I t was not a question of if, just when.
Those who live in the Rockport area knew this in spite of what appeared to be the area’s ability to deftly dodge a direct hit by hurricanes for the last 83 years. In itself, it may be seen as a blessing or a curse, for it eerily lured us into a mindset of invulnerability, or at least a sense that a near miss was not that bad.
Most who live here now, knew little if anything about the hurricane of 1934. That storm wasan estimated category 2 which hit Rockport directly, claiming 19 lives.
Kids were riding on the backs of cattle where Fulton, Texas is now located to avoid waves which swept across the peninsula into Copano Bay. The great hurricane of September 8, 1900, which hit Galveston, Texas, is still the gauge many here on the Texas coast use to compare hurricanes. Eight thousand lost their lives; it was estimated to be a Cat 3.
I often think I would have been a storm chaser had I not been a guide. Admittedly I am a weather-tracking nut. I love storms. I love their confounding nature. They give me a sense of insignificance and remind me how delicate life here is.
To say I feel at peace in the presence of a storm is no over statement. I fish in them, take rain baths under the valleys of my roof (getting laughed at by my neighbors). It’s not unusual for me to launch my Haynie just to go check out a storm.
Even at its inception, Harvey gave me none of these sentiments or emotions. Instead I had thoughts that came to me in waves, I believed driven by emotion.
Four days before Harvey hit Rockport, my mind saw a high-level map of the Yucatán peninsula. In the vision, there was a black mass just inland from the bay of Campeche. A small red area appeared in the middle of the black mass and as it moved over the water the red area grew larger.
It was like an old-time movie reel, I could see the black mass moving frame to frame, and the red image clearing. First it looked like a Nazi swastika, then it crystalized into the number four.
These thoughts stayed with me. They were troubling, for I could make no sense of the them, which is not unusual for me. As time passed I couldn’t shake the feeling something ominous was afoot. What the hell, this is crazy, I thought. “Time to move on!” I said out loud.
Being the weather nut I am, I had been tracking the Niño effect and the water’s warming trends, especially in the Gulf of Mexico. I was interested to see whether the warming affects fishing long term in our bays. In August, based on NOAA data, there were 8 to 12 spots in the gulf showing to be two to three degrees warmer than the rest of the gulf waters.
These areas, known as eddies, are of much interest these days, primarily for global climate reasons. For my purpose, they were simply too far off shore to affect our bays, so I watched them every few days to see if they were moving toward our coastline. I know, I needed to get a real job, right? Well, being me can be a full-time job, or at least it’s what I’ve been told.
A tropical storm is always of interest to guides for it can mean a lot of cancelled trips. Every so often, along with my buddies, we would check tropical storm/Harvey’s whereabouts, trying to assess its business impact. I can’t say I’m an overly spiritual man. I am a Christian. I believe that means nothing without practical application and so I try to live by those standards.
Karma to me sounds like something to eat. I haven’t tried to align my chi and I don’t go looking for my Zen place. However, I do think there are forces at work in this universe for good and evil and over the next few days I would come to recognize if ever there was a storm spawned by these evil forces or Satan, it was Harvey.
The predictions for Harvey, in terms of direction and intensity, had been off. The seeds for Harvey were sewn off the coast of Africa. The fertile waters of the Lesser Antilles enriched its growth where it grew to tropical storm intensity. It entered the Caribbean Sea only to weaken and all but dissipate. As it moved westward across the Yucatán Peninsula some meteorologists believed it was a dead storm. On August 23, it moved westward in the Bay of Campeche where it began writing its own history. Again, it accelerated to tropical storm intensity, then to a Cat 1 hurricane, the third of the season and the first major hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane season. On August 24, its movement shifted northwesterly. In less than 24 hours it exploded to a Cat 4, its course locked on a head-on collision with Rockport Texas. At this point, meteorologists predicted the east side of the eye to go over Lamar (where we lived) and Holiday Beach, Texas.
The 30 plus sheets of plywood in my garage had been and were a pain in the butt. Most were cut to window size and I had them propped up against the far wall. My wife Lisa and I didn’t like them, they were just in the way and a nice hiding place for bugs, frogs and snakes.
