Hurricane Harvey: Living in the Aftermath
By LPR Staff
Across Caldwell County, residents are picking up the pieces – as well as the limbs and debris, after Hurricane Harvey plowed ashore last Friday, devastating communities across the Coastal Bend and Southeast Texas.
Though Caldwell County fared better, in the long term, than other communities, the area suffered significant damage. Roads were destroyed, homes flooded and battered by the winds, lives forever changed by a three-day tropical storm event that dumped up to 30 inches of rain and saw sustained winds that topped out in excess of 60 mph. At the height of the storm, nearly every rural road in Caldwell County was closed to traffic, more than 140 closings altogether.
“Preliminary surveys show the road network suffered more damage than the Halloween Flood of 2013, Memorial Day Flood of 2015, All Saints Day Flood of 2015 and the June flood of 2016 combined,” Emergency Management Coordinator Martin Ritchey told the Caldwell County Commissioners on Monday. “Even during the height of our emergency response to Hurricane Harvey we had begun planning for the ‘post Harvey Caldwell County.’ Words are hard to come by to describe the damage to critical county infrastructure.”
Expecting the worst from Harvey, Caldwell County Judge Kenneth Schawe declared a state of disaster in Caldwell County on Thursday, well in advance of the storm’s landfall. Governor Greg Abbott followed suit over the weekend, opening the door to State and Federal funding for recovery.
The most important piece of the recovery puzzle, Ritchey said, is an honest and thorough assessment of the damage. In the case of an event so widespread, he said it would take cooperation of all residents of the County to assess not only the infrastructure damage, but also the personal property damage to homes.
“With the roads, we can just look at those one-by-one,” he said. “But a house that sits a half-mile off the road, we can’t look at that and just know that the roof blew off, so we’re counting on our residents to take pictures and provide us with their damage assessments, so we can get as much FEMA help as we can.”
A statement from the County on Monday noted that work on roads would begin immediately, as soon as it is safe for crews to work. However, they warned that the process could take months, or possibly even years, to restore the roads to pre-flood conditions or better.
In the meantime, the Lockhart Independent School District is formulating a plan to serve the students whose roads have been impacted by the storm, Superintendent Susan Bohn told the Board on Monday night. By her estimate, more than 1,100 students were affected in some way; as of Tuesday evening there were still several roads that buses could not access.
“We’re certainly not going to penalize the students if their parents can’t get them to school,” she said. “But there are some kids that we’re not going to be able to go and get for a while. We’re working on a plan what to do for those kids in the meantime, because they deserve to be educated.”
Some ideas include depot bus stops, and in the worst-case scenario, remote teaching locations for students in seriously impacted areas. She said she expected her team to continue working through the week to formulate a plan, while operations returned largely to normal within the District on Wednesday.
The list of roads that buses cannot traverse, as of Tuesday evening, includes: Seminole Trail, Old Colony Line Rd (off 3158), Spanish Oak Road, Pettytown Road, Dry Creek Road (CR 182), Lytton Lane, County Line Road, Tumbleweed Trail, Witter Road, Sparrow Trail, Homann Road, Homannville Trail and Thompson Road.
Ritchey encourages public participation in the recovery process.
“If you have damage on your county road (or even state road) you can help us jump start the documentation process,” he said. “If it is safe – never take risks to take photos and watch for traffic – please document road damage and email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Photos alone are not valuable without a precise description of the location such as ‘1200 block of Jones Road’ or the address and GPS coordinates are the best. Snap a few images wide views that show the linear nature of the damage (street length) and images shooting across the road. Close ups on specific defects along with wider views is great. Working together Caldwell County will rebuild our critical road network better than ever. It was breathtaking to see the damage to the roads and heartbreaking to see the damage to our Historic Grand Courtroom and grounds of the Historic Caldwell County Courthouse. We will patch ceilings and replant trees, we will rebuild our community for future generations to enjoy.”
Damage reporting may be done online at https://report-tx-caldwell.orioncentral.com