STATE OF DESTRUCTION
ROCKPORT: Residents returning to ruins after direct hit from storm that left 1 dead
ROCKPORT — Tropicalforce gusts whipped the frizzy hair of 19-year-old Nathan Kaufman as he made a desperate search Saturday of what had been his home.
His upstairs apartment was destroyed, and he carefully picked among the sodden piles of insulation and shattered wall studs that littered a place that was now mostly open to the sky and relentless rain.
All he could find Saturday afternoon was a pair of Jordan sneakers still in a box, two white shirts and some video games. There was no sign of his lost dog Binky, a 2-year-old Rottweiler.
He was both desolate at his losses and in awe of the power of the storm.
“All of my stuff is gone,” said Kaufman, the words rushing out as if he had been punched in the gut. “I have no idea what I’m going to do. But it’s in God’s hands.”
Kaufmann, who spent Friday night in a shelter, was among the first to return to the popular bayfront tourist town in South Texas, which took a direct hit from Hurricane Har-
vey when it came ashore Friday night as a Category 4 storm.
Harvey was the strongest hurricane to hit the Texas coast since Hurricane Carla in 1961.
Widespread damage from Harvey also was reported in nearby Port Aransas and Corpus Christi, the Nueces County seat where residents were told to boil their water.
In Rockport, one person died in the storm in a structure fire, and about a dozen people were treated for minor injuries. Officials said damage was likely in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
On every block, there were shattered shops and boat yards, homes without roofs that were open to the sky without roofs or crushed by the magnificent oaks that enclose the town. Mobile home parks and commercial RV lots were filled with trailers that had been flipped on their side by the winds.
Power lines and downed traffic signals littered the roadways, along with dozens of wooden power poles snapped by the winds. Even the welcoming sign at the entrance to Rockport and the neighboring community of Fulton was wrapped in metal debris, torn from a roof and twisted by Hurricane Harvey. ‘We’ll rebuild’
Fulton Mayor Jimmy Kendrick fought back tears, his voice choking as he spoke of the loss to the town, which included extensive damage to the school buildings shared by Rockport and Fulton, along with the county courthouse.
“Our town is destroyed, and it hurts,” the mayor said, explaining that he felt he did not do enough to protect the community.
Aransas County Judge Burt Mills said the community will rebuild.
“It’s very disheartening,” he said. “We’re going to get through it. We’ll make it. Working together, we’ll rebuild and we’ll be better.”
The Salt Grass Landing apartment complex where Kaufman lived is now literally in shreds. Of the six two-story apartment buildings facing each other across a parking lot, some had lost sections of the roof above the second-floor apartments, while bricks and siding had been shorn from the others, leaving bare wooden studs and bats of insulation.
Kaufman and his roommate, Deantre Thomas, also 19, had been walking from the shelter when Rockport Police officer David Rollins saw them along the road, soaked from the rain.
“It’s townwide,” Rollins said. “It’s all over. There’s not a part of Rockport that you can drive into and not see some kind of devastation — homes, businesses, schools. It didn’t leave anyone untouched.”
The police officer appeared dazed, and he and other local officials were heartened by the rapid response of the state and federal government to aid the battered seaside resort towns. Outside the police stations, green-and-white Border Patrol SUVs were parked next to a growing contingent of Texas Department of Public Safety patrol units. Buses with workers to help survey the damage were arriving in caravans.
“This is terrible,” Rollins said. “It’s going to take of lot of time for the recovery.”
One of Rockport’s most visible landmarks — a cavernous, five-story boat storage facility — was ripped open by the hurricane-force winds. Scores of boats were exposed high in the air, tucked into their spaces, but others had been ripped from the facility and had landed below.
Next door, a sprawling boat yard, called the House of Boats, had been the scene of a harrowing escape by worker Fermin Garcia, 46. After he helped the owners lift a number of boats out of the water, he and his son and another young worker retired to their houseboat, moored behind the yard. Hunkered down in fuel tank
Hours after Harvey arrived, Garcia felt the winds was about to lift the boat into the air. The trio quickly abandoned ship and made their way in the howling wind a short distance to a large iron fuel tank.
They pried open the end of the tank, climbed inside and spent the next 12 hours listening to the storm and the crashing of large boats being thrown from their cradles.
“It wasn’t hard to do, especially with the fear we felt,” Garcia said of the dangerous sprint from the sinking boat to the empty diesel tank. He hasn’t had time to begin trying to salvage his house boat, but he, too, is optimistic.
“The good thing is we are alive, and we are ready to really get back to work,” he said.
Harvey’s left a path of destruction from the coast to more than 70 miles inland, where the small Texas town of Refugio was also hard hit by the storm.
At the American Best Value Inn, portions of the roof at both ends of the 43-unit hotel had been ripped off. The ensuing sheets of rain and wet insulation eventually caused the ceilings to cave in.
“We did a lot of praying,” said manager Pete Lopez. “It was tinflapping and the wind was roaring like a train coming down with no whistle.” firstname.lastname@example.org
Nathan Kaufman looks around what used to be his home at the Salt Grass Landing Apartments complex in Rockport on Saturday.
Hurricane-force winds ripped apart the House of Boats’ storage facility in Rockport. “This is terrible,” Rockport Police officer David Rollins said of the damage to the city.
A man clears debris to make room for his Jeep as he attempts to leave an inundated area of Rockport on Saturday. Hurricane Harvey made landfall Friday night in the small Gulf Coast city that is a popular tourist destination.
Dave McGrew peers into the cabin of an 18-wheeler that was flipped onto its side Saturday on U.S. 59 West after Harvey hit the central Gulf Coast of Texas. McGrew stopped while on his way to check on his family in Victoria.