One Year Later: A Portrait of Post-Hurricane Resilience In The Coastal Bend
August 26th, 2017. Three o’clock in the morning. Hurricane Harvey roared in from the Gulf with winds that tore trees and traffic lights right out of the ground. He destroyed homes and businesses, displaced residents, and left a battle scar the size of the entire Coastal Bend.
This year, August 26th was a beautiful day. Sunny, warm, and breezy…residents and vacationers enjoyed the calm beaches and end-of-summer activities. Not everything is back to normal; the community continues to labor tirelessly towards recovery. But with every piece of debris removed, every home repaired, and every business reopened, the Coastal Bend discovers a new aspect of its post-hurricane identity, a new depth of resilience, and a new direction.
Thousands of tourists and vacationers returned to the Coastal Bend this year for some unparalleled beach bumming, fishing, water sports, and photo after photo of jaw-dropping views. If you didn’t get a chance to visit this year — or if you’re considering a visit to the Coastal Bend — here is a look at how Port Aransas, Rockport, and Corpus Christi are faring a year after Harvey, and how these communities are using the effects of a natural disaster to promote growth and revitalization.
For over a century, Port A has served as a getaway paradise for inland Texans, out-of-state vacationers, and international travelers alike. From the palm-tree-lined residential streets to historic Old Town with its iconic ferry to the glittering Gulf waters rich with flounder, kingfish, red snapper, and shark, this small coastal town has long been one of Texas’ best-kept secrets.
Enter, Hurricane Harvey.
140mph winds…25 inches of rain…250 homes destroyed…4 businesses demolished…over $500 million in damages…and that’s just in Port A.
According to the numbers, it looked like paradise might be lost.
Image courtesy of Joey Palacios/Texas Public Radio
On August 26th, 2018, Port Aransas decorated the sidewalk near the marina with 2,500 paper bags decorated with the names of people, organizations, and churches who enlisted in a civilian army to fight through the recovery process. Friends and strangers alike got into the trenches, ripping up carpet, tearing down moldy drywall, going above and beyond the call of neighborly duty to help each other.
With help from neighbors, friends, and community members, Port A businesses also worked ceaselessly to clean up their debris-ridden stores, repair damaged buildings, and open their doors in record time.
By summertime, many of the popular Port A attractions like Red Dragon Pirate Cruises, Bernie’s Beach House, and Dolphin Dock Charters were ready to welcome the crowds. The unspoken mantra of this charming small town with an independent European feel seemed to be, “If we build it, they will come.”
And after an usually cold (and by “cold” we really mean “not hot,” because this is South Texas) winter, those tourists did come. Although crowds were smaller than in previous years, spring break numbers were far better than expected, and by the time SandFest rolled around in April, finding an available vacation rental was nearly impossible! The show of loyalty and love for this small town reassured Port Aransians that not only would Port A survive, but thrive.
Now, Port A isn’t just rebuilding. It’s expanding. (Not too much, though; that small-town feel is too intrinsic to its identity.) As beachfront community powerhouse Cinnamon Shore continues to cultivate its small-town urbanism vibe with new, state-of-the-art condos and single-family homes, the Palmilla Beach Resort is taking Port A by a good kind of storm with its brand new, stunningly luxurious three-story beachfront homes.
Despite sitting directly on the shoreline of Corpus Christi Bay, many of the popular tourist attractions in Downtown Corpus Christi withstood the storm with minimal damage. The Texas State Aquarium and Art Museum of South Texas re-opened almost immediately after Harvey tore through town. Other attractions, like the Corpus Christi Museum of Science & History, were forced to shut down for several months for repairs.
Images courtesy of The Gold Fish Instagram page
Today, downtown is buzzing with a revitalization movement (it’s long been in the works, but no doubt extra-motivated by Harvey). Everywhere you turn, an old historic building is being renovated, and folks are lining up to check out a new bar or restaurant like The Gold Fish. The Downtown Management District has developed plans to increase residential living downtown with new apartment buildings and retail shopping. Big things are in the works in “the sparkling city by the sea!”
