WEDNESDAY— August 23rd and a typical south Texas day, HOT!! Of course, as a coastal resident, I had heard that a tropical depression was in the Bay of Campeche, the bit in the Gulf that’s below the Yucatan Peninsula and a “birthplace” of some nasty storms. The notices were going out on all the weather sites that “Harvey” was born, a tropical storm with 40 – 50 mph winds. Hey, that’s less than we see in a summer thunderstorm here, so no big deal at this point, but be wary and keep one ear cocked to the reports throughout the day! OK fine! Yep could be a possibility, but many years have passed and nothing hit us here since Celia in 1970 which struck in Corpus Christi about 30 miles to our south. Losses of businesses, boats, and farm building were counted in 200-300 per category, of course, things have grown since 1970.
My friend Clay decides he’s “outta here” after helping me retrieve an awning for needed modifications, heads inland to his family to sit it out. We had been set to replace some siding on a travel trailer, but he puts the job on “hold”. I call our helper and ask if he wants to make a few bucks helping folks “board up” in preparation for the worst. Kaleb agrees, so I put a post up on social media local groups that we are available to install protection on windows and doors. It’s beginning all over town, there’s a rush on plywood suddenly!!
THURSDAY — 8 AM– Coffee in the morning and getting some replies needing help with boarding, so I call Kaleb, “got work! let’s go!” — he replies that he’s helping family and he will be “right there”. Finally, about 2 pm Kaleb shows up, we load ladders, drill guns, screws, saws, etc. in his pickup and run to the first home on what is now, a list…. The man said he already has boards, so we assume [what is the thing….?] it will be quick and easy. Except the wood had been stored under the outside deck, in the rain, and was completely rotten and useless. No way to get lumber, get back, and stay on schedule!! We go on to our next site where it is supposed to be only 5 windows and the boards are again cut and ready. Well, yeah. Only the boards are in the garage attic, mixed with boards from the rest of the house [which had storm shutters installed in recent years] so we pulled out 20 boards, not marked, and sorted the mess out to find eight boards for the windows for the front of the house, which has glass three stories high!!! That was the hardest I had worked for a few bucks in a long time!! We sweat out at least a gallon of water each!! Mind you its 92 degrees and 80% humidity this time of day!!
Completing this fiasco, we move on to the largest project of the day, The Woman’s Club building at the harbor in downtown Rockport. It is a well-known social club, very influential, and I want to “make good” on the promise that we will have it done. There are 36 windows/doors and the boards are cut, drilled to fit studs installed in the sashes, but it requires a ladder to reach the upper halves of the windows. We called in another set of hands, and finally at 10 pm were a set of tired boys headed home to see what the ’morrow would bring.
FRIDAY — 11am== I was slow getting started, but the sound of rain hitting the steel roof at the kite workshop [I crashed in a recliner chair] awoke me and the “vigil” had started. It was a constant check on the radar webs, the news channels, of course, were spewing “end of times” broadcasts and Facebook was streaming like a rain gorged mountain ravine! Calls from my daughter in Houston asking me to please let them come get me, but I was determined to stand my ground and defend the tools and materials stored in the workshop. I called a local friend and asked if she would want to flee to Houston to be more secure and her reply was “not Houston, they always flood, and I don’t want to leave my stuff!” That’s the way I felt as well and not having funds to get hotels in other locations I just decided to hang in there, I mean it’s only a CAT2 storm, we have summer thunderstorms with 100 mph winds, so what’s the big deal??
2pm– its beginning to rain steady but not very heavy and the “weather gurus” on media say it’s getting stronger, no longer a CAT2 storm as predicted. I’m tired still, so I sit in the recliner and doze off.
5pm–the sounds of high winds wake me and it is now raining sideways!! It is apparent that this guy Harvey is no longer knocking, but he is coming through the door!! I start grabbing the things of most value and most likely to be damaged by water and place them in the body of the big cube truck in the shop, swing the doors shut and lock them down. The cube is watertight and very heavy duty, it will withstand nearly anything. I check the Facebook feeds and discover that the big fiberglass blue crab statue at the entrance to the beach park has now been blown off its pilings….it has begun!!
landfall plus two hours, it looks like this
7pm–Winds are now very intense!! The oak acorns, leaves, and twigs are making a sound like a machine gun against the steel walls on the north side of the building, mere feet from where I sit. The walls are “quaking”, things hanging from shelves are swaying a bit, not enough to really worry, but the old frame is a moving folks!! Glued to the phone, I’m getting a “play by play” of what’s happening around town. Trees down on the road over here, power out down there, signs blown out at the donut shop, etc. etc. I decided to poke my head outside and take a short video of the wind ripping at the oaks across the street and the rain whipping horizontally past the end of the building. My door is on the lee side or it would have been impossible. I add my video to the Facebook timeline so folks inland, safely enjoying a Friday nite date nite can go– “OH GEEZ! Look at that!!! LOL
8pm– Power starts to flicker off and on, but the WIFI is still “up” and the reports are still coming in. I filled a tiki torch with fuel and devised a stand to put it on, just in time, the lights go out! FOR GOOD! Well, now then, where did I put that lighter? Just as I locate my “campfire” lighter the fiberglass skylight in the roof is ripped away! Wind and rain, fiberglass insulation from the roof and tree debris are now violating my peaceful workspace where I spend a huge majority of my time. I had made preparation for the eventuality of this, so I double checked the tarp over the storage racks, tucked a couple things up under the workbench, and made my exit, phone and “bugout” bag in hand. The old 1970 classic motorhome is right outside and she is built like a tank, so she is my “port in the storm”. I have a fully charged RV/marine battery on board so I can keep my cell charged up, half a dozen flashlights, and a big box of new batteries, no, I’m not as dumb as I look. Well as I sat down with one of my last cold waters the “beep” goes off on the cell, WEATHER ALERT!!, we are now at DEFCON–CAT4!! Oh, joy!! I settle into the bunk, shut off the cell to preserve power and the old girl is rocking back and forth pretty good. She has a custom designed and built [my handiwork] airbag suspension so its “squishy” when not aired up to travel.
