On August 24, 2017, Texans along the coast began eyeing Tropical Storm Harvey with varying levels of concern. By the evening of August 25, the National Weather Service was advising communities throughout our region to brace themselves for tornado-force impacts as one of the costliest natural disasters in history slammed into our coast.
Storms as destructive as Harvey become a region’s defining event for years to come. But in our case, it is not Harvey’s devastation that has defined us; rather, it is the strength our region showed in both the rescue and recovery phases of Harvey’s aftermath. These past two years have been defined by our can-do Texas spirit.
Our communities showed the world in the midst of this destruction that Texans do not wait when there is work to be done. Even before the storm had passed, fellow citizens got in their boats to rescue their neighbors, then headed to Houston to pull survivors from rooftops. Those who escaped major damage spent weeks hauling tree limbs, delivering meals, and repairing the houses of their less fortunate neighbors. Families took in friends and relatives who had nowhere else to go. Churches and community groups turned their facilities into shelters. All over the region, Texans disregarded their own newly-created financial challenges to help provide for strangers who had lost everything.
The people of our communities worked tirelessly, because we were not simply rebuilding houses; we were working against the clock to get our families and neighbors back into their homes and communities, functioning again.
Since then, we have not simply been rebuilding infrastructure; we have worked to restore hope to families struggling to make ends meet. We have seen growth and competitiveness return to communities that on August 26, 2017 were quite literally picking up the pieces of their towns and struggling to see a future.
We have not simply rebuilt schools; we have worked to ensure that, despite Harvey’s devastation, our children will have the same (or better!) opportunities to develop their talents, provide for their future families, and contribute to the success of our communities.
The night of August 25, my family gathered in our boarded-up home and waited for the storm to pass. Like so many of our fellow Texans, we were anxious to emerge after Harvey’s final pass over our home to begin assessing the damage, removing fallen trees, and checking in on neighbors and relatives.
I want to thank everyone who has stepped up to the plate, rolled back their sleeves, and joined in the hard work of restoration. It is a privilege to live among people who embody the great Texas spirit, and a tremendous honor to represent you in Congress. As your representative, and as a fellow south Texan, I want you to know that I’m working right alongside you.
While we have made progress in the last couple years, we recognize recovery is a long-term project. That’s why my office is absolutely committed to recovery. Alongside leaders in our community, we worked together to secure tens of millions of recovery dollars for our district and to make sure our projects are receiving the attention they deserve. Shortly after taking office, I assigned a member of my staff to work full-time helping our families, schools, and communities navigate the complex FEMA funding process. We have worked with FEMA to highlight solutions developed in dozens of meetings with residents and local officials from our district. Alongside Governor Abbott, Commissioner Bush, city councils, county commissioners, and the school districts, we have assisted with grants for schools in Victoria and Refugio, economic development in Aransas and Calhoun counties, and hundreds of other projects that have moved our region toward recovery. We’ve worked with long term recovery groups so that the next time we face a disaster, we’re even more prepared.
There is still more to do. So if you or your community needs help, please contact my office at (361) 884-2222, and we will do everything in our power to assist you.
The recovery process will not be over this year or next. But the people of our part of Texas have already demonstrated we are ready and willing to take on hard tasks, and working together, I am confident we will rebuild our region even stronger than before.