Jeff Cathrow Photos 1

Nature's Wrath: From Landfall to Snowfall
Rockport, Texas 2017
A Photo Documentary by Jeff Cathrow
Five years ago my wife and I packed our belongings and left Albuquerque, New Mexico where we had been living shortly after leaving our Hawaii home of eleven years (my wife had tired of living in the damp Hawaiian rain forest and being isolated from her family so after an exploratory trip to Northern New Mexico in the summer of 2011 we decided to move to Albuquerque the following Spring).
However, we were awakened to the harsh realities of the mile-high Duke City winters as soon as December’s frigid air blew in. By January we had already begun planning our relocation to South Texas where a warm year-round climate beckoned us. We rented a huge truck and trailer later that month and made our way south towards Corpus Christi. It was a balmy 82 degrees when we arrived on February 3rd - bingo!
While exploring communities surrounding Corpus, we quickly became enchanted with the small town of Rockport situated on a long, sandy peninsula nearby. Known for its oysters, sport fishing and migratory bird life, Rockport seemed like a good place to live, complete with a beautiful beach, good restaurants and a tranquil, seaside setting. The herds of wild deer that roamed through its oak and palm-treed neighborhoods and abundant flowering hibiscus and bouganvillea provided an extra splash of local color and also reminded us of Hawaii. We quickly agreed to replant ourselves in this quasi-subtropical setting with little debate.
We never expected a major hurricane to make a beeline for our tiny town so soon after settling in, though!
We were aware that we had chosen to live on the hurricane-prone Gulf Coast but rationalized that with planning and preparedness we could accept the risk over the long run. Little did we know that the “long run” would occur much sooner than envisioned.
I monitored the National Weather Service’s Atlantic hurricane web site daily during the June to December storm season and I paid close attention to a tropical system that was developing during the second and third week of August. As this developing system began to move northward from the southern Bay of Campeche into the Gulf I grew anxious and began to pack and plan for evacuation in case it gained momentum.
Although this tropical storm was downgraded to a tropical depression for a day or two after traversing the Bay of Campeche it quickly regained strength as a tropical storm and began to leave the east coast of Mexico in a more northerly path. Lo and behold, this system turned into the Harvey monster that broke, battered and bent the Coastal Bend of Texas virtually overnight; it developed from a minor tropical depression to a major hurricane in only 40 hours! Initially predicted to make landfall as a Cat 1 or 2 storm, Hurricane Harvey roared into Rockport with incredible Category 4 force: 109 mph - 150 mph winds, a 4-12 foot storm surge, multiple tornadoes and lightning strikes late Friday evening, August 25/ 26, 2017.
The day before landfall my wife and I scrambled into action. We secured our home, gathered irreplaceable possessions and packed my car to the brim. We evacuated well before Hurricane Harvey would blast San Jose Island (the pancake-flat barrier island between Aransas Bay and the Gulf) by 10pm the next night. In the comfort of my aunt and uncle’s Dallas home, we watched the horror of Harvey unfolding on TV Friday evening and hoped that our home would still be standing when we returned three weeks later (we ended up with relatively minor water/ debris damage but many of our neighbors and townsfolk were not so lucky).
Hurricane Harvey’s ferocious winds pummeled Rockport and laid waste throughout Aransas County (the smallest county in Texas). The twenty or more inches of rain and seawater surge of 4-12 feet intensified the devastation throughout the Texas Coastal Bend region as Harvey slowly traversed Rockport and Copano Bay. Our area suffered hurricane force gales for 13 hours straight, four of which were at a steady 150 miles per hour. The tremendous destruction by wind and storm surge was concentrated in a narrow channel-like path within Rockport, Fulton, Port Aransas and the tiny communities surrounding Copano Bay.
