When Hurricane Harvey struck two years ago today, it devastated thousands of homes in the county, costing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage and displacing families across several municipalities, according to officials at Brazoria County United Way.
As county officials reflect on the incident and the ensuing recovery projects — many of which are still underway — their goals are to revitalize and rebuild the community while sending families back to their homes.
United Way of Brazoria County spent more than $1 million in recovery efforts to help residents whose homes were lost after the 2017 event. And that number is still growing.
“We’re still being actively used to repair some people’s homes,” said Gloria Luna, the communications outreach director for the organization. “To date, we have 40 home repairs we’ve done in Brazoria County. We have six more on the list in estimates. And then 11 right after that will be pushed forward. I know that each home is going to vary and our set standard is no more than $35,000 per home.”
United Way stepped up as a leader in the county for longterm recovery, Luna said.
“We have to be able to meet the needs of the community as we implemented plans, we tweaked them and continue to tweak them,” Luna said.
County Judge Matt Sebesta said it’s been a collective effort assessing the damage and working to rebuild.
“Lots of folks are investing their own money,” Sebesta said. “There’s been millions of dollars in insurance money spent. There’s been what FEMA has put into it. I mean, there’s been tens of millions of dollars spent. Flooding from Harvey was an extraordinary event, one we may never see again in our lifetime.”
Areas of Alvin, Holiday Lakes, Brazoria, Richwood, Angleton and Lake Jackson were affected by flooding and that no one collective area or neighborhood was more significantly affected than others. She added that the catastrophic event hit all parts of the county, and now organizations are working to rebuild those communities.
“We know that we could not do anything if not through partnerships in our community,” Luna said. “Another struggle we’ve faced is knowing about home elevation. There’s a lot behind the scenes people don’t know. There are numerous land surveys and other things to pass inspections.”
While United Way is able to alleviate some financial strain and help rebuild and repair homes, Luna said they do not deal with elevation issues some of the homes might require. She added it’s a process that takes time.
“Our funds also help those unmet needs, whether it’s relocation fees, electrician fees,” Luna said. “It’s also helping those that move into the home after they rebuild with essential furniture. Now we’re specifically focusing on homes we’re repairing and other unmet needs that go along with that.”
As rain from the hurricane continued to fall in August 2017, a collective project from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation along with OneStar foundation was developed.
The Rebuild Texas fund emerged from the project with a goal of raising $100 million to assist the 41 counties impacted in Southeast Texas, according to a two-year report from the organization.
Six days after Hurricane Harvey struck, Michael and Susan Dell with Gov. Greg Abbott created Rebuild Texas and began the long journey of raising recovery funds, data from the report states.
By January 2018, $11 million was raised through Rebuild Texas. Six months later, that number had almost quadrupled. By July of this year, Rebuild Texas accomplished what it set out to do — providing $100 million to affected communities.
Of those funds, over $30 million has aided in the rebuilding or repair of homes. Education and childcare centers were allotted $25.6 million in funding in 1,154 different campuses. $12.5 million has helped with health facilities and counseling services for individuals. Community and economic projects were given more than $23 million to rebuild assets. And small business repairs accounted for $3.4 million, according to the two-year report from Rebuild Texas.
Across those areas, the region affecting Brazoria County was aided with $6.5 million for reconstruction projects, the report states. This includes funding the demolition of homes and $57,175 in community and economic development projects for the county, the report states.
Additionally, officials are assessing ways to track recovery projects in the county, Sebesta said.
During the Commissioners Court budget workshop earlier this summer, officials discussed implementing a full-time person to oversee hurricane recovery projects and apply for grants.
“One of the things we’re looking at creating is a person who can handle long term recovery issues and would work with grant opportunities,” Sebesta said.
Rebuild Texas projects the total damage caused by Hurricane Harvey to be over $125 billion dollars. The storm spread over 300 miles of coastline and affected more than 8 million residents.
The likelihood of another storm that magnitude isn’t great, Sebesta said. But residents should consider flood insurance even if they’re not in a floodplain, Sebesta said.
Many of those affected by Harvey did not live in a floodplain when the catastrophe hit, he added.
“We’ve been battered enough over the last five years,” he said. “Flood insurance for those not in a floodplain is relatively inexpensive, but it’s up to each individual what risk they’re willing to take. I’ve always purchased flood insurance myself. You never know when you may see a blockage.”
The report from Rebuild Texas indicates efforts to restore communities will take years of financial aid, something the organization is committed to through 2020.
But one thing communities can take away from the event is to be vigilant and take preemptive measures, Luna said.
Residents should learn about insurance options, Sebesta said.
United Way’s assistance will continue to serve Brazoria County until they’ve restored everyone to their homes, Luna said.
They’ll be working diligently to address the immediate needs of those still in trouble, she added.
“It’s been two years. We know we need to go help the most vulnerable families — the disabled, special needs and elderly. It’s not a perfect fit, we want to help everybody but we can’t do it all.”