In Vic­to­ria, res­i­dents re­live the sound­track of a storm: ‘You could hear things tear­ing’

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - HURRICANE HARVEY - By Zeke McCormack and Sil­via Fos­ter-Frau

VIC­TO­RIA — “Oh my God!”

That was the re­ac­tion of Mi­caela Ramos, 10, who’d slept as Hur­ri­cane Har­vey came down Santa Rosa Street, when she saw the scene Satur­day morn­ing out­side her grand­mother’s home.

Dozens of trees were down in the his­toric district, the orig­i­nal town site. The pave­ment was car­peted with branches. Leaves were plas­tered to houses and ve­hi­cles. “It was crazy,” said Mi­caela’s dad, Abraham Ramos, 34.“There was a bunch of wind, rain. It was com­ing down pretty freakin’ hard.”

The worst dam­age oc­curred af­ter he’d turned ina t 3:30a.m., but his mother-in­law was awake to hear the sound­track of sheds be­ing ripped apart and large trees dismembered.

“You could hear things tear­ing,” said Juanita Mon­toya, 58, who couldn’t sleep due­tothe­ab­sence­o­fair­con­di­tion­ing­caused­by­downed power lines.

Josh Bur­ris, a neigh­bor, en­dured a pa­rade of gawk­ers drawn by an un­usual spec­ta­cle: his car, parked with two wheels in the street and two on the curb, was lifted by roots that emerged from his wa­ter-soaked yard as a large tree fell in front of his house.

Bur­ris, 38, ex­plained the car had been hit days ear­lier by a pass­ing mo­torist, a crash that pushed it partly onto the curb and dis­abled it. The fall­ing tree lifted up the car and hit a sec­ond large tree, knock­ing it over too.

Author­i­ties be­gan as­sess­ing the dam­age here about noon and re­ported no loss of life, though they hadn’t yet can­vassed out­ly­ing ar­eas.

Get­ting the streets clear of de­bris and power re­stored were im­me­di­ate is­sues, but Vic­to­ria County Deputy Bryan Si­mons, who es­ti­mated the storm packed 90 mph gusts overnight, said the con­tin­u­ing rain made cat­a­strophic flood­ing the main fear.

A boil wa­ter no­tice and a cur­few from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. will con­tinue in ef­fect un­til fur­ther no­tice. The Guadalupe River is fore­cast to crest at more than 32 feet here on Wed­nes­day, about 2 feet higher than seen in the dev­as­tat­ing 1998 flood, Si­mons said, urg­ing lo­cal res­i­dents to pack crit­i­cal doc­u­ments, med­i­ca­tions and cloth­ing “in case they need to leave very, very quickly.”

In Gon­za­les and DeWitt coun­ties, field af­ter field was flooded, and ris­ing wa­ter lapped at road­ways.

The few peo­ple who ven­tured to the Wal­mart in the county seat of Gon­za­les looked like they’d taken a beat­ing — hair plas­tered to their faces, shoul­ders hunched and tem­pers run­ning high.

Denise Christo­pher­son got into an ar­gu­ment with a cashier that left her cry­ing. It was silly, re­ally, she ad­mit­ted later — the staffer wouldn’t get her a salad bowl—but Christo­pher­son, 66, was pretty sure her place in Port Aransas was, “if not de­stroyed, un­der wa­ter,” and it was just too much.

“I hadn’t cried un­til to­day,” she said, wip­ing tears from her cheeks.

Christo­pher­son, are tired Austin so­cial worker, had left Port Aransas on Thurs­day with her hus­band, her best friend, her fa­ther-in­law and two dogs. They found mo­tel rooms and she had gone to Wal­mart to get her group some ba­sics — food, wa­ter, a tooth­brush and tooth­paste. A breast cancer sur­vivor, Christo­pher­son said she had to learn how to deal with the un­known.

“You can waste all your en­ergy wor­ry­ing about to­mor­row, but then you won’t have the strength left for to­day,” she said.

East­ward from Gon­za­les, the roads passed through in­creas­ing dev­as­ta­tion. In Cuero, a gas sta­tion was tipped over in its park­ing lot, gas pumps up­rooted. Half the stop­lights were bro­ken, and store awnings looked as if they’ve been bull­dozed.

The few peo­ple out at a lo­cal Sub­way strug­gled to get out of their cars — the wind so strong it pushed doors shut.

“Noth­ing was open and we were hun­gry. All we have at the ho­tel is canned goods,” said Dar­cel Green, who has lived in Cuero for more than 55 years and saw the in­te­rior of her home de­stroyed by the 1998 flood. When Har­vey ap­proached, her fam­ily gath­ered pre­cious be­long­ings and got rooms at a ho­tel.

“Things can be re­placed, but our lives can’t, you know?” she said. zeke@ex­press-news.net

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