application is running in the background,” NPR’s Laura Roman reported at the time. “Previously, Uber only collected data from the user if the rider had the application open. Now, if a rider calls for an Uber and closes the app, Uber says it will continue to collect location data up until five minutes after the ride ends. That means Uber can see where you end up after you leave the car.”

Uber chief security officer Joe Sullivan told Reuters the privacy change was unrelated to the company’s naming its new CEO earlier this week.

“We’ve been building through the turmoil and challenges because we already had our mandate,” Sullivan told the news service.

After Uber changed the privacy options in November, users were forced into all-or-nothing location permissions: If a user did not permit the app to “always” track their locations, they were forced to select “never” – which meant having to type out one’s current location every time one hailed a ride. (A minor bummer, but still inconvenient, given the handy geolocation sensors baked into smartphones.)

Allowing Uber to always track one’s location didn’t seem great either, given that this was the same company that announced in 2012 it had scoured user data and calculated the prevalence of one-night stands.

Why exactly did Uber need to know where riders went after they got out of the car? Uber said it used the data to “to improve pickups, drop-offs, customer service, and to enhance safety.”

Privacy concerns about Uber have been a constant, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint against the company in June 2015.

It turns out that Uber was tracking users in other ways as well, using a technique known as fingerprinting. The New York Timesreported in April that the company was “secretly identifying and tagging iPhones even after its app had been deleted and the devices erased,” in violation of Apple’s privacy guidelines.

Two weeks ago, Uber entered into a consent agreement with the Federal Trade Commission, to settle FTC charges that the company “deceived consumers by failing to monitor employee access to consumer personal information and by failing to reasonably secure sensitive consumer data stored in the cloud.”

Under the agreement, Uber is required to implement a comprehensive privacy program that addresses privacy risks related to its products and services. It’s also barred from misrepresenting how it monitors internal access to customers’ personal information, or how it protects and secures that data. And its privacy program must be audited by a third party — every two years for the next 20 years.

Post-trip location collection is already disabled for iPhones and Android, Uber says, and the new privacy settings will appear on iPhones over the next few weeks.

“We’re working through the mechanics for Android now,” Melanie Ensign of Uber’s Security and Privacy Communications wrote in an email to NPR, “but we’re committed to parity for transparency, privacy & choice across both platforms.”

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Health Issues Stack Up In Houston As Harvey Evacuees Seek Shelter

Evacuees fill up cots at a shelter set up inside the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas.

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As floodwaters continue to rise in parts of Houston, health workers are trying to keep people safe and well, though that challenge is escalating.

“The first and foremost thing that everybody’s concerned about is just getting folks out of harm’s way with the flooded waters,” says Dr. Umair Shah, Executive Director of Harris County Public Health, whose own home came under mandatory evacuation Tuesday morning.

Before the storm hit, Harris County Public Health sent out a number of messages warning residents of to avoid hazards presented by flood waters: downed power lines, sewage contamination, rusted nails and the possibility of critters in the water — everything from snakes to spiders to alligators.

Now that people are showing up in shelters, efforts are turning to helping people with both health issues arising from the flood — including respiratory and gastrointestinal problems — and with getting care for preexisting conditions, some of which can be life-threatening if not treated promptly.

“That doesn’t even obviously take into account the numerous injuries and the mental health issues that all come into play. So it’s a very complicated response system,” Shah tells All Things Considered host Ari Shapiro.

Shah remembers that after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, health workers set up clinics in shelters and asked people with anxiety or schizophrenia to come forward. Many were not willing to do so. “So we actually had to fan into the shelter to identify ourselves mental health issues,” Shah recalls. “That’s a big component and something we’re also mindful of now.”

At the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston, licensed clinical social worker Brittany Burch showed up to help some of the thousands of people who have taken shelter there. As she tells NPR, she’s already seeing and hearing a lot of distress.