We had gotten good at ignoring them in that “I wish you were gone kinda way”. This day however they seemed to be calling my name especially loud. The plywood had but one purpose—to board our home up in the event of a storm. I had used them over the years in what proved to be false predictions. It’s about a 1/2 day of work, so I wasn’t exactly brimming with motivation to start the task, especially when, in the past, the boarded-up doors and windows served little to no purpose. Yet the unsettling feeling I had wouldn’t let go, so three days prior to ground zero (when the hurricane hit) with screw gun in hand, I started boarding up.
The ribbing from neighbors made me feel a bit like what Noah must have felt when he built the ark. “Been playing with a baseball again? Broke windows, huh? New window coverings? Nice!” I was totally disgruntled. Yet, as I stopped and glanced out over the bay, my thought was “It’s coming!”, so we kept on boarding.
We had most of the main house finished when my brother showed up from Austin. He hopped out of the truck and said “that small depression is now a Cat1. Thought you could use some help.” His presence was like a visit from an angel. Big brothers, what would we do without them?
I was tired, but my tired brain began to connect the dots and so we finished the house, then began boarding our cottage as well. By the time we were through in the very late afternoon Harvey was a household name and was rapidly becoming a Cat 3. Could it be the red 4 I saw in my head?
I immediately got the coordinates for Harvey’s eye and its direction. I tingled from head to toe—Harvey was in direct line with the warm water eddies I had looked at in the gulf. The warmer waters would feed the storm.
For me the data points were coming together in my mind. The nagging and consuming thoughts some may call divine intervention, were a warning. I was now on notice to make ready and help alert everyone I could that a Cat 4 named Harvey was going to wreak havoc on our much-loved coastal gem.
I phoned, texted, emailed everyone I knew, including the county commissioner, to please please take this storm seriously. It was strengthening, and I believed it was coming right down the throat of a NOT READY Rockport. No one was joking now, and a panicked preparation began.
We helped as many as we could before nightfall. Tired, Lisa and I decided to sleep and leave early the next morning. We both were too exhausted to drive. By early dawn the rains and wind had started. Harvey had grown over night and was now speeding up on a collision course with our city. The warm eddies in the gulf were like a shot of steroids to an uncaring, unfeeling monster whose energy was about to be unleashed.
We knew some of our neighbors were going to stay and attempt to ride the storm out. We begged them to leave with us but to no avail. It’s a horrible feeling to walk away from neighbors you care about and every tangible thing you hold dear knowing all could be gone when you return.
The vision/thought now made complete sense. In the midst of loading our belongings I stood in the living room of our home and asked my wife Lisa if she would pray with me.
“Dear Lord, be with our neighbors and loved ones. Place your guardian angels around them, keep them safe from the storm’s attack. If it be Your will, protect our home that it might be used in Your service.” The tears began that morning as Lisa and I left our neighbors, our home and loved ones in the arms of God.
Rain and wind was pelting my truck as we drove away. About two miles down the road, my phone rang. It was a fellow guide and dear friend.
“Mac, you better leave. It’s showing Harvey’s eye going right over the top of you in Lamar.” This was not the answer to our prayer we were hoping for.
Part two next month.
• • •
For the next several months our bays will be hazardous to navigate. How hazardous? Suffice it to say our neighbor’s second story roof now sits at the cut between St Charles Bay and Aransas Bay.
Debris is wide-spread and some well-known cuts have been moved or are filled-in and no longer navigable. There are reds and trout to be caught though, and those who are adventurous can find some fantastic action.
A few bait stands have reopened, but lack consistency. Call ahead to confirm. Some hotels have re-opened. and the infrastructure for places to stay grows daily.
Bank fishing is good for reds using cut mullet. You may need to use a cast net to catch your own bait. Soft plastics are preferred now with new penny, morning glory and white colors with chartreuse tails being the best.
My advice is to fish cheap—don’t use high dollar lures. The likelihood of tangling in underwater debris and losing the lure is high.
As I navigate the bays I will give updates on each bay, but for now, even though all guides need the business, they are reluctant to launch a boat due to the potential of lower unit and prop damage. Rockport is open for business. We are rebuilding fast and furiously since Harvey’s unwelcome visit. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.
Here’s Wishing You Tight Lines Bent Poles and Plenty of Bait!
Contact Capt. Mac Gable at
Mac Attack Guide Service,
Email Capt. Mac Gable at [email protected]