Relief comes slowly for coastal towns recovering from Harvey

Some shoreline communities that bore the brunt of Hurricane Harvey still need clean water, electricity and health care more than a week after the winds and rain subsided.

Locals in Port Aransas, Seadrift and Sargent awoke on Aug. 25 expecting a hurricane along the lines of Bret and Dolly, storms weak enough to have their names recycled by the National Hurricane Center.

But by nightfall, when it was too late for more people to leave, Harvey had grown stronger than Katrina, throwing winds of 130 mph.

“We stayed because it was a Category 2,” said Connie Wooldridge, a high school calculus teacher who tries daily to line up meals for about a quarter of Seadrift’s 1,400 residents. “We didn’t know it was going to be a Category 4.”

Rockport and Port Aransas, 13 miles (21 kilometers) south, bore the brunt of one of the strongest hurricanes to hit the United States.

Across from the landmark shark’s mouth that welcomes visitors to a Port Aransas souvenir store, a 5-foot storm surge left marks on the walls of the Moby Dick’s restaurant. Glassware survived, tucked in wooden racks above the bar, so owner Ed Ziegler can again serve his specialty Flaming Volcano cocktail for $19 if he reopens the restaurant.

“I’m not going to let Hurricane Harvey beat me now,” Ziegler said, leading a group of visitors inside to see an aquarium that had been lifted from a stand and placed on the ground nearby — with fish intact.

“I made a deal with the Lord that if I survived I’d give him 100 percent. Now I’m hoping he’ll settle for 10,” he said.

Northeast of where Harvey’s eye crossed the coast, Caney Creek at Sargent still runs so high that a swinging bridge to one part of the community cannot be moved safely and a stationary bridge to another part is unusable because of a hole in its deck. In the span of an hour, water that had been flowing 2 inches deep across access roads was growing deeper — and bubbling up through cracks in the asphalt in a sure sign of erosion from beneath.

“We could really use medical supplies,” said Jason Boyd, a former fire chief who is directing emergency response at the town’s Veterans of Foreign Wars hall.

A boy who fell during the storm and may have broken an arm didn’t have it splinted until a National Guardsman checking on the community afterward slung together a makeshift one before heading elsewhere.

Port O’Connor, where Category 4 Carla destroyed 90 percent of the town in 1961, suffered only minor damage this time. But that wasn’t…

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