Refugio Struggles Weeks After Harvey, But Town Is Resolute

Dec 22, 2017

It’s been seven weeks since Harvey hit the Texas coast, and the small inland town of Refugio is still in recovery mode. The process has been slower than residents would like, but spirits are still high.

“It’s been rough,” said Mary Rushing. “Of course, we closed down for two to three weeks, you know, mold and stinky and stuff like that.”

Rushing is a florist and owns a Nona’s Flower Box in Refugio. She’s lived in the town for 17 years. She says it’s starting to look like the community she knows.

“Now that they’re starting to get all the garbage picked up off the streets and it’s starting to look a little clean again, people are starting to feel a little bit better,” she said.

Debris piled in front of a property along Highway 77 in Refugio.
Credit Martin do Nascimento / KUT

She’s seen business in the town of 2,800 people ebb and flow through the years. And for her, it’s about to flow – a little bit.

“We’re coming back,” said Rushing. “Homecoming brought us back and we’re doing good again.”

Homecoming in Texas for a florist means mum-season. The giant flower arrangements high school kids wear through homecoming week. The homecoming football game isn’t for another two weeks because of Hurricane Harvey damage to Refugio’s stadium. And school has only been in session for four weeks, thanks to Harvey.

Refugio High School principal Brandon Duncan says for most Refugio kids, school was a welcome relief.

“In the chaos of trying to clean up a mess at your own home and it’s kind of a vacation away from that,” said Duncan.

And in that break from the chaos, they get some needed structure.

“Get back in the routine, basically, you know, where there’ll be a set of rules to follow or the bell rings and ‘I’m going to this class,’” he said. “It’s just a sense of order.”

As for the town, there is still a long road ahead. Seven weeks ago, parts of homes, businesses and trees were strewn across the town. Now the debris sits in neater piles. What was once the twisted canopy for a Shell station, is now a neater clump of twisted metal, with the station still closed. Some of the other gas stations and the grocery store have re-opened. Homes are still being repaired or while others sit waiting for work to begin. Some so damaged they appear to have been abandoned.

A Shell gas station sustained heavy damage from Hurricane Harvey.
Credit Martin do Nascimento / KUT