PORT ARANSAS, Texas – Along the Texas Gulf Coast, the destruction from Hurricane Harvey is still clearly evident and hard to comprehend.
Friday, August 25th, 2017 is a night the people in this part of Texas will never forget. It will be remembered as the night Harvey came ashore.
Just 24 hours prior, Hurricane Harvey was only a category 1 hurricane and wasn’t expected to be much of threat. Then, it strengthened.
“Wednesday we went into the meeting thinking, ‘Hey, we think it’s only going to be a one,” said Jeffery Hentz, president and CEO of Port Aransas Tourism Bureau. “We should be okay, but let’s all be prepared.’ In the next 24 hours we went from we should be okay to evacuate. We had about six hours to evacuate the city.”
For hours the coast was battered by 130 mile per hour winds, heavy rains, and a massive storm surge.
“You couldn’t even hear yourself think it was so loud and so strong,” Johnnie, a brave Texan who rode out the storm, shared.
The winds died down, the rain eventually went away, and the cleanup began.
“Doing what people are supposed to do in situations like this,” Johnnie said about those helping clean up in the after math of the storm. “Forget about all that other bologna and stuff and pitch in and help one another. Get things straightened out, and then you can go back to raising hell with one another after it’s all over with.”
The Port Aransas marina, a crucial part of the local economy is slowly rising back out of the sea.
“This is one of the greatest fishing towns, to me, in the country, let alone the world,” Jeffery said. “Our marina was virtually shut down. We had 60, 70 boats that were down sunk below. We’re still several weeks away to where we could have a fully operational marina. Even then we have millions and millions of dollars of damage from here all the way down into the channel of work that is going to have to be done.”
Homeowners continue to rebuild, restore, or tear down their homes.
“The ones that didn’t get a direct hit; a lot them got roof and water damage,” Sandy, a Rockport resident whose home was destroyed in the storm, says. “So, even the ones that you see from the outside that might look like they’re unharmed, some of them are totally devastated inside, so they have to be torn down. A lot of people are still living in tents. We have people that are living in parts of their house, me.”
All the debris in the Port Aransas area is being moved to staging area just south of town, known as Mount Port Aransas.
“There’s a massive amount of debris,” Jeffery explained. “Obviously when you 80 to 90 percent of your town blown up the way Hurricane Harvey did to our destination, there’s a lot of debris, as you can see around here. That’s everybody’s homes and businesses out there, including ours.”
With every brush stroke, every hammer strike, and every load of debris Rockport and Port Aransas are slowly but surely on the road to recovery.
“Our situation is dyer, but we’re getting ourselves out of it,” Jeffery said. “The greatest chapters of Port A have yet to be written.”
To help our fellow Texans get back on their feet, visit the Rebuild Texas Fund at www.rebuildtx.org or the following local sites for Port Aransas www.newdayportafund.com and Rockport www.paypal.com/fundraiser/charity/2421485.