Updated: Dec 1, 2018
Remembering the Day Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas Coastal Bend
As I write this, it is drizzling outside. It’s been over a year now and the sound of rain still serves as a gentle reminder of the day that Harvey came to call.
Having been born and raised in the Coastal Bend, I have dealt with hurricanes many times and know how to handle them: collect bottled water, precook food, board up the windows, collect anything loose outside, yada yada.
The truth is, most of the time, I have not taken hurricane warnings very seriously. You prepare, you hunker down and that’s it. None of the hurricanes in my lifetime have ever been severe; half the time they’ve either veered off or downgraded and we were lucky to get any rain out of it.
But when Harvey came, I took that storm seriously.
Thinking back on that time feels like an unwelcome blur of exhaustion and fear. In the days before Harvey made land fall I wrote in my journal how hard I was preparing and how little I was sleeping because of it.
Before the storm hit, the newscasters were going on and on about how horrible the storm would be, warning about, “…rain ad nauseum…” Does anyone else remember that?
I do, vividly. I felt as if their words were putting fear into me.
Though many of our friends and neighbors evacuated, my mom and I were among those who decided to stay home. I took solace in that my mother, born and raised in Corpus Christi, has stayed for every storm all her life, including the last big one to hit our area, Celia.
That night I remember watching the news as the weatherman announced live that the storm, which had been a weak category 3 had since been upgraded to a category 4; at that very moment, we lost power.
In the sudden darkness, the howling wind outside suddenly became much scarier.
Had we made the right decision to stay? Whatever the case, it was too late to leave.
This one was not dying down; it was not changing course; it was coming. It was coming straight for us.
This was the first time I had ever been really scared by a physical storm. When Harvey was at its height I remember singing “In the Eye of the Storm” by Ryan Stevenson. No sound effects needed here, I had the real thing.
Twice during the night, I thought I heard something crash through the roof of my house. Once I thought I heard an explosion.
I’ll never forget looking out through the slats in the boards we had put over the windows; I have two huge live oak trees in my front and back yards, each with branches as thick around as a person, and that night, in that wind, I saw them waving around, as if made of rubber.
Oddly enough, while the storm wreaked havoc outside, I wrote that I had one of the best night’s sleep I had had in days. I had done all that I could. The rest was in God’s hands.
I prayed for Rockport as I listened to the wind outside. I had heard that the storm was supposed to strike them head on. They and several other towns in the surrounding area had been ordered to evacuate. Had anyone there stayed?
The next morning the first thing that struck me was the silence. The entire day before, it had been howling wind and rain; but now the silence, though not unwelcome, was eerie.
Looking around outside I remember feeling dazed. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my house was barely damaged.
One of my fences had fallen over and several large branches had snapped clean off my oak trees and though they did hit my house, they had not crashed through the roof as I had feared. After pulling them off my house and fence my family and I went driving around town to survey the damage. That was when I saw the cause of the explosive sound I had heard in the night. A block away from my street, a huge tree, growing on the curb had snapped clean in half and fallen right onto the porch of the house in front of it. There was only a jagged stump left in the ground. Surprisingly, it had missed the house, literally falling in front of the porch.
There were downed trees and power lines all over the place; light poles and awnings scattered around in parking lots and about half the fences in the city were fallen over, but honestly, I was relieved beyond words that my town was as intact as it was. Everything could be replaced or rebuilt. There was nothing broken that couldn’t be fixed. We were still here. How had Rockport fared? Port Aransas? Ingleside, Port A?
In my neighborhood, we were out of power for six days, so information was sketchy but what we heard via my car radio made me more grateful for my own situation and made me pray for the surrounding towns even more. I was surprised to learn the trail of damage was felt as far inland as Refugio and Woodsboro.
My mother had to go back to her job before we regained power, so she and several other women in the same predicament went to work with wet hair and styled it there. Her bosses were surprisingly understanding, going so far as to provide babysitters for those who were out of their usual childcare due to the storm.
Even when the worst was over, many said how tired and wrung out they felt. I felt the same and could tell I wanted to sleep more than usual. I knew very well what this feeling was; adrenal fatigue.
When you have been so tense for so long and finally get a break from it, all the weariness piles up on you all at once. When that happens, you need to cut yourself some slack and rest as much as you can.
Physical or otherwise, storms will come. We cannot stop them, but they don’t have to stop us either. We can heal and we can rebuild.
This experience did change me in one way. It put into me a deep yearning to never be that vulnerable to something as simple as a blackout again.
But that’s another post.