Shelter-in-place turns Deer Park into a ghost town

DEER PARK, Texas (KTRK) -- Throughout the morning, the streets of Deer Park were empty.

"I was able to smell the chemicals in the air," resident Jeremy Styron said. "It was making my eyes water and throat feeling like there was pain in it."

In the neighborhoods, lots of cars were in driveways and the street as residents stayed indoors.

WHAT IS BENZENE? Signs and symptoms you've been exposed

"We couldn't breathe in the house, it was that bad," Kaitlyn Medlin said. "The smell was coming from outside through the windows and doors."

At Community Health 1st ER, the number of visitors doubled on Tuesday. The new standalone emergency room is just about a mile from the ITC facility.

Dr. Thanh Cheng said they've had patients come in with shortness of breath, coughing, chest tightness, itchy nose and watery eyes.

The board certified emergency medicine physician says no one had symptoms serious enough to go to a nearby hospital, but they are treating patients.

"We can help patients tremendously because when you're short of breath, your windpipes are closing down. We can give breathing treatments and medications to open up the windpipe to breathe better," Dr. Cheng said.

SEE ALSO: Benzene levels at ITC facility raise health concerns in Harris County

There was no business Thursday from the post office to fast food restaurants, as closed signs were up and parking lots empty.

Most residents believed the shelter-in-place from elevated benzene levels was the right decision.

"Go to the bank and pick out a jar of pennies and pick the one that's bad, that's what you're looking at," said a resident named Chip. "People shouldn't overreact but if you're uncomfortable, leave."

But here they are ready to get back to daily life.

"I can definitely say it's a lot better than what it was earlier," Styron said. "I want to give my thanks to the people who risked their lives to help fight it off and protect us from the danger."

Follow Christine Dobbyn on Facebook and Twitter.
Copyright © 2019 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.