On the night of Aug. 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey roared ashore near Rockport as a Category 4 hurricane leaving a path of devastation in its wake.
Harvey changed our community. Many of the people who were impacted by the unprecedented rains and record flooding have just started putting those experiences in the past.
Two years later, evidence of Harvey’s destruction remains, but with sweat and determination, survivors and communities have made strong progress in the recovery.
Harvey was a storm of historic proportions with more than $100 billion in property damage and immeasurable disruption to those living in its path. The storm is on track to become the second-costliest U.S. natural disaster — only Hurricane Katrina that struck the Gulf Coast in 2005 caused more damage.
The storm’s costs, however, are measured in more than dollars. It killed 68 people in Texas directly by wind, rain and floods. The state attributes another 26 deaths to unsafe or unhealthy conditions related to loss of electricity and clean water supplies, as well as a lack of transportation and medical care. Additional deaths from natural causes were considered indirectly related to Harvey when they were caused by medical conditions, electrocutions, traffic accidents, infections from flood waters, fires and burns.
Even today, the chemical and biological stew of Harvey’s floodwaters present a still unquantified threat. Leaking chemicals from toxic waste sites and pollution releases from refineries and chemical plants, including those during explosions and fires at the Arkema facility in Crosby, all contributed to the contamination. The scope of health effects on people has not been determined. If Harvey taught us anything, it’s to never underestimate the damage that a storm can inflict.
Although great strides have been made in the Harvey recovery, much work remains. Many permanent infrastructure projects are completed or starting to come together and residents continue to go home — to a repaired home or a completely different one.
Many of the physical scars from the disaster are fading. They are still there, of course. Those of us who endured the aftermath of Harvey’s flood each have our own way of marking the anniversary of the tragedy.
That doesn’t mean we are stuck in disaster mode, by any means. This town and region’s spirit remains intact, and the amount of rebuilding done in two years is remarkable considering the extent of the devastation.