Five years after Hurricane Harvey, Aransas County shows strong signs of resilience

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Harvey caused more than $800 million in damage to Aransas County, but five years later many communities have become the picture of resilience.

“It was definitely the most terrifying, yet humbling experience,” Lauren Collins said. “No light, total darkness, no water, no electricity, nothing.”

A 30-foot-tall oak tree fell on the Collins home in the small town of Woodsboro, and in the first year she attempted to repair the damage herself.

“Every time I fixed something it would turn over and rain and ruin something else,” Collins said.

Collins eventually made contact with the Coastal Bend Disaster Recovery Group.

“They were like angels, it was such a miracle. They came (and) helped us build a beautiful new house,” Collins said.

The Coastal Bend Disaster Recovery Group is a non-profit organization that has been vital to the recovery of the six county region.

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“When Harvey reached the reach was way beyond what we had anticipated,” said executive director Christopher Brandt.

According to Brandt, in the five years since Harvey, the group rebuilt 124 homes, replaced 147 manufactured homes, and made 367 major repairs; amassing an effort of 179,000 volunteer hours.

“Basically, after FEMA stops supporting claims, that’s when we come in,” Brandt said.

Rockport and Fulton bore much of Harvey’s wrath, but five years later, businesses are back, neighborhoods have rebounded and vital tourism dollars have returned.

“I hate to say it, but Harvey was kind of a blessing in disguise. We’re stronger now and we look better than before,” Aransas County Judge Burt Mills said.

Mills said while the recovery isn’t complete, state and federal grants and help from nonprofits like Coastal Bend Disaster Recovery have helped the area rebuild quickly. In fact, a new combination of a county courthouse and city hall will be completed next year.

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“This is the first in the state, no other county has this – a courthouse and city hall right next to each other,” Mills said.

The judge said much of what remains for recovery is $53 million in road repairs and expansions, as well as improving drainage across the county.

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