COASTAL CATAS­TRO­PHE

Fire kills one in town that took di­rect hit from Har­vey Bas­trop County de­clares disas­ter as more rain falls City warns res­i­dents that the worst is yet to come

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - By Jeremy Schwartz and Ben Wear

Hur­ri­cane Har­vey threw its first punch at Rock­port and Ful­ton, up the coast from Cor­pus Christi, killing at least one per­son, in­jur­ing oth­ers and leav­ing count­less homes and busi­nesses in sham­bles.

Now, a huge swath of South­east Texas awaits what fore­cast­ers say will be ma­jor flood­ing on rivers and small streams with the di­min­ished storm camped out about 100 miles south of Austin and issuing tor­rents of rain from a pin­wheel of clouds stretch­ing from the Rio Grande Val­ley to beyond the Louisiana bor­der.

Na­tional Weather Ser­vice pre­dic­tions in­di­cate the Colorado, Guadalupe, San An­to­nio and Bra­zos rivers will all rise above flood lev­els by Mon­day or Tues­day.

But on the un­luck­i­est sec­tion of the coast, the trou­ble ar­rived late Fri­day with winds peaking at 140 mph and storm surges that brought Gulf wa­ters over sea­walls and into struc­tures.

“It’s pretty sick­en­ing,” Aransas

County Judge C.H. “Burt” Mills Jr. said. “Lots of emo­tions are in­volved when you see your com­mu­nity de­stroyed like this, but we’ll bounce back.”

By Satur­day af­ter­noon, the storm had al­ready dumped up to 8 inches of rain in DeWitt County, at least 10 inches in Fort Bend County, half a foot in the Hous­ton area and more than 3 inches at Austin-Bergstrom In­ter- na­tional Air­port. But by Wed­nes­day it could bring as much as 20 inches more to some com­mu­ni­ties, fore­cast­ers said, and up to 40 inches in iso­lated spots. The Austin metro area could see as much as 15 inches.

“It’s pretty much stalled now across South Cen­tral Texas,” said Ja­son Run­yen, a Na­tional Weather Ser­vice me­te­o­rol­o­gist. “The flood­ing will last days, and per­haps even into next week.”

‘Our town ain’t never go­ing to be the same’

Mills said the per­son killed in Rock­port, whose name wasn’t re­leased, was trapped in­side a home when it caught fire. Mills said 12 to 14 peo­ple were in­jured else­where in Rock­port.

Lo­cal lead­ers in Rock­port said their city of about 10,000 res­i­dents on Aransas Bay has been transformed from a sleepy coastal com­mu­nity into a de­bris field. Many pub­lic build­ings have been dam­aged, in­clud­ing a school and the com­mu­nity’s li­brary. As the sun rose Satur­day, the full ex­tent of the cat­a­strophic dam­age in Rock­port be­came clear: nu­mer­ous build­ings were de­stroyed and power lines snapped. Tree limbs and twisted me­tal lit­tered the streets.

Rock­port po­lice, ham­pered by lack of cell­phone or ra­dio ser­vice, were as­sess­ing dam­age through­out the city Satur­day morn­ing and look­ing for any res­i­dents who might need res­cue or med­i­cal help. The win­dows of nu­mer­ous po­lice SUVs parked at the po­lice sta­tion were shat­tered.

“Our town ain’t never go­ing to be the same,” of­fi­cer Eli Ramos said.

Do w ntown Rock­port was lit­tered with ru­ined busi­nesses a nd his­toric homes that suf­fered cat­a­strophic dam­age. Places like La Fa­milia Salsa Com­pany, Al­ways Sunny fudge and ice cream and the Peli- can Mo­tel suf­fered ex­ten­sive dam­age, as did an H-E-B gro­cery store. Palm trees were bent into un­nat­u­ral po­si­tions and twisted me­tal signs pro­vided ev­i­dence of the winds that tore through the city for hours Fri­day night.

Bob Ker­ber Jr. and his wife, Dot­tie, who re­tired to nor­mally pic­turesque Rock­port four years ago, were clean­ing up Satur­day morn­ing after rid­ing out the hur­ri­cane overnight. The winds bounced de­bris off their sturdy brick home, which survived largely in­tact.

“I’d been through storms as a young putz in Florida, but noth­ing like this,” Ker­ber said. “It was the howl- ing. You’re hear­ing all these things fly­ing.”

Of­fi­cials said sev­eral res­i­dents were still un­ac­counted for as of Satur­day evening.

‘Glad we found you’

Ear­lier Satur­day, at a yellow brick apart­ment com- plex on the city’s north side, a crew of vol­un­teers knocked on doors look­ing for resi- dents in need of help. With its shred­ded roof and blasted win­dows, many of the com­plex’s units were aban­doned, doors ripped open to ex­pose flooded floors and bro­ken fur­ni­ture.

