Island Life… by Clint Bennetsen

Archived in the category: Featured Writers, General Info, Island Life
Posted by Joyce Rhyne on 14 Sep 17 - 1 Comment

Experiencing Hurricane Harvey

Greetings from the island everyone. I hope all of you are doing well and looking forward to the beginning of Fall next week, I know that I sure am.

It’s very rare, if ever, that I have devoted an entire Island Life article on just one subject or happening. But because of Hurricane Harvey, and the physical and emotional strain it brought to myself and very close friends and the community, and the stories that it generated, this will be one of those times.

I am a devoted Weather Channel watcher, most especially June-October, the prime Atlantic tropical storm season. So I was well aware of a tropical depression that was meandering through the Caribean and approaching the Yucatán, with expectations to emerge into the southern Gulf of Mexico and become Tropical Storm Harvey. I was watchful, but not overly concerned about it, as it was originally forecast to remain a high end TS and meander into northern Mexico. But as is often the case, the forecast track shifted northward, now bringing Harvey into south or central Texas, directly towards us, but still remaining a TS or possibly Cat 1 hurricane, not a huge issue.

On Monday, Aug. 21, I began making preparations for a minimal storm, and spoke to my best friend, Susan, to see what she and her husband, Britton, planned to do. Susan is also a die hard Weather Channel tropics watcher, so I knew she was up to speed on the storm. They had planned to stay in POC in their RV, and invited me to stay next door in our friend, Leo’s, vacant RV, so we could help each other if needed. That was the plan. We ran into Port Lavaca for needed grocery and miscellaneous supplies to ride out the minor storm.

Everything was fine and remained status quo, until Thursday morning, Aug. 24, when Harvey was now predicted to become a major Category 3, or higher, hurricane, and the forecast track had a bulls-eye at or very near Port O’Connor, TX. This is not good.

I called to talk to Susan about the newest information, and I could immediately recognize by the tone and emotional fear in her voice, that she already knew how dire the situation had become. I completed my preparations on the island, moving vehicles to high ground, boarding up windows and doors, and moving everything as high up as possible, as a 9-12 feet storm surge was now predicted. All expectations were that this was gonna be a very bad outcome for my home on this barrier island. I then loaded up Corky and headed to POC to help Susan and Britton, and to devise a new plan.

I pulled my boat out of the water and parked it at a friend’s house in POC, filled my truck up with gasoline and grabbed a few items at Speedy Stop. I arrived at Susan’s house and she was a nervous wreck, having never been displaced or threatened by a major hurricane. Of course in thinking back, I had not either, not a major hurricane. The decision was made to pull their RV out of POC, and we would all find a safe place to stay together. This was a blessing for me, as I honestly did not know where I was gonna go.

While at the RV park, we helped their elderly neighbors, Earl and Carla, get prepared to leave as well. Everyone in the RV park was helping their neighbors get prepared and ready to leave. The camaraderie was a great sight to see. And then, like a blessing from above, our great friends, Cricket and Jim, arrived in POC to get their boat and they invited us to convoy back to Seguin with them and stay at their home for as long as needed. Susan had her two dogs, Becca and Abby, and two cats, and I had Corky, and Cricket had accommodations for all the animals, plus RV hookups. God was watching over us.

All of us helped Britton get the RV pulled out of the spot, and while he pulled the camper, I pulled his boat, Susan was in her car with four animals, and we convoyed with Cricket and Jim to Seguin, arriving just after midnight Thursday. It had been a very long day. Susan would later tell me that her thoughts during the road trip, were that she was following her house and I had left mine behind. During that drive, some of which was in bumper to bumper traffic, I had time to think about the possibility of losing everything I had worked so hard for the past nearly 18 years.

