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Lessons learned after Hurricane Harvey

Posted at 6:27 PM, Aug 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-25 19:32:14-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS — Sunday marks the 2nd anniversary of Hurricane Harvey making landfall in the Coastal Bend. Two years later, several communities now know how to prepare and protect both people and property.

A new house now sits at the address in Fulton where Zelphia Hewes has lived most of her life replacing her longtime home that was destroyed by Hurricane Harvey on August 25, 2017. Zelphia Hewes says, "The north side of the house looked like a machine gun had rippled it with all the debris."

Since then, she and so many others in the Coastal Bend have been rebuilding and hoping that another significant storm doesn't wipe out their lives as Harvey did.

Aransas County Judge Burt Mills said, "I've seen a lot of progress, and in 13 hours, it was destroyed." Mills isn't only the Aransas County judge, but he's a sixth-generation resident there.

And while, of course, he doesn't want his community to endure another event like Harvey, he and other leaders have to make sure they're prepared as best as possible.

One major lesson is that the timeline for activating any emergency plans can change quickly because Harvey gained strength so quickly.

Emergency Manager Rick Adams, a Development Services Director in Port Aransas, said, "I'd like to think that we're not ever going to take the possibility of a rapid intensification for granted again. we're going to assume that that's going to happen next time and we'll move our timeline up even a little quicker."

When it comes to property, Adams says the existing building code worked well for the newer structures, which suffered less damage from the devastating storm surge.

But Harvey may prompt more changes in the future."Even maybe bring in some additional, more stringent requirements knowing that we're wind and flood and storm surge-vulnerable," Adams said.

Businesses like Ron Hoover Marine and RV in Rockport were able to save their structures but at the expense of inventory, with about a million dollars worth of lost product.

Blake Anthony, a corporate project specialist with Ron Hoover RV and Marine, "We had probably 39 trailers turned upside down, blown over on top of other buildings."

Anthony recommends any business, especially those with a lot at risk, to have their insurance and emergency plan in place. But he also says during a catastrophic storm like Harvey, and the person ultimately outweighs the practical.

"When it all boils down, it's not about stuff. It's about people and relationships," Anthony said. Something that was on full display in the hours and days after the hurricane's landfall.

"At first, everybody's in shock, and everybody's lost, but after that wears off pretty quickly, then we really begin to really come together and start building," Anthony continued.

Now, the coordination between businesses, residents, government, and volunteers is improved in the event of another storm.

The biggest takeaway for people who live here in Rockport-Fulton and the other coastal communities who endured Harvey at its peak strength of a category four is to heed the warnings of your local leaders and officials. If they're recommending that you evacuate the area, they say that's precisely what you should do before it's too late.

Even in Corpus Christi, where Harvey came through at cat one strength, voluntary evacuations were issued. Billy Delgado, who is a Corpus Christi city emergency management coordinator, says those orders are never issued lightly .. and should always be taken seriously.

"Listen to the news media. Listen to the city when we do press conferences. If we say evacuate, it's for your safety. We figure that you need to know that something bad is coming," Delgado said.

Aransas County Judge Burt Mills said, "We'll take care of what you have here, and you take care of yourself, and you come back when you can."

Zelphia Hewes believes that leaving her Fulton home during Harvey potentially saved her life. Now, she and her family have this second chance.

"I'll be home again. We will. We'll be home," Hewes says.

The same chance that others in the Coastal Bend still have, if they seek out the help.

A couple of other things to keep in mind. Make sure you have enough insurance coverage to pay the full replacement cost of your property. Also, those policies don't cover flood or windstorm damage, which requires separate policies.

Help after the storm