Bayside mayor working to rebuild, granddaughter says

Jon Wilcox By Jon Wilcox

Aug. 27, 2017 at 11:12 p.m.
Updated Aug. 28, 2017 at 11:06 a.m.

Kyler Carpenter, 10, left, and Laela Carpenter, 11, look up through a hole that was torn in their roof by Hurricane Harvey.

Kyler Carpenter, 10, left, and Laela Carpenter, 11, look up through a hole that was torn in their roof by Hurricane Harvey.   Olivia Vanni for The Victoria Advocate

Updated 11 a.m. Monday

Bayside mayor and native Sharon Scott, 75, never left her community, her granddaughter said.

“I called her two days before the storm, saying, ‘You need to evacuate,’ and she says, ‘I'm not going to,’” said granddaughter and Bayside native Crystal Anzaldua, 36, of San Antonio.

Although some Bayside residents complained Sunday that local leaders were not present to help rebuilding efforts, Anzaldua said Scott and other council members stayed behind to help. She said disabled phone lines and cell towers have hindered Scott from connecting with all of her residents.

“Basically, she didn't want to leave because she wanted to be there for her town,” the granddaughter said.

Scott could not be reached for comment Monday.

Like a handful of Bayside residents, Scott weathered Hurricane Harvey’s terrifying landfall at a family member's Bayside home Friday night, Anzaldua said. A National Weather Service meteorologist estimated winds could have reached 160 mph along the Refugio County coast.

Those winds tore the entire roof from Scott’s home, Anzaldua said.

“My grandmother’s house looks like a doll house,” she said.

With limited resources in Bayside before Harvey’s arrival, the need for county, regional, state or federal aid has become dire Monday, Anzaldua said.

The granddaughter added she thinks authorities at those levels appear to be overlooking Bayside, which boasts only several hundred residents.

Despite those limitations, the town’s people do have one important resource: one another, she said.

“We haven’t always been big in numbers, but we are big with heart.” she said.

Updated 11 p.m. Sunday

BAYSIDE - The isolation felt by Hurricane Harvey victim Jillian Carpenter, 31, was matched by the level of devastation in her home and community.

"Don't forget about us," said Carpenter, a wife and mother of two, while standing in her debris-strewn yard.

Having returned from their temporary refuge in Portland, Carpenter and her family began working to make their home liveable again - a process they anticipate will take months, if not longer. Days after the storm, the family returned to find gaping holes in their roof, severe water damage inside their home and a large mesquite tree toppled onto the home, among other problems.

"We walked in, and I damn near started crying," she said.

On top of the destruction visited on Bayside by Harvey, broken infrastructure is making repairs even more difficult. Town residents said power, mobile and landline phone service, as well as water, remained unavailable. The same applied for many state, county and federal aid and resources, Carpenter said, although Department of Public Safety troopers began patrolling the town in response to some residents reporting suspected looters the night before.

Carpenter's sister-in-law, Christy Carpenter, 39, said she also was frustrated by the lack of help.

"There's no one out here," Carpenter said. "There's no help."

Bayside residents are still waiting, she said, for officials to clear debris from roadways, restore power, repair water utilities and watch for potential looters.

Although the tiny town's single maintenance worker, Jason Suniga, 35, who is also a certified water and sewer operator, began clearing roads Sunday morning, he was forced to stop when his tractor broke midday.

"It's just a pain that everything I need right now is not working," Suniga said.

The same applied for the town's water-pump generator, which he couldn't estimate how long repairing it might take.

And with the town's leadership evacuated and unavailable, Suniga said he was on his own with those problems and more.

"The thing is, you can't call anybody because you don't have any signal," he said. "Everything I'm finding out - I can't notify the mayor. I can't notify anybody."

Bayside resident Chris Naylor, 68, said he is also frustrated with the town's leaders.

"It kind of pisses you off," he said. "Running from (Harvey) is a good thing, but they can get back the very next day, and they are still not here. We still don't have water."

Naylor said he spent Friday night and Saturday morning bailing water from his home and cracking windows open to prevent the storm's low pressure from exploding them.

Bayside's mayor and council members could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Although Naylor said he has lived in his 110-year-old Bayside house for decades and weathered Hurricane Allen in 1980, as well as at least five other severe historical storms, Hurricane Harvey was the worst by far.

"This is the first time I said to myself, 'If I get through this, then that will be the last one I ever ride out,' " he said.

Naylor, his 3-year-old dog Honeybun and a neighbor waited out the storm in his house, spending much of the night praying, he said.

National Weather Service meteorologist Tim Tinsley said that because severe weather disabled observation points in Refugio County early Friday night, accurate wind measurements were unavailable. But meteorologists have estimated winds reached 160 mph using data gathered by a weather service observation plane high above the storm, he said.

Naylor estimated 170-mph winds battered his home, a guess he thought likely, considering Harvey's eye passed nearly over Bayside. He pointed to toppled trailers, uprooted palms and bark-stripped tree trunks as evidence.

"The wind was on all sides," he said. "Everything was flying."

Despite the danger from hurricane-force winds, Naylor said his real fear lay with the innumerable tornados likely spawned by the storm. The impact of one of those tornadoes, he said, likely would have obliterated his home.

My house "would have been gone," he said. "And I'd probably be gone with it."

Naylor's nearby business, Copano Bay Nursery, which he has owned for 20 years, was not as lucky. Before the nursery, he owned and operated a fresh fish wholesale business at the property for another 30 years.

"It's gone," said Naylor, adding he was unsure that he would be able to rebuild.

With the destruction of that business, Naylor said he finds himself without sufficient income and at the mercy of paltry Social Security checks.

"You're kind of numbed to see everything devastated," he said. "I think I had a pretty good attitude, but I watched my business blow up basically."


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