W e were still drying out from the floods visited upon us by Hurricane Harvey as the deadline for this issue arrived. This powerful force of nature hammered the upper two-thirds of the Texas Coast relentlessly for almost a week, first with Category 4 winds and storm surges pummelling Port Aransas, Rockport, Corpus Christi and the whole coastal bend, then drenching much of the inland prairies all the way to San Antonio, before regrouping back out over the Gulf and heading to the Upper Coast. There, it dropped historic rains, in the trillions of gallons, on the Houston area. Finally, still not finished with its brutal mission, Harvey left Houston and moved on to Port Arthur and Beaumont and poured close to 50 inches of rainwater on the Golden Triangle before leaving our state and moving further inland across Louisiana on its way to Kentucky.
With what seemed like sociopathic purpose, Harvey took its cruel time carving a path of destruction through Texas. After devastating the middle coast, it inched its way up the coastline, allowing the feeder bands of rain on its “dirty side” to gather and begin their rotating sorties, around and around… and around… the upper coast, bombarding watersheds, reservoirs and communities with unrelenting sheets of rain. These weren’t common thunderstorm downpours but waves of steady rain that ultimately totaled as much water as flows over Niagara Falls in two weeks. In all, fifty counties were affected by the storm—twenty percent of the giant state’s total.
The Texas Coast is no untested region when it comes to dealing with hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters. And the way Texans responded to this gruelling test proved we are not lightweights, either. Tens of thousands of people were displaced, forced from their homes—many with little or no notice—as floodwaters rose around them.
Boaters—hundreds, if not thousands, of them—responded to this deadly crisis, forming an armada of Texas Grit. Volunteers in jon boats, center consoles, pontoon boats, kayaks, and crafts of virtually every size worked without rest, making run after run into neighborhoods and apartment complexes all over the Greater Houston area and beyond, rescuing stranded residents trapped by the rising waters. Some of those rescued were plucked off the roofs of two-story homes. Much of the flood water flowed over hazardous unseen structure, making these rescue missions true acts of bravery.
Without these volunteers, the crisis would have overwhelmed the resources of police and fire departments and even the Coast Guard and National Guard units sent in to provide rescue operations. These heroics no doubt reduced the toll of death and injury. Indeed, lives were lost. Too many. But compared to the horrific events in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, the loss of life here was a great deal less than it might have been.
Personally, we were lucky. The texas fish & game office was surround by high water on every access road for the duration of the storm. At our home in southeastern Montgomery County—situated in a wedge formed by the confluence of the San Jacinto River, Spring Creek and Cypress Creek, all of which crested at far above historic flood levels—water came close enough to our front door to warrant a voluntary evacuation call from the county emergency management office. Fortunately, we did not get flooded. Nor did our office, which we learned once we were able to gain access as soon as the water receded from Interstate 45.
But many others were not lucky, including members of the tf&g family.
The recovery from this catastrophe will take years. We trust that FEMA, state leadership and local governments are up to the task of providing support to the many thousands of residents and businesses affected by the storm. If governing agencies fail to meet the challenge, we are confident that private citizens of Texas will step up with donations of cash, necessities and their time and labor to get the job done. In fact, they are already doing just that.
Hurricane Harvey created what has been declared an 800-year flood. Literally, a Flood of the Millennium. It would sure be nice to think that a disaster of this magnitude won’t happen again until the twenty-ninth century. But if we’ve learned anything as Texans living on the western coast of the Gulf of Mexico, more will come at us, and a hell of a lot sooner than we’d like.
But, We Are TEXAS STRONG. And we will handle it.
Email Roy and Ardia Neves at [email protected]