The crew got a re­sponse at apart­ment 28. An el­derly man called out from in­side. Wil­liam Miller’s bed­room had

flooded.and uses Miller a wheelchair­lives alone­and oxy­gen tanks. The team flagged a pass­ing po­lice of­fi­cer who dis­patched an am­bu­lance to the com­plex to take Miller to a nearby el­e­men- tary school serv­ing as the city’s emer­gency shel­ter.

“I’m glad we found you, Wil­liam,” said Brad Sny­der, owner of New Scope mar­ket­ing, as the am­bu­lance crew loaded Miller onto a stretcher. “You wouldn’t have made it another night.”

About 200 Rock­port res­i­dents spent the night at the Live Oak Learn­ing Cen­ter School, which lost power and wa­ter dur­ing the storm. Without enough cots or bed- ding for ev­ery­one, evacu- ees were forced to sleep in chairs, on cafe­te­ria tables and on the hall­way floors. Many of the res­i­dents at the shel­ter have se­ri­ous med­i­cal needs, vol­un­teer Christina Tucker said.

“Ev­ery­one at this school has pretty much lost ev­ery­thing,” she said.

Tucker said that in addi- tion to the lack of cots and bed­ding, the shel­ter needed more food and wa­ter. “As of now the jail is feed­ing us,” she said. “I’m not go­ing to lie, it’s like a sand­wich per per­son, but it’s food.” Later Satur­day, a con­voy of fed­eral and state res­cue per­son­nel, in­clud­ing dozens of buses, rushed to­ward Rock­port to bring aid.

Port Aransas hit hard

Down the coast, Cor­pus Christi res­i­dents woke up Satur­day — if they slept at all while Hur­ri­cane Har­vey raged — to streets filled with top­pled trees and snapped power lines.

The hur­ri­cane knocked out power to more than 300,000 cus­tomers through­out South- east Texas, Gov. Greg Ab­bott said at a mid­day press brief­ing.

That in­cluded 146,000 in Cor­pus Christi, nearly half the city’s pop­u­la­tion. Offi- cials have said it could take sev­eral days to re­store power to all cus­tomers.

ACoast Guard of­fi­cial said he­li­copters res­cued18 peo­ple from boats and barges that were in dis­tress be­cause of Har­vey.

Capt. Tony Hahn, com­man­der of the Coast Guard’s Cor­pus Christi sec­tor, said Satur­day that sev­eral boats sank in the Port of Cor­pus Christi and there will be a lot of work to do be­fore it can re­open. The pop­u­lar tourist town of Port Aransas, lo­cated on the bar­rier is­land that sep­a­rates Cor­pus Christi from the Gulf of Mex­ico, suf­fered ma­jor dam­age, the town’s mayor told the Weather Chan­nel on Satur­day morn­ing.

“The area of my county that has been hit the hard­est is Port Aransas,” said Nue­ces County Judge Sa­muel Neal. “The eye of the storm passed right over Port Aransas. I have the mayor here in my (emer­gency op­er­a­tions cen­ter), and he’s been un­able even to get back to his city this morn­ing be­cause of de­bris on the roads.”

Ab­bott has asked the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to add 20 more Texas coun­ties to the fed­eral disas­ter de­clared be­cause of Hur­ri­cane Har­vey, which would bring the disas­ter area to 50 coun­ties along the Gulf Coast and far­ther in­land.

Ab­bott said the county judge in Fort Bend County has is­sued a manda­tory evac­u­a­tion for ar­eas near the San Bernard River and vol­un­tary evac­u­a­tions for ar­eas near the Bra­zos River.

Res­cue work­ers walk through an apart­ment com­plex in Rock­port on Satur­day, look­ing for any­body in need of help. Hur­ri­cane Har­vey hit the Texas coast as a Cat­e­gory 4 storm, dam­ag­ing build­ings and leav­ing tens of thou­sands without power. NICK WAG­NER / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

PHO­TOS BY NICK WAG­NER / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Paramedics trans­port Wil­liam Miller to an am­bu­lance in Rock­port on Satur­day. Miller stayed overnight in an apart­ment com­plex that was a to­tal loss after Hur­ri­cane Har­vey hit the Texas coast as a Cat­e­gory 4 storm, dam­ag­ing build­ings and leav­ing tens of thou­sands without power.

A Rock­port po­lice of­fi­cer in­ves­ti­gates a scene of a fire in Ful­ton on Satur­day. The first con­firmed death re­ported from Hur­ri­cane Har­vey was dis­cov­ered at the scene. Aransas County Judge C.H. Mills Jr. said 12 to 14 peo­ple were in­jured else­where in Rock­port.

A ve­hi­cle sits in stand­ing wa­ter in Rock­port on Satur­day. By Satur­day af­ter­noon, the storm had al­ready dumped up to 8 inches of rain in DeWitt County, at least 10 inches in Fort Bend County and half a foot in the Hous­ton area.

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