Even though we were in a safe and comfortable place the next seven days, the following several days were very emotionally draining. We knew that Hurricane Harvey had become a Category 4 and was gonna make landfall just south of POC, meaning the town and my island home were on the worst side of it. There were times I would look over and see tears rolling down Susan’s face as we watched the weather updates. . . and I admittedly was doing the same, not knowing if we would have a town or home upon returning. Feelings of sickness to the stomach and panic attacks were common for us those first few days.

Susan is the primary photographer and information liaison for the POC Chamber of Commerce Facebook page, and during those first few days prior to and after landfall, she remained vigilant in posting shared photos and all information about the hurricane on Facebook, so that everyone could remain informed and have up to date knowledge of what was happening. Many people were also messaging the Chamber requesting information about damage, public utilities, and offering assistance and delivery of supplies to the community. Susan has continued to provide POC Chamber info about the hurricane and businesses affected, up until the current time.
On Sunday afternoon, Aug. 27, I received a phone call from fellow islanders, Chuck and Cody, who had braved the rough seas and went to the island. Chuck informed me that other than minor damage, my island home was still standing and all appeared well, even the 23 chickens and guineas I had to leave behind were fine. I thanked God and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Britton, Susan and I made a day trip back to POC on that Tuesday to assess damage and do cleanup work at their RV spot, and we found that electricity and water had not yet been restored. While in town, we learned that Bubba’s Smoked Meats and Kathy Pullin were serving meals to anyone that needed food to eat, and many donated supplies were filtering into town. During this time of crisis, Docks Bar & Grill, POC Liquor and Fishermans Chapel were among those instrumental in providing assistance, meals and support for the community, as well as being drop-off locations for incoming donated supplies. To these businesses and people we are very appreciative.

While in town, we also observed that POC suffered damage, but nothing major, and for the most part had been graciously spared the brunt of Hurricane Harvey, unlike our neighboring towns of Seadrift and Port Lavaca.

We returned back to POC the following day and went to the island, where we discovered minimal damage to my property, mainly fence and missing roof shingles. Susan and Britton helped me clean up and get things back situated. I was so very blessed. I have no explanation how the eye of a Category 4 hurricane makes landfall within 50 miles of my barrier island, on the worst side, and I had only minimal damage. Only the hand of God could have been the guiding factor.

With electricity and water having been restored, we returned to POC the following day, Thursday, to stay for good. What a wonderful feeling it was for all of us to be home again. After helping Susan and Britton get their RV back in place and set up, I went back to my island home, seven days after leaving, and began repairs.
I will never forget my emotional experiences with Hurricane Harvey, and how blessed all the islanders were. I want to thank Susan Braudaway for her much appreciated help in writing this article, and the support that she and Britton provided during this prolonged ordeal. POC Strong!!

That’s it from the island for now, everyone take care and have a great day.

One comment for “Island Life… by Clint Bennetsen”

1
John Melnar

I too was a nervous wreck as Harvey approached the Texas Gulf Coast. I didn’t have a chance to get down to my camp on the big side of the island and thought that my previous trip a month ago would have been the last time I saw my camp for I knew it was gone. It was a horrible feeling. My relief came on the Tuesday after Harvey when I received photos of my camp. Like you sir, I only had minimum damage. The only explanation I have for my camp being spared is that I had a couple of angels looking over it. It was a year ago to the date of Harvey landing that my dear mother passed. Also, it was a year and 2 weeks since my beloved lab Smalls had passed and his ashes were in the camp. I truly believe in my heart that my mom, along with Smalls at her side, watched over and protected my camp. I have no other explanation on how a fish camp survived a cat 4 hurricane with its eye making landfall only 50 miles from the southwest. A little tear fell down my cheek when I opened my camp trailer’s door last week and spotted Smalls urn just where I left it a little over a month ago. I told mom thank you and I told Smalls he was a good dog for being on watch for me. As I returned from my trip from the camp I stopped in Praha to say thanks again to mom and told her how much I loved her and missed her. Daddy was right there listening in. :-)

September 16th, 2017 at 10:20 am

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