“A lot of people really overwhelmed, stories of having to jump in a boat or get a helicopter out, wade through waist-high water, losing everything,” she says. “So just a lot of people in shock, trying to adjust to what’s happened and what happens from here.”

Burch has heard from people who, before the storm, already suffered from chronic depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and other illnesses. “Some people haven’t been on their medications for a few days,” she says. “So there’s a lot of stress just being here, and then the extra mental health needs that arise in the midst of this [are] also very challenging.”

“There is such an unmet medical need,” says Kristin Malaer, another social worker who also showed up to volunteer. “Just going and connecting with people, you find out so many of them are diabetic or so many of them have chronic medical illness, that serving them all is pretty overwhelming.”

Among the more pressing medical issues is getting treatment to the sizeable population of people on dialysis.

DaVita, a leading provider of dialysis services nationwide, says the company normally serves approximately 6,700 patients in Houston. About a third of their 100 or so centers in the city remain open for all patients who need dialysis, according to Chakilla Robinson White, who oversees operations at DaVita’s dialysis centers in Texas and neighboring states.

“We are trying to call proactively and ensure that those patients we know need treatment are seeking treatment, either with us or within a hospital system,” White says. “We’re like, ‘Hey, we would like to see you in a center. What do we need to do to be able to get you here?’ “

For patients they reach who are stuck in their homes, surrounded by flood water, they’re trying to arrange transportation. “We’re alerting the authorities that this is a medical emergency so that they can get prioritized,” she says.

Gail Torres, senior clinical communications director for the National Kidney Foundation, says forgoing dialysis treatment for even a day can be extremely dangerous, particularly to the heart.

“Certain toxins can build up, but most importantly, potassium and fluid can affect the heart,” she says. “If you have a buildup of potassium, depending on what their baseline is, it can send them into cardiac arrest.” She says that delays in treatment can result in cumulative damage, as they saw after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

In Houston, DaVita is working to bring in enough staff to keep dialysis centers open, calling in workers from other cities and states and also finding ways to get their Houston-based colleagues to work.

“We’re working on bringing in boats to actually get our teammates in some of the neighborhoods where they’re unable to escape through the flood,” White says. “It’s amazing how many teammates have had hardships themselves, losing part of their homes and still showing up to treat our patients.”

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Amplified And Orbital: Queens Of The Stone Age's Josh Homme On Living In The Moment

Queens of the Stone Age, led by Josh Homme (center). The band’s new album Villains was released August 25.

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The past few years have been all over the map for Josh Homme.

There has been cause for celebration: The frontman and founder of Queens of the Stone Age produced a record with and toured with his childhood idol, Iggy Pop.

But there has also been tragedy. Homme’s other band, the Eagles of Death Metal, was playing at the Bataclan during the horrific Paris attacks almost two years ago. Though Homme was not there that night, he still does not talk about it.

The new Queens of the Stone Age album, Villains,shows few signs of that darkness. The upbeat, even dancey record was produced by Mark Ronson, who famously worked with Amy Winehouse, Adele and Lady Gaga before working on Villains.

Homme talked to NPR’s Kelly McEvers about the band’s “orbital” approach to the music on Villains, working with Iggy Pop and why he won’t discuss the 2015 attack at the Bataclan. Hear the conversation at the audio link or read an edited transcript of the interview below.

Kelly McEvers:How did you come to work with Mark Ronson? You’re two guys from two very different musical worlds.

Josh Homme: He asked me to play on the Lady Gaga record, so I played on about four tracks, five tracks. And I got to watch him work. He’s a great communicator. I’ve kind of banked everything on music being my religion and my philosophy and my way to leave baggage behind and learn something. He was very understanding of that and I think he got excited at that reality. Plus he dresses like a gangster on vacation, so he looks very handsome.

All the time! He’s got the best hair.

Yeah, he’s willing to go the extra hair mile.

You are a rock ‘n’ roll dude. You don’t have your leather jacket on today, but you’ve got your tatted hands, you’ve got your serious cane that looks like it could maybe hurt somebody.

