How does a community survive a direct hit from a class 4 hurricane such as Harvey? How long does it take to rebuild and restore?
The day after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, my husband left our home in Missouri to go to Rockport, Texas, to check on our business. He didn’t know what he would find there, or how long he would be gone. For that reason, I stayed at our home in Missouri to take care of things there. He ended up being gone a month, the longest we’d ever been apart in our near 25-year marriage. Scott finally returned home for a short break, but two weeks later he returned to Rockport, and this time I went along.
I have to admit that I feel guilty that I didn’t suffer alongside Scott and the others. I felt bad for him while he was miserable in the heat, not having much to eat, and dealing with stress and mosquitos.
I wrestled with writing this post, too. Who am I to write about this disaster when I didn’t weather it with the people there? But in the end, I decided that I’m a blogger and that’s what bloggers do – write about it. There are a lot of people from all over that love Rockport. It’s a popular destination for “Winter Texans,” as well as for families who flock to the area for spring breaks and summer vacations. A lot of people would be interested in the progress Rockport is making to restore what once was. And when I say “Rockport,” I’m really referring to the Rockport-Fulton area – two small conjoined towns on the Texas Gulf coast. If you’re from that area, I invite you to help me write your story by adding a comment with your perspective.
This is a follow-up to In the Eye of the Storm ~ Hurricane Harvey.
Back in Business
Scott and his crews have already made a big improvement to our business, StowAway Storage. The land has been cleared of debris, for the most part, and the fences propped up and gates fixed. They had to wait to do a lot of it until insurance adjusters could visit to take photos. Being without electricity for a few weeks also deterred them. The facility looks pretty good, but it’s in need of repairs which are being arranged.
One of the amazing things was that the fifth wheel that we parked beside our office, survived the hurricane almost unscathed. There was a little cosmetic damage on the outside, an awning was torn off, and there is evidence of the trailer “torquing,” but there wasn’t any water damage or broken windows.
We had bought the fifth wheel to have a place to stay when we visited. Scott was wondering aloud what he would have done had it been destroyed. He would have had to sleep on the hard floor of the office, he guesses. Our little trailer ended up being a big blessing. During the first few weeks before power was restored, Scott and a few others were able to take showers in it. With a generator he was able to run the a/c, and although it couldn’t keep up, it still helped offset the heat and humidity following the storm.
The media had reported that no one would be permitted to re-enter the area, but that didn’t deter Scott. He was anxious to check on, and protect, his business. He reported that he didn’t have any trouble getting back into town, and that looting was underway. Scott likened it to the Wild West.
As residents and business owners returned, many began openly carrying weapons. During my visit, six weeks later, make-shift signs could still be seen on properties, warning would-be looters.
Brush and Debris
As property was cleared, all the brush and debris was piled high along the roadsides. Crews, residents, and volunteers have all been hard at work since soon after the hurricane, but the piles are still everywhere. Heavy equipment makes its way around town, picking it up and heaping it into trucks and trailers. Boats and campers are still strewn all over.
There are temporary areas where the debris is being dumped. I came upon one area in the middle of the divided highway, and another near the airport. The piles are humongous and keep growing.
It’s baffling how some concrete buildings were demolished, and yet some mobile homes seem untouched. Like my husband said, “some buildings that shouldn’t have made it did, while buildings that should have made it didn’t.” We’ve heard different estimates of how many tornadoes were spawned from Harvey, from 48 to 200. I can imagine that would be very hard to determine. We think the tornadoes explain the inconsistency in the damage.
With most buildings damaged or demolished, some businesses rushed to reopen by finding temporary locations, using trailers, or making do in their damaged facilities.
Most of the hotels are still closed. As they reopen, they quickly fill up with workers, volunteers, and residents that lost their homes.
Some businesses were so heavily damaged that they’ve announced they won’t rebuild, meaning a loss of jobs for the area. Others are still cleaning and making repairs, and won’t be able to reopen for months.
The facilities that are open are busy. Convenience stores are jam-packed, as are the laundromats. There are so many people needing to eat out, that restaurants are busy and it’s big news when another one reopens.
Paradise Key restaurant sustained damage to its building, so it opened outside with a tent, tables with umbrellas, and a trailer to cook in. We ate there one evening with our cousins, and it was actually very charming and the food was excellent. We were impressed with their quality and ambience under the circumstances.
Right outside of Paradise Key restaurant is a heavily-damaged dry-stack boat storage facility, and piles of wrecked boats.
FEMA trailers have begun to arrive for displaced residents. Some have purchased RVs to live in temporarily.
For weeks after the storm, children were bused to nearby cities for school, but portable buildings have been brought in for temporary use so that the kids could return to their own campuses.
Heroes and heroines showed up to help from all over. I’m not even aware of all of the different church groups, organizations, and individuals who came to the rescue, but I know they were all so appreciated! Residents who have problems of their own have volunteered to help others as well.
Businesses pitched in to use their heavy equipment and manpower to help residents clear their properties, and restaurants gave free or reduced meals. Our friends, the Meinhausens, of Stevie Lew’s BBQ Kitchen, gave out a huge number of free meals, and even let first responders use their showers. Soon after Whataburger reopened, Scott went there to get lunch for his crew, and they gave him a reduced price. When Pizza Hut first opened their trailer for business, they sold pizzas for $5. I’m sure the stories go on and on, so feel free to give some credit of your own in the comments.
Everywhere you go, people are still talking about Hurricane Harvey. When Scott was there right afterwards, he said he couldn’t go anywhere without someone wanting to tell him their story.
While I was at the laundromat, I struck up a conversation with a woman there who had lost everything. In restaurants I could hear the conversations at nearby tables centering around the storm.
Residents are wearing t-shirts that say “Rockport Strong” and putting signs in their yards.
The Long, Long Road
Help has flooded the area from all directions. Everywhere you look there’s heavy equipment and crews hard at work. In spite of that, it takes time. The road to full recovery will be very long, but each day there is progress.
To check on the status of businesses or to donate to relief efforts, visit the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce.
Just the Two of Us – contains pre-hurricane photos of Rockport-Fulton.