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The mayors of four Texas Gulf Coast cities devastated by Hurricane Harvey — Charles Bujan of Port Aransas, Paul Polasek of Victoria, C.J. Wax of Rockport and Jack Whitlow of Port Lavaca — joined the The Texas Tribune on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the storm’s effects on their communities. Here’s what they had to say.
By the numbers: Of Rockport’s 2,400 students, 856 have left the school district. Port Lavaca saw a storm surge of 10 to 12 feet. In Port Aransas, the tax base has shrunk from $2.9 billion to $1.6 billion. There was one fatality in Victoria. The statistics alone demonstrate the staggering damage that Harvey wrought on these coastal communities — and they show just how long it will take to rebuild.
Recovery won’t be cheap ... All four towns’ economies have suffered a devastating blow, and the communities will require significant state and federal support to recover. With the recent onslaught of natural disasters, some town leaders expressed concern that they won’t get the financial support they need from the government. “I’m not really that confident, to be honest with you, because the pot is only so deep, and we’ve had so many disasters lately, that you can only drain it so far,” Bujan said.
… And it won’t be done soon, either. The mayors emphasized that rebuilding efforts after the storm will continue long after public attention fades. For example: Four of Rockport’s five main tourist attractions — the central driver of the town’s economy — are either destroyed or damaged beyond the point of use, Wax said. “This isn’t going to happen tomorrow or the next day — this is going to be several years before we are anywhere close to where we were,” Wax said. “The impact next year is going to be severe.”
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No fans of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The mayors all seemed to agree that, at least so far, the state government has responded better to Harvey than the federal government. And no one had love for FEMA. Polasek said that although there were “a few small hiccups” in communications with the state, he “would caution anyone to rely on FEMA.” And Wax named several issues he personally faced when filing for FEMA assistance — like not being allowed to list more than one insurance provider.
Watch Bujan discuss FEMA issues:
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If you would like to support hurricane victims along the Texas Gulf Coast, please donate to the United Way of the Coastal Bend Disaster Relief Fund by texting UWHARVEY to 41444 or visit its Disaster Relief page here to give online.
Read related Tribune coverage:
In the Texas Senate’s first public hearing since Hurricane Harvey, members of the Committee on Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs talked for hours about a host of ways to mitigate flooding related to stressed reservoirs in the Houston region. [Full story]
Hurricane Harvey took the lives of at least 88 Texans, according to preliminary numbers released Friday morning by the Department of State Health Services. [Full story]
Landowners didn't want to make a big deal out of building homes in Harris County's big reservoirs and government officials were afraid of property rights lawsuits. Then Hurricane Harvey flooded the reservoirs. [Full story]