Corpus Christi suffered no more than 65-75 mph tropical storm damage since the eye passed over Rockport 35 miles to the northeast and the most destructive bands blew counter-clockwise. Nature’s wrath in the name of Harvey delivered a great deal more water damage further north and eastward as major floods encompassed Victoria, Port Lavaca, Galveston and Houston in the following days. While Houstonians' lives were lost in the flooded metropolis the insanely fierce winds that wrecked Rockport diminished significantly in the interim.
First hit, first forgotten” Rockport, Texas was in the national news spotlight only briefly, during the first couple of days (I happened to recognize our previous apartment complex (!) as one of Harvey’s first victims while CNN’s cameras panned a view of collapsed walls and rubble near Little Bay). Upon flipping the channels I soon recognized another familiar apartment building complex south of downtown that was now reduced to huge piles of bricks that Fox News reporter Steve Harrigan stood in front of while reporting his “Live from Rockport” newscast.
Both of these brief glimpses of our town’s destruction sent chills down our spines and we endeavored to learn more about our home’s fate from then on.
Yet as soon as Harvey began to stall, change course and slowly meander its way around South Texas - the news coverage immediately shifted away from Rockport to Houston - where converging rivers crested their banks and flooded entire neighborhoods. It was almost as if the Cat 4 storm never made landfall or passed through here at all! We knew more about what might happen in Houston or Beaumont or New Orleans if Harvey headed there than we ever learned about Rockport during the early days of the storm. Our town had suddenly become yesterday’s news, sadly enough.
As a life-long photographer, I felt compelled to do our town a bit more justice - at least in a personal, close-up way - and I decided to create a lasting record of the devastation of Rockport by Hurricane Harvey, lest our sweet little town be further ignored by the world of instant gratification, “major disaster news story” media. As soon as the Mayor of Rockport announced power had been restored and deemed it safe for residents to return we left Dallas and made a beeline to our Rockport home. We were stunned by the other-worldly appearance of our town when we arrived and hardly recognized places that we saw every day.
All the trees had all their leaves blown off and huge piles of debris lined every street. Roofs were torn off and complete buildings had collapsed. All of the usual herds of deer and flocks of birds and geese were not to be seen; it had become a ghost town as far as wildlife was concerned. The only good news was that our neighbors were all basically OK and so was our home (thank goodness!) but my wife’s car did take a flying debris hit to the windshield and hood. All in all, we really lucked out!
Since Harvey developed into a major hurricane so quickly many residents had little notice or were unaware of the dangers they faced. Our local police department later estimated that 40% of Rockport/ Fulton residents stayed behind to ride out the storm. It is a miracle that there were only three human casualties in Rockport as a result of Harvey, although the livestock casualties and property destruction was massive and widespread throughout the region.
I present herewith a large group of my Hurricane Harvey aftermath photos taken over a period of three months (mid-September to December 2017) for your sobering perusal.
Also included are a few images of a rare Gulf Coast snowstorm that dusted our ruins and rubble with a fine white blanket of Mother Nature’s perfection one early December morning (as if to sugar-coat her wanton destruction in August). It was a pretty sight to see, for sure - but unlike flakes of snow the memories of Hurricane Harvey shall linger a long time around here.
My heartfelt thanks to Ferreira Fest and Louis (as always) for making this presentation possible!
Jeff Cathrow, Photographer Rockport, Texas January 2018
All photos and text © by Jeff Cathrow

