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The towns of Beaumont and Port Arthur are located 20 miles apart in extreme southeast Texas. Port Arthur is located on Sabine Lake, a body of water deep enough to support ocean shipping and connected to the Gulf by a canal. Beaumont is inland. The area’s destiny changed in 1901 when the first oil well blew in the nearby Spindletop field, and it changed again in September 2005 when Hurricane Rita swept through the area. The 1901 event turned the area from a quiet lumber and port town into a thriving oil and gas economy, with one of the largest concentrations of oil refineries, oil, and petrochemical-related businesses in the state.
The heavy industry and gentle decline of some of that industry took its toll on the city and its environs, but renewal programs in recent years put some life back into the cities, especially the downtown areas. Low living costs and nearby outdoor recreation opportunities brought some people back into the area. These folks found a small-town life and cost environment while being close enough to Houston to benefit from its big-city amenities.
The area is located on a flat coastal plain with mostly treeless areas near the coast giving way to large pine forests moving inland. The climate is a modified humid subtropical suitable for year-round outdoor activities. Sea breezes usually prevent summer temperature extremes. The area lies far enough south that cold air masses are moderated although freezing temperatures occur a few times a year. The Gulf and evenly distributed rainfall give the area the highest relative humidity in the nation. Cloudy, rainy weather is most common in the winter. Heavy rainfall occurs during thunderstorms and infrequent tropical storms. Slower moving storms bring longer periods of rain in spring and fall. Fog occurs especially in winter and spring.
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