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
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
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.