'Another world of destruction'Sep 10, 2017 By Alejandra Silva and Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writers
With the landfall of Hurricane Harvey last month in Houston expected to become the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, all eyes in the country are on our southern coasts.
Several former area residents have been affected by the storm. Others have come together to help Texas recover.
Riverton natives affected
Less than a month ago, former Riverton resident Jessica Wilt was enjoying the eclipse in Riverton after traveling from her home in Houston. A few days later, when Wilt and husband Erick Navas were back home in Houston Heights, Hurricane Harvey hit.
"When the rain started coming down it was just horrible...I had never seen rain like that," Wilt said.
Six years in Houston
Wilt and Navas lived on Gannet Drive for two years when Navas worked for Marathon Oil. Houston Heights, located four miles northwest of downtown Houston, has been their home for the last six years.
The neighborhood is believed to be elevated slightly higher than the rest of the city. Wilt said that's the reason her home and others in the vicinity weren't damaged.There were flooded streets nearby, but several houses there were built on concrete blocks and have no basements, and survived the hurricane.
"We live in the highest point of Houston," she said.
Still, Wilt said there was no option but to sit back and watch the storm unfold. Later, Wilt and other families in Houston Heights came together to donate food and other needed items to affected Houstonians.
"There was some guilt actually because we haven't been affected so the neighborhood is donating things to surrounding areas," she said.
Returned to ruined house
Other former Riverton residents didn't fare so well.
Shannon Garnett, who now lives northeast of Corpus Christi, said she wasn't originally planning to evacuate for Harvey, as it was initially expected to be merelya strong tropical storm.But when the forecast worsened, she and her husband left for Laredo, Texas, on Aug. 25.
When they came back home the followingMonday, they found their house still standing, but essentially destroyed by water damage.
Because the only hotel vacancies are more than 200 miles away, Garnett and her husband are now staying with another family in a double wide trailer behind her home.Her neighborhood is still without power and water.
Homeless, jobless, pregnant
Along with leaving the couple homeless, Harvey has also left Garnett's husband jobless.Garnett is seven months pregnant.
With the National Guard still enforcing curfews, Garnett said, the Texas coastline has a post-apocalyptic feeling.She said that when she drives along the coastline, she'll see sunken boats, still with only their masts rising above the waterline.
Corpus Christilight pollution has historically made it impossible to see a single star in the sky.
"Now you go out and see nothing but stars and clear skies," she said.
Local crews are still working to clear our downed trees, power-lines, and building debris before the true rebuilding starts.Most businesses near Garnett are closed, and gas stations frequently run out of gasoline.
There's been looting.Birds are just now starting to return.
Garnett's lived in Oklahoma in the past, and said she was used to damage from tornados.
"Hurricanes are another world of destruction," she said.
Garnett attended Riverton High School and lived in the city during her 20s. Many family and friends remain in Riverton.
How to help
When local restaurants opened their businesses to receive donations and dozens of chefs stepped in to cook meals, Wilt also helped coordinate ways to distribute the food.
"We served thousands of meals," she said.
Wilt and Navas own the oldest organic co-op business in Houston. Central City Co-op supports local farmers who produce organic foods back into the community.
"Farmers are decimated," Wilt said.
But other companies have stepped in and been very responsive, she added. It's almost impossible not to help in some way.
"It truly takes a village," she said. "It's been an amazing outpouring of everybody in the city... no matter what color, what religion or what political affiliation."
She commended the valuable help of the Louisiana Cajun Navy -- an ad-hoc volunteer group composed of private boat owners who helped during Hurricane Katrina.
They made the trip to Houston to lend a helping hand.
At this point, Wilt said, people should donate money, not supplies. Aside from the Red Cross, other local groups are doing what they can to help, and are in need of support.
"There are organizations on the ground that are small but are good organizations, and are working really hard. The money won't be wasted," she said.
"They have the network and the resources to connect that help."
Wilt suggested several local groups who could benefit from monetary donations, including online at Pup Squad (www.pupsquad.org/donate/)and Friends4Life (www.friends4life.org/how-to-help/donate/).
Others include Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, Baker Ripley, Society of St. Vincent de Paul Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, LGBT Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund, the Houston Food Bank, Emergency Aid Coalition, Houston PetSet Disaster Relief Fund, Coalition for the Homeless of Houston, Star of Hope, Texas Diaper Bank, Houston Community Toolbank and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Houston.
The Riverton High School FFA chapter has begun collecting supplies to send to Houston, and will continue to do so throughout the month.
FFA advisor Taylor Haley will take a float through town as part of the Homecoming parade as usual, but this year residents can donate supplies as it goes by. Haley will again bring the trailer to the Homecoming game.
Likewise, Riverton man George "Rooster" Burr traveled to Houston this week with a trailer full of supplies.He unloaded his trailer in Beaumont and Galveston, where he said everyone was "very appreciative."
He's now headed back to Riverton to fill his trailer again before returning to Texas soon.