I’ve seen and done things.

Right. [Laughs.] But you have this new album! And it’s kind of electronic and dancey.

Yeah, I mean, normally we have three guitar players. Lynyrd Skynyrd did three guitar players wonderfully but it’s difficult to do. So while two guitars are going, when a vocal leaves, something needs to vocalize and carry the tune. So we had our keyboard player Dean [Fertita] sort of lead that way in this sort of John Carpenter [way]. You know, John Carpenter did all the soundtracks to his movies, and there were these sort of broken, robotic keyboard sounds — very dental, perhaps, sometimes.

I would love an example.

Of his or mine?

His. Both.

I mean, the Halloween soundtracks — everything seems to start with this stark bing bing bing bing,then it goes into these kind of noises. [Imitates noises.] And for us, a song like “Fortress” would be a great example of keyboards leading the way.

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When I think about your last album, …Like Clockwork, it was dark.

Yeah, I had troubles.

You had some health issues. So what is it that this album is tracking, in terms of your life? Are things just kind of better, and you’re in a good place? Is that what’s happening?

Yeah, and I also think — what I took from that, without wanting to speak in depth about Paris, from what I took from that —

From the Bataclan.

Yeah. What I took from that was — I felt like if I was gonna carry the flag for anything, it was being yourself in the moment. And if there’s a moment hanging in the air, grab it and make it yours. Especially after working with Iggy Pop as well, on Post Pop Depression. It was like — say what you want, like and don’t like what you want, but I’m going to run — now.

Let’s talk about working with Iggy Pop. How did that come about?

Well, in a very modern way: I got a text.

[Laughs.] Wait, what did it say? Because nobody else in the world gets this text. So I feel like we need to linger on this moment for a minute.

It said, “Hey, was thinking maybe we could record something. Let me know what you think. Iggy Pop.” And if you’d told the 13-year-old me that that was the case, that was gonna happen, I would’ve gave you the finger and skated off.

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I wanted to listen to another song that our colleague Gabe says is his new anthem: “The Evil Has Landed.” It’s definitely rock. There’s also this kind of Bryan Ferry thing going on, too.

Absolutely, sort of Sly & the Family Stone, perhaps? Using double-time to go half-time. There’s something that was really important to me and that I explained to Mark, and that the guys knew early, is that many songs are like a merry-go-round. When the chorus comes back around you’ve heard it, you’re familiar with it, it’s the same. Perhaps the words change, perhaps they don’t. And for me, this needed to be very orbital, where every time you hear a part, you hear a verse come around, it’s only 40 percent the same; it’s been altered each time. And the chorus as well. That way, it’s more like getting on a bus at a bus stop: You get on one place, you get off somewhere else. And you don’t understand what’s going to happen at all times. But you feel comfortable; hopefully, you feel comfortable.

Yeah — like: I’m on a bus — I know what a bus is.

Yeah. “It’s my bus.” This orbital style — I figured, however we’re spinning on the planet, spinning ’round the sun: Let’s try this same thing with music.

You said you don’t like to talk about Bataclan and I’m not going to linger on it too much. But I guess what I want to know is: Why? Why don’t you want to talk about it?

There’s so much that I could not explain, that is not up for discussion, that does not require your opinion, that isn’t impacted by my own. There are people’s [pauses] kids, which I have — And, I don’t talk about the Bataclan because, in some ways, it’s the business of the world and in other ways, it’s nobody’s business. But I can’t explain how rough that was in a way that I care what you think, you know? I’m sorry to say it that way.

No, I think I see what you mean.

And so I just say I don’t like to talk about that, because I don’t. I hate it. But it didn’t change anything for me. It amplified everything and who I am.

It sounds like you were like, “All right, let’s live. Let’s be.”

Yeah. Yeah. You can’t stop what I have coming.

Web intern Karen Gwee contributed to this story.

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