Images courtesy of the Del Mar College Instagram page
Higher education in Corpus is thriving, too, as Del Mar College starts to build a third campus in the city’s sought-after Southside neighborhood to increase accessibility and expand the college’s program offerings.
After a hurricane, it’s natural for some residents to move out of a city. But the real estate market in Corpus Christi is booming as transplants move to the area, and Del Mar and Texas A&M University Corpus Christi graduates are sticking around and buying their first homes.
As a barrier island, North Padre was completely exposed and pretty much defenseless in the face of Harvey’s brutality.
One of the biggest setbacks for the island last fall happened at Seashore Charter Schools, a public school system that serves the North Padre Island, Flour Bluff, Port Aransas, and NAS CCAD communities.
The schools sustained enough damage to the elementary and middle campuses to shut down for a week. But with the help of parent, teacher, and community volunteers, Seashore resumed classes as usual only a week later and even opened its doors to displaced Port Aransas students whose schools sustained too much damage to re-open immediately. Even with all the damage and disruption of a hurricane, Seashore Middle Academy was ranked a Top 100 Texas Public School this year.
Images courtesy of the Padre Island National Seashore Instagram page
In the months after the storm hit, local volunteers joined forces to clean up the beach, and this summer the island hosted its usual calm bustle of beach-going tourists. Charter boats shuttled thousands of deep-sea fishers eager to catch red snapper, kingfish, and sharks, and all along the coast vacationers surfed, hang-glided, and kayaked in the glittering waters of the Gulf.
Looking at the palm-tree-lined canals and busy, shell-strewn beaches, you wouldn’t know this community took a big hit just a year ago.
Of all of the Coastal Bend communities, picturesque Rockport, a mom-and-pop maritime town, was hit the hardest. Even a year later, residents are still repairing heavily damaged homes, and City Hall remains closed.
Recovery for this town has been slower than its neighbors. It relies heavily on the maritime and tourism industries, and many captains’ boats were severely damaged or completely lost in the hurricane.
Images courtesy of Celebrations Cake Decorating webpage
However, these setbacks haven’t stopped folks from getting out and enjoying themselves! Local events like Rockport Fulton Market Days and the Fulton Oysterfest went on as usual this year, offering residents and visitors a chance to enjoy live music, local art, and delicious fresh seafood. Harvey can take away homes and businesses, but there’s nothing stronger than the community spirit of this small town.
As one of the wealthiest (and most beautiful) towns in Texas, Rockport has a lot of people in its corner. Surrounded by the natural beauty of Goose Island State Park, Matagorda Island, and the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, it continues to draw visitors and transplants to its shores.
This past year, Rockport formed its Heritage District Board, which has developed plans to stimulate business and industry, as well as facilitate mixed-use urban development and a pedestrian-oriented city center. The City of Rockport has also applied for a grant to construct a Performing Arts Center in Rockport. Every week, another business re-opens its doors, slowly but surely rebuilding the town’s economic base. And the Rockport Country Club recently re-opened, as gorgeous and luxurious as ever. This little corner of coastal heaven is working hard to restore and revamp its charm…and we think it’s doing a pretty good job!
A year after Harvey, the Coastal Bend still remembers the chaos, fear, and devastation. But now there is also courage, faith, and strength of a measure previously unimagined, born of surviving a hurricane once before. Everyone in the Coastal Bend knows that the entire community has its back, and should another hurricane ever attack its shores (please, hurricanes, pick on somebody your own size), we can take it.
If you’re moving to the Coastal Bend and starting to think about where to live, Keller Williams is here to help! Check out our list of Coastal Bend communities that need to be on your radar, download our exclusive Buyer’s Guide, speak with a local lender, and contact an agent to help you make your dream home a reality.