Today marks five months since Hurricane Harvey hit Port Aransas, and while there's been real progress on the cleanup, the island town still has a ways to go.
Just a few days after the storm, home inspector James Pate was optimistic about his hometown’s future.
“We’re in good shape,” he said in August while cleaning his lawn. “It’s just going to be a long process. And if everybody works together, we’ll make this town stronger than it ever was.”
Making the drive Wednesday into Port Aransas from Corpus Christi, he gives the rundown of the overall recovery effort.
“They installed new power lines,” he says. “There are still a lot of homes on one part of the island that haven’t been repaired. People are in litigation with insurance companies, stuff like that. Several rental properties are back open. We don’t have any souvenir shops open yet, but I would say 80 percent of the restaurants are back open. For the most part, I think Port Aransas has done phenomenal.”
Pate’s optimism hasn’t wavered, but it is tinged with five months of realism.
“I don’t hear anybody whining about what happened,” he says. “The biggest complaint now is why insurance isn’t paying." He says he can think of 80 people whose houses are still in disrepair.
Port Aransas City Planner Nicole Boyer gives a similar assessment of the town’s rebuilding efforts. There have been some steps forward – such as schoolkids returning to repaired buildings two weeks ago, after spending the school year in portables – and some steps back.
Boyer is one of the many residents still dealing with federal and state agencies, as well as private insurance for her family’s home.
“Yeah, we’re still probably quite a ways out from moving back in,” she says. “We’re waiting on insurance money. You know there’s so much work to be done and so little people here doing it.”
That raises another issue, which could be the biggest drag on Port Aransas’ recovery going forward: the lack of contractors and people on the island to complete projects. But Boyer says the city’s biggest assets – its beaches – were left intact.
“Kind of our biggest plus is that they were very little affected by the hurricane,” she says. “So, the beaches are definitely up and going.”
She says the sand and sun will hopefully bring back the tourists – and the tourist dollars, which are needed for a full recovery.