ROCKPORT, Texas – As the sun rose Saturday, the full extent of the catastrophic damage in Rockport became clear: The fishing village was nearly flattened, with numerous buildings destroyed and snapped power lines, tree limbs and twisted metal littering the streets.
One person was killed in Rockport, local officials said Saturday. The individual’s identity was not released. Aransas County Judge C.H. Mills Jr. said that the person was trapped inside a home when it caught fire.
Mills said that 12 to 14 people were still missing in the community.
“It’s pretty sickening,” Mills said of the storm’s aftermath. “Lots of emotions are involved when you see your community destroyed like this, but we’ll bounce back.”
The smell of gas filled the air at the Rockport-Fulton High School, where the gymnasium was destroyed; the auditorium’s doors were caved in, windows shattered.
As wind gusts and heavy rain continued to pummel the area, the road leading to Rockport was a scene of destruction: trailer homes twisted and toppled, floodwaters inundating businesses and homes, debris choking roads.
Rockport police, hampered by lack of cellphone or radio service, were assessing damage throughout the city of 11,000 people on Saturday and looking for residents who needed rescue or medical help. Many police SUVs at the police station had their windows blasted out by the hurricane.
“Our town ain’t never going to be the same,” Officer Eli Ramos said as he started a his patrol shift Saturday.
An estimated 60 percent of the town did not leave after storm warnings were issued.
Downtown Rockport was littered with ruined businesses and historic homes that sustained catastrophic damage.
Palm trees were bent into unnatural positions and twisted metal signs gave evidence of the winds that tore through the city overnight.
Bob Kerber Jr., and his wife Dottie, who retired to Rockport four years ago, were cleaning up Saturday morning after riding out the hurricane.
Kerber said it was a frightening situation, as 140 mph winds bounced debris off their sturdy brick home, which largely survived intact.
“I’d been through storms as a young putz in Florida, but nothing like this,” Kerber said. “It was the howling. You’re hearing all these things flying.”
A neighbor’s garage collapsed, leaving behind a pile of rubble, and Kerber’s yard was filled with debris from around the neighborhood. Much of the neighborhood was flooded with standing water, which drew an orchestra of small bullfrogs that croaked in a steady rhythm.
“They’re the only things in Rockport that are happy about all this,” he said.
Shannon Barnes, 29, said he spent the night checking on elderly relatives, including a grandmother, whose home was leveled soon after she was taken out of town by another relative. He said walking through Category 4 winds was a surreal experience.
“It’s called, ‘You have no choice.’ When you care about someone so much you don’t give a [darn] about yourself,” Barnes said Saturday morning.
He said he expects the coming days to be tough, especially if Harvey passes back through the area, as some forecasts predict. “There’s not going to be much life here for awhile, maybe even a few months,” he said. “The only thing people will be doing is helping each other out.”