Hurricane Harvey: 3 Years Later
August 25th, 2017 – a day that residents of Port Aransas, Texas will never forget.
“When the Mayor, whoever it is, issues an order to evacuate, people in Port Aransas listen to it. And they get the heck out,” said Charles Bujan, the Mayor of Port Aransas since 2016.
After rapidly strengthening in the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Harvey made landfall on nearby San Jose Island, Texas as a Category 4 with winds as high as 132 miles per hour. This lead to widespread destruction along the Texas coastline.
“I think we lost 500 dwelling units in the population and our city infrastructure was severely damaged. It was the biggest mess up I’ve ever seen to be honest with you when I came back,” Mayor Bujan said.
But landfall would only be the start of Harvey’s impacts. On August 25th, the rain began in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana. This continued as Harvey slowly drifted along the coastline for four days.
“If you’ve never been through it before, sometimes you look at it and go well, I’ll be fine, I don’t know what to do when it happens but we’ll be just fine and we’re not going to flood,” said Dirk Sylvester, who experience Harvey firsthand with his family in Kingwood, TX. “Now, since we’ve been through it, we’ve got to have our hurricane preparedness plan at our house and what we’re going to do if we see something big coming in.”
The storm was record-setting — rain totals in Houston came in at 31.26″. In nearby Nederland, Texas, 60.58″ of rain fell, making it the wettest tropical cyclone ever recorded for both the Lone Star State and the United States.
“We just lost everything, and everybody that we love, our neighborhood and community, lost everything,” said Dirk’s wife, Mary Elizabeth. “And you have no idea what Category 3 water does I mean, you lose everything.”
The rain lead to deadly flooding. 68 people were killed by the storm in Texas, making it the state’s deadliest tropical cyclone since 1919. America’s 5th-largest metro area, Houston, was brought to a near-standstill for weeks, and across the state tens of thousands were displaced and evacuated.
“It was surreal,” Dirk Sylvester recalled. “When we were in the boats, we went quite a distance over neighborhoods and through neighborhoods trying to get out.”
Harvey produced an estimated 125 billion dollars worth of damage, making it the costliest natural disaster in the United States since Hurricane Katrina. Harvey also became the first major hurricane to make landfall in the US since 2005.
In April of 2018, the name Harvey was officially retired by the World Meteorological Organization – a testament to the storm’s incredible strength.