People Still Live in Fear After Harvey Hurricane in Houston
HOUSTON, TX — August 24, 2018
Although many Texas residents are still struggling to recover from Hurricane Harvey, the largest hurricane in history, which caused tremendous damage and flooding along the Gulf Coast and in and around Houston, daily life is gradually returning to normal.
It is known that in Houston at least more than 150 thousand houses around the city were flooded. Only a year later state and federal authorities managed to rebuild Rockport, where the storm made landfall. Tourists are returning to these areas.
In Port Arthur, where few buildings escaped Harvey unscathed or were insured against flooding, many are living in trailers as they rebuild their homes one room at a time, finding hope in small victories.
Texas authorities suggest that a full recovery could take decades. Most people were left without light and water for a long time. At the moment, the state has already made great strides.
Individual non-profit organizations are still actively helping the population that the government does not have time or the resources to cover.
The largest philanthropic groups raised about $1 billion to help after the hurricane. Two-thirds of that money has been allocated for specific reconstruction efforts.
However, they acknowledge that federal recovery funding has been slow in coming for some residents and that many are feeling frustrated and forgotten.
A separate part of Houston, which is about 50 miles (80 km) from the coast remained flooded for several weeks after Harvey. The authorities estimated the damage at $125 billion. During the flood, 68 people were killed, including 36 in the Houston area.
Marvin Odum, who is overseeing the recovery efforts in the nation's fourth-largest city, said it's been "fairly amazing" how quickly Houston got back to business.
Houston has received a total of $4.3 billion in Federal Emergency Management Agency individual assistance funding, payouts from the National Flood Insurance Program and Small Business Administration, or SBA, loans.
Across Texas, $14.7 billion has been awarded to residents through FEMA, flood insurance, and SBA loans, said Nim Kidd, chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management. The state is expected to get another $10 billion in federal funding for housing and infrastructure needs.
President Donald Trump has allocated $15.25 billion for hurricane recovery efforts in Texas. According to Merrill Lynch, the total cost of hurricane recovery efforts in the state could end up amounting to $70-108 billion.
Odum said he's mindful that the recovery is far from over and that the process can be very slow. He also worries that people will forget about "those pockets of the city that are still heavily devastated from the storm."
In addition, 130 mph winds destroyed more than 30% of buildings in coastal Rockport. Under the debris were houses, hotels, cafes, and restaurants and affordable housing used by workers who kept the tourist community's service industry humming, said Mayor Pat Rios. After Harvey, many workers left the state, and this means that some restaurants are still closed, and the local Walmart can't stay open 24 hours a day.
But the city is open for business, and this summer it has welcomed "volunteer tourists" who work a few days on rebuilding efforts and then spend the rest of their time vacationing, Rios said.
"We know we're going to rebuild, and we'll be better and stronger than we were before," Rios said.
Recovering from a storm like Harvey is a long process, but now that people see it's going to take time, "they realize how far we've actually come," said Pete Phillips, senior director for community development and revitalization at the Texas General Land Office, which is in charge of the state's long-term recovery action plan.
As for Port Arthur, a coastal city of about 55,000 people near the Louisiana border, there are many people still living in fear and horror after the hurricane. Although city services have restored almost the entire city, residents still post FEMA trailers or tents on their property as they rebuild their homes, said Port Arthur Mayor Derrick Freeman.
"Folks are doing what they can with what they have... getting one bathroom up and going, one bedroom, getting a mattress for your kids. It's the small victories that people are looking to right now," he said.
Freeman said he's hoping that a $1 million check he recently got for federal aid from Hurricane Ike in 2008 doesn't signify how long it will take to get Harvey recovery aid.
"It's going to be a long process. But our folks are hardworking, blue collar, strong, resilient people. We're going to be OK," he said.