1. Dwellings and Blue Tarps


Very few, if any dwellings in Rockport escaped roof damage. Following the storm, local and out-of-state roofing contractors descended upon Rockport en masse as soon as they were able and began working in every neighborhood. The months of September, October and November saw the most roofing activity and neighborhoods resounded daily with the firecracker sounds of roofing hammers and nail guns well into the evenings. Those residents who hadn't yet received an insurance settlement or weren't able to re-roof so quickly placed the now ubiquitous large blue tarps atop their damaged roofs to prevent further leakage.
As of January there are many such homes and buildings that are still covered in blue and many are beginning to wonder if/ when our town will be tarp-less again.
Port o' Call Apartments September 2017
Port o' Call Apartments September 2017
Harvey wet the beds! September 2017
Allegro North Condos, September 2017
Ubiquitous Blue Tarps, Rockport Country Club Estates October 2017

Key Allegro home October 2017
October 2017

This end unit has been completely demolished since this photo was taken and the area surrounding the building is off limits until reconstruction is complete. October 2017
Lakeside Gardens carport October 2017
Lakeside Gardens carport October 2017
Light fixtures, gutted condo, Rockport October 2017

Linden St. apartment buildings, Rockport, October 2017
Lakeside Gardens Condos, October 2017
Trashed TVs -- Lakeside Gardens Condos, October 2017

Copano Bay duplexes, September 2017

Port O' Call destruction, September 2017
Displacement - October 2017
(Although the family next door had moved out two weeks before Hurricane Harvey their unit had to be completely gutted down to the studs because of water intrusion) All the fixtures and appliances had to be removed as well. The PODS container is parked for another resident who also is undergoing a long renovation in another building.

Hidden Oaks Condominiums
Rockport TX September 2017
2. Rubble and Destruction

Harvey left Rockport in ruins. Out of the 9,228 structures inspected and tallied in Rockport, 1,002 were completely destroyed, 2,261 incurred major damage, 3,000 suffered minor damage and 2,300 were otherwise affected. Downed trees and power lines were strewn everywhere in the first days and weeks after landfall. Emergency crews' work was made all the more difficult for this reason and was why the Mayor of Rockport kept asking evacuees to refrain from returning until the roads were cleared and water, gas and electric lines were restored.

We returned to Rockport 16 days after the hurricane (shortly after power was restored) and were astounded by the walls of rubble that lined virtually every street; it was as if we were driving through a city destroyed by war.
Hidden Oaks Condominiums September 2017
Hidden Oaks Condominiums September 2017

Debris pile, Royal Oaks Drive, Rockport October 2017

Mayhem on the courts, Rockport Country Club October 2017

Duck tape repair, Rockport Country Club Estates October 2017

Four Foot Surge -- Fulton Beach Road, October 2017

Piano Pile -- Copano Village October 2017

Rubble Rider, September 2017
Destroyed House, Copano Ridge September 2017

Destruction in every direction, Copano Bay, September 2017

Magic Suntan Motel, Rockport, TX September 2017

Magic Suntan Motel, Rockport, September 2017
(this is where we stayed while looking for a place to live in 2013)

Car wash vacuum area, October 2017

Downed warehouse near Fulton September 2017

Copano Bay homes destroyed by the third landfall of Harvey
(San Jose Island, Rockport and Copano Bay)

HVAC ducting Rockport
October 2017

HVAC ducting Rockport, October 2017

HVAC ducting Rockport, October 2017
Damaged House, Copano Ridge September 2017

Copano Bay September 2017
House among rubble, Copano Ridge
September 2017

Another downtown business bulldozed shortly after this photo was taken.
September 2017

Alice Faye's On the Bay -- October 2017

Fulton Convention Center October 2017

Another Restaurant Down, Fulton Beach Road, Fulton, TX January 2018

Mai's Asian Market, Rockport Fulton September 2017
Ruben Sazon's jewelry shop and art gallery, September 2017

Imagine This Copano Bay, December 2017

Mom's Bait Stand September 2017

Too Messed Up Copano Bay, December 2017

Copano Cove "Crack" House Copano Bay, December 2017

Fountain of Hope Copano Bay, December 2017

Open House Today Fulton, TX January 2018

Full Kitchen Remodel by Harvey Fulton, TX January 2018

Cottage on Copano Bay, Lamar, Texas December 2017
The Lighthouse Inn, Rockport TX, September 2017

Copano Ridge September 2017

Downtown bookstore demolished shortly after this photo was taken.
September 2017

Back of the Aquarium September 2017
Rockport Aquarium, September 2017

Rockport Aquarium remains September 2017
Casa Embuelto Rockport Texas September 2017