2am– I awake with a start! What the heck is going on? It’s silent, no sound!! No rocking about!! I pinch my arm, yep, I’m still “in the flesh”. Pulling the porthole style window back I take a peek outside, there are stars overhead!! And some guys with strobe lights on helmets are waving flashlights up into the structure of the water tower that’s next door. They are yelling back and forth about some broken cables, the wind must have damaged the tower, glad it didn’t blow over onto me [it’s that close].
Ah HA!!! it’s the eye of the storm, weird! Not twenty minutes later the breeze starts to gin up, and then a bit of rain is added to the mix. Within ten more minutes, its back to gale force winds, and they get stronger by the minute. This time it’s coming from the south, and I am no longer in the lee of the warehouse.
It gets mighty intense in a very short time, the old 7-ton motor coach is rocking around like a rubber dinghy in a gale! “Oh Lord please don’t let it roll me over!!!” I uttered this prayer several times I guarantee you!! There was a big “boom” sound, I thought the windshield must have broken, but a quick check with the flashlight showed no damages, no wind/rain inside, OK fine! Then there was a clattering and banging from outside, I slid the window just a crack to see the sheet metal sign from the boat shop next door getting whipped down the block…. I hope that debris doesn’t bust out a window, they’re 48 years old!!
the neighbor across the street
6am– I awoke again, how did I go to sleep in that? I can say that I guess I knew that my future was certainly in Divine hands at that point and getting all worked up about it would not change anything. And I had very little sleep the last couple days, so fatigue eventually won out. A peek outside revealed it was a gentle rain, 14 mph winds and just getting a bit light in the east. I’d make coffee, but I have no ground beans!! No power to run the grinder!! Shucks, didn’t think of that!!! Guess it will be tea this morning instead, Grampa would approve!! [English, always with Earl Grey!!]
The neighbor in his 5th wheel is upright, his storage sheds are a pile of sticks and his trailer is a bit “akimbo”, it blew off its pad no doubt. Looking out the front and I realize I have NO DOOR to the shop!! The overhead garage door is blown completely INTO the workshop….. I wonder if the VW parked there is crushed or what?
the doors are blown out
12 noon–Getting sandals on, I venture outside, what a mess! Tree branches everywhere! Inside the shop looks like a tornado was in there, the other skylight was gone, everything has leaves, twigs, and tufts of fiberglass in and on it. There was a tote full of kites I forgot to put up in a dry area, and it is half full of water, tool boxes on the floor are flooded as well. How does it rain into a closed and latched toolbox? — Stuff had blown all around, things stored on top the big truck were scattered about. And the garage door was laying on the roof of the VW Passat, I had stacked some empty cardboard boxes on the roof of the car and they prevented any damage to occur!! Not even a scratch!! I’ll have to get those door panels apart and back into the doorframe, its wide open to the world here….
2pm– people banging on my door!! “Hey! You ok in there??” well yes quite well thank you for asking. A short time later the fire crew walks by the building front taking stock but they don’t even see me in my “motor house”. A bit later some friends of my youngest daughter stop by, give me some water and a few canned goods, ask if I’m ok, and relay to the girls [in Houston] that their Dad is still alive, whole, and kicking!!!
One would think that that is the end of the ordeal, and yes, it is for the exciting part. But now then we sit here, it is not too hot but what are you to do?? Over the next couple days, the cell service is semi-restored, you can text [at times] but calls are not in the plan… Some more longtime friends from Austin who have a place just blocks away get a text thru and offer to bring foodstuff and supplies. The original friend of daughter stops by again, en route to get some heavy equipment from Port O’Connor and drops a case of water, cans of tuna!! Asked if I’m leaving, I say NO! Everything I own is in that shop, and until I can secure the door I’m standing guard!!
sign in midst of downtown rubble
The next few days are like hell!! The cool air is gone, it is 90 again, not even a fan!! Only warm water to drink, and although there are not many, the skeeters are as bloodthirsty as a pterodactyl!! Finally, with some assistance from my neighbor’s son in law, we get some temporary roof repairs and I have just enough battery in my cordless to screw the door panels in place up above head high.
At this point, I have had several deliveries of canned soup, crackers, water, and TUNA!! Yep, life would be great if I could make coffee! The cell services get semi-functional and someone dropped off a “solar cell charger” to use, good thing because my thirst for “outside info” has me burning battery to scope out social media……
After a week in purgatory type heat my daughter arrives to rescue me, so we secure the premises and finally!!!!! AIR CONDITIONING!! The flooding has closed the highway at the Colorado River so our trip was nearly 4 ½ hours to get to Houston. The views of the devastation and the debris blown as far as 30 miles inland is just astounding. I’m in semi-shock on the ride to my daughter’s place. It takes a few days for it to fully sink in that my much loved “little fishing village” will NEVER BE THE SAME!
Now to wait and see how long it takes for the power to get restored in Rockport so I can return and start the clean -up process.
Our spirit is ever strong even after terrible devastation
The Day After Video