'It was all night of slam, bang, boom'

Flood waters inundating Rockport in Texas last Saturday. Still, the town was apparently spared the type of damage that the Gulf Coast suffered after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Flood waters inundating Rockport in Texas last Saturday. Still, the town was apparently spared the type of damage that the Gulf Coast suffered after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.PHOTO: REUTERS

ROCKPORT (Texas) • The wind was so intense that resident Cathy Dever thought it was a tornado - one that never seemed to end.

Ms Dever fled her double-wide trailer and sought refuge in her neighbour's utility closet, clutching a small plastic bag that contained her son's phone number. If she didn't survive, she thought, at least she would be quickly identified.

For hours, she waited, flinching as gravel and debris slammed against the storm shutters.

"It was so loud, you could hear it picking up rocks off the landscape," Ms Dever, 59, said last Saturday, just after Hurricane Harvey made landfall over this spit of land 48km north-east of Corpus Christi.

As residents emerged throughout the morning, local officials and emergency responders across the region scrambled to assess the damage. According to initial assessments, Corpus Christi was relatively spared, although half of the city lost electricity and roofs were blown off some buildings.

But in Rockport and the adjoining towns of Fulton and Aransas Pass, there were scores of damaged or destroyed properties across communities of mobile homes, middle-class houses and vacation retreats.

The Category 4 hurricane tossed the mobile homes across streets and into nearby structures, chewed through brick buildings, and peeled off roofs and aluminium siding.

At the entrance to the resort town of Port Aransas on Mustang Island, law enforcement blocked the road.

FLOOD WATERS AT RECORD HIGH

This is catastrophic. When we say record setting, it means you cannot use history on your side because the rivers have never been this high before.

MR GREG WALLER, service coordination hydrologist with the National Weather Service's West Gulf River Forecast Centre in Fort Worth, Texas.

LASHED BY FIERCE WINDS AND RAIN

You couldn't even see the hand in front of your face in the wind-driven rain.

MR JIMMY KENDRICK, mayor of Fulton, where scores of homes were wrecked.

"It is too dangerous," said one Port Aransas police officer. "The roads are collapsing, and there are downed power lines everywhere."

In Rockport, a town with about 10,000 residents, numerous buildings had collapsed, including several iconic structures in the beachy commercial district. The wind shredded restaurants and stores. Strip malls and hotels also suffered major damage.

Yet, the town and broader area appeared to escape the kind of catastrophic damage that Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall as a Category 3 storm, inflicted on the upper Gulf Coast in 2005.

What this hurricane lacked in water, it made up for in wind. The United States National Weather Service reported gusts that hit 212kmh at Port Aransas.

Ms Susan Stewart, 52, was wandering through deep puddles and navigating around downed power lines with her 31-year-old son, who has mental disabilities, as the two searched for food and access to cellphone services.

They didn't have anywhere to evacuate to last Friday, so they stayed behind in their trailer.

"It was all night of slam, bang, boom, but the trailer didn't hardly rock," she said.

WASHINGTON POST

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2017, with the headline ''It was all night of slam, bang, boom''. Print Edition | Subscribe