I made the risky decision to drive into Hurricane Harvey on August 26th, 2017. I drove about 3 hours from Austin to Corpus Christi. My intention was to witness this historic hurricane and help the people affected by its deadly wrath. I arrived in Corpus right before the Category 4 hurricane made landfall. The news alerts on the radio reported 20-30” of rain, 120 mph winds, and structural damage. At this point the gale force winds were picking up rapidly. I drove around the outskirts of town looking for shelter from the storm until eventually deciding to flee the hurricane and make my way towards Victoria, about 100 miles northeast of Corpus Christi. I was literally the only car on the road for miles. The rain was coming down in heavy sheets as powerful winds battered my car. It was difficult to maintain steering at times. All the gas stations were closed. My car stalled out a few miles outside Victoria. I was lucky enough to pull into a safe place off the road outside an evacuated house. After sitting in my car for over an hour, trying to convince myself that everything was going to be okay, I stepped outside and hailed a passing vehicle with my bright flashlight. He pulled over and gave me a ride to Victoria. His name was John Daugherty, storm chaser. I’m eternally grateful for the help from this savior, otherwise I likely would have been stranded my car all night without a lifeline. Downtown Victoria was a ghost-town since residents were forced to leave due to mandatory evacuation. I was turned away from multiple hotels before finding a Hampton Inn with one remaining vacant room. The hurricane knocked out the power around midnight. Transformers exploded in the distance throughout the night. Heavy winds in excess of 100 mph raged outside and physically shook the whole building. We were positioned in the eye of Hurricane Harvey for hours.
After a long night without a wink of sleep, I looked out the window in the morning to see ominous gray skies with low hanging clouds and significant flooding. I made conversation with other hotel guests in the lobby, searched for a solution to reach my car on the outskirts of town, called a few news stations and the Red Cross Hotline to volunteer helping the hurricane survivors. I was stranded at the hotel for another day before getting a ride to my car with a helpful local gentleman. I topped off my tank with the large fuel tank and carried on with a mission to help the people affected by the devastating hurricane. I also had the goal of documenting damages in surrounding areas with my camera.
After filling up at a gas station in Odom, I made my way to Corpus Christi to survey the damages and volunteer at American Red Cross. However, after driving around for awhile and listening to news on the radio, I was called to visit Rockport. Upon entering the port town, I was shocked by the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey. Buildings were ripped apart, power lines were strewn all over the road, entire swaths of land were underwater. It reminded me of a scene straight out of a post-apocalyptic Hollywood movie. Thankfully most the people evacuated days before the hurricane made landfall. I spoke to a 25-year-old guy who lived in Rockport his entire life and had never seen anything like this before. An older couple peered into their demolished bookstore as a reporter from CNN set up equipment outside. I saw a huge storage facility for boats torn apart like confetti. I drove south to Aransas Pass taking it all in. The National Guard and FEMA were already being deployed to this area. Helicopters circled in the sky. Rockport was an official government mandated disaster zone.
I decided not to linger and continued onward to Port Lavaca. The road was blocked off so I had to make a slight detour through Blessing. My next destination was Houston. News reports were measuring floods in feet, not inches. I drove around the city for hours looking for ways to help until finally deciding to cut my losses and get away before the second wave of flash flooding. I still want to get more involved helping people on the ground affected by the devastating affects of Hurricane Harvey. If you’d like to help, please consider donating to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.
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