Hope After Harvey: 6 Months of Recovery, Aransas County
ARANSAS COUNTY, Texas (FOX 26) - Aransas County is where Hurricane Harvey made landfall, taking the lives of two people there.
It may take ten years before the cities of Rockport and Fulton are back to normal as a storm fit for the history books devastated those cities.
What started out as a tropical depression turned into a monster Category 4 hurricane in less than two days.
"You got to remember this thing blew up basically overnight," said Rockport Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Rios.
"When you suffer a Category 4 hurricane, everything has to change," said Director of Long Term Recovery for Aransas County Mike Koerner.
Hurricane Harvey changed more than just the landscape in communities along the Texas coast that felt the brunt of its fury.
"Had sustained winds greater than 140 mile per hour for eight hours," said Koerner.
Harvey's historic eye moving right over the Rockport-Fulton area, sister cities known most in Aransas County.
"I think Rockport and Aransas County and Fulton have been overshadowed by Houston. It's a numbers game," said Koerner.
Over 25,000 people live in the county, most residing in Rockport and Fulton where over 75 percent of both towns were nearly destroyed.
"We were out of communication for quite a while, not even satellite phones were working," said Rios.
To date, over half of the estimated 1,300 businesses and hotel rooms remain shut down. In total, 18,000 structures were damaged in Aransas County.
"They'll be a portion that won't come back. Don't know what that number is going to be and we're trying to make that number very small," said Koerner when asked if all the county's residents will return.
"Is it back to normal? It's getting more normal. I wouldn't say back to normal, but we're getting there," said Rios.
Also getting there are Winter Texans. These tourists come from all over and stay on the coastal cities during the winter months.
"A lot of Winter Texans have come back," said Koerner.
"This is our third winter down here. Retired," said Patty and Paul Hazelip from Minnesota. "And we were watching on the news. No way, not Rockport. No way."
The Hazelip's would be lying if they said Harvey never made them second guess going back to their second home
"I was going to throw in the towel and say forget it after we came down and saw our trailer, you can imagine we just bought it," said Patty.
No one depends more on visitors, like the Hazelips, than Craig Griffin whose restaurant, gift shop and hotel sustained damages totaling over $2 million.
"We lost 2 roofs over at the restaurants with one dining room completely out of commission," said Griffin, a 22 year resident of Fulton who chose to ride out Harvey on the second floor of his battered hotel.
"There was no internet, no credit cards, no telephones. We didn't have mail. We didn't have anything for a long time," said Griffin.
As a new normal is being found and visitors return to the cities that depend on them the most, a Texas spirit is sensed.
"The people here are so resilient and it sounds cliche, but it's really true," said Patty.
"You gotta keep going, right?" asked Griffin who keeps going.