Canvas Designs -- October 2017

Canvas Designs Roof (blown across the street) October 2017

Canvas Designs October 2017

Canvas Designs shop -- October 2017

My favorite car wash, Rockport business district
October 2017

Rebuilding La Quinta Inn, Rockport
October 2017

Canvas Designs shop Rockport
October 2017

TX DOT communication tower and debris, Fulton September 2017
Ham Radio Room, September 2017

Old H.E.B. building near downtown Rockport
October 2017

New FEMA air-conditioned tent on the far right set up in the old H.E.B. parking lot October 2017

One of the downtown churches right next door to our only H.E.B. grocery store that survived intact!    September 2017

All Gone (former site of two motels) Little Bay, Rockport, December 2017

Fulton Stripes convenience store     October 2017

Sorry Indefinitely Fulton, TX October 2017

Madison's Pet Groomers     Fulton, TX     October 2017

Not So Well Groomed     Fulton, TX    October 2017

Rockport Beach Pavilion, October 2017

Storage units September 2017

Wild Wind Copano Bay, December 2017

Copano Ridge September 2017

Abandoned shack October 2017

Where the Surge Rushed In, Copano Bay, December 2017

Nine-Foot Storm Surge vs. Steel; Nature Won!
Copano Bay, December 2017
If Benches Could Talk... Fulton, September 2017

Climate controlled storage NOT -- Rockport, TX September 2017
3. Vehicles
Harvey's Victims Rendered Immobile: Vehicles That Hungry Harvey Consumed

Chopped-up Chopper Memorial Display, Aransas Pass, TX
September 2017

Abandoned Cadillac September 2017

From Trailer to Trash, Rockport, September 2017

North end of the Rockport peninsula, September 2017

Mobile homes had an especially hard time meeting Harvey
Copano Bay, September 2017
In the wrong place at the wrong time.
Fulton Beach Road Rockport, TX September 2017

Palm Collision -- Fulton, TX October 2017

My Good Side
Rockport, October 2017

Looking towards Aransas Bay from downtown Rockport, October 2017
Former Old Fulton Seafood Cafe & Deli September 2017
4. Signs
Signs (of the times) around Rockport:
Many of the looting/ warning signs were apparently heeded; a month after landfall there had been a grand total of only three arrests made as a result of post-storm looting. Since many people have second homes here and are otherwise away the rest of the year neighbors already have developed a habit of looking after each other's property as if it was their own. This is business as usual in Texas, where residents tend to pull together and look out for one another in such times of need.

Huge billboards out on State Highway 35 had their three-foot diameter steel supports folded in half and messages shredded to pieces during the fiercest winds imaginable. Business facades were blown off and landed upside down hither and yon. Storefront signage got blown halfway across town and smaller signs ended up out on Rockport Beach a mile from downtown. Residents who rode out the storm quickly erected makeshift signs of their own to adorn their rubble piles and proclaim their triumph of survival.

The spirit of solidarity to renew and rebuild remains strong throughout our community despite problems encountered in the aftermath and many of these hand-made placards exemplify that well.

Fulton Beach Road October 2017
Funny Sign -- Rockport Beach October 2017

Blown Away -- Site of the 25-foot wide Big Blue Crab sculpture, Little Bay
September 2017
Blown Away -- Site of the 25-foot wide Big Blue Crab sculpture, Little Bay
September 2017

Blue Wave Inn, Rockport    September 2017
Blue Wave Inn, Rockport    September 2017
Copano Bay Welcome Sign September 2017

The Whimsy of Fate Copano Ridge, September 2017

Yeah, right! Copano Ridge, September 2017

Thank you, flamingo person---we needed a good laugh!
Fulton Beach Rd.    September 2017

Copano Village Pallet Sign -- October 2017

Rockport Turned Upside Down by Harvey -- October 2017
Rockport Relief Camp, Fulton, TX October 2017

Unite and Rebuild - South Austin Street, downtown Rockport October 2017
All photos and text by Jeff Cathrow © 2018.
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