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Stubborn “Dutch” in Texan Nederland try to weather Hurricane Rita

City of 17,000 without power

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

NEDERLAND, Texas - A stubborn streak still running in the descendants of 19th century Dutch immigrants compelled a number of Nederland’s citizens to choose against evacuating from their town threatened by Hurricane Rita. Although local damage from the disaster was less severe than feared, Nederland was left without electricity, water or sewer services.

According to Nederland’s Fire Chief Gary W. Collins, especially those with Dutch ancestry were unwilling to leave the area. He mentioned the local Koolmees, Reinstra and Doornbos families, who refused to leave in the Texan mass exodus, but who now may be forced to relocate elsewhere anyway, since the aftermath ‘seems to be worse than the original storm’, in the words of Nederland mayor Dick Nugent.

Many of the 17,000 residents of the town in Jefferson Country were evacuated to San Antonio. Others left on their own for inland Texas and for towns in Arkansas and beyond.

Hurricane Rita littered the streets of Nederland, founded in 1897 by Dutch settlers, with trees and debris. In the immediate aftermath, authorities still were waiting for help from the state and federal governments. Nederland City Manager Andre Wimer was extremely frustrated, because of problems with getting help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Much-needed generators could have helped the local fire department in saving a home from being destroyed by fire, days after the storm passed over Nederland.

Nederland is located between Beaumont and Port Arthur, where Rita was expected to make landfall, and about 75 miles east of Houston. It is home to a Sunoco crude oil refinery, which survived the hurricane without significant problems. However, ten of its storage tanks were damaged in the storm.