Hurricane Harvey affected everyone

Oct. 7, 2017 at 2:21 p.m.
Updated Oct. 8, 2017 at 6 a.m.

 Matt Bochat

Matt Bochat   Victoria Advocate for The Victoria Advocate

Matt Bochat

Don't let anyone fool you. Everyone in Victoria County and along the Gulf Coast was affected in some way by Hurricane Harvey.

Many are still trying to figure out life after the hurricane. For those who evacuated and stayed in shelters, many came back to heavily damaged or devastated homes.

Some will have no choice but to leave this area and try to put their lives back together somewhere else.

Others will struggle with rebuilding, mediating insurance and FEMA claims, and making decisions about their future.

Personally, we suffered roof damage, lost trees, and part of our fence and were without water for four days and power for nine.

Folks in agriculture didn't fare any better. I've heard reports of cattle lost, drowned, or washed away. Fences, barns, and farm equipment were destroyed. Fields have standing water for weeks eliminating the ability to graze or bale any hay.

Luckily, most of the bountiful cotton crop was harvested just before Harvey came ashore. However, I would estimate 15-20 percent will still be calculated as a loss or damaged.

Darrin Watkins, county executive director, for the USDA office of the Farm Service Agency has been fielding calls for weeks from folks making claims on many issues related to loss in agriculture.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension was thrust directly into the rebuilding phase seven days after the hurricane. Governor Abbott named John Sharp, current Chancellor for the Texas A&M University System, as the new commissioner for the Rebuild Texas initiative.

Consequently, Commissioner Sharp appointed County Extension Agents (in other words, me) as the liaison between the county, cities, and school districts to the Rebuild Texas Commission. We have been tasked with gathering information from all the county governmental entities and reporting all the issues related to the storm. Some of these issues have included: mosquito abatement, debris removal, building damage or destruction, FEMA denials, housing assistance, asbestos abatement, mold and water remediation, road and bridge damage, water and wastewater issues, and many, many, more.

This reporting effort and various attempts to get answers has been and will continue to be a seven day a week job until we get all the problems and issues reported to the Commission.

Let me be clear, there are many groups working very hard for the citizens of Victoria County including FEMA, Texas Department of Emergency Management, County Emergency Management, Department of Public Safety, Victoria County Sheriff's Office and many other folks too numerous to name. I heard at an emergency management meeting this week that Hurricane Harvey is re-writing the book for future emergency procedures related to hurricane response as this hurricane was historic in that it didn't move inland and keep moving. It sat right over us and didn't move for three days.

We should all continue to count our blessings. There have been so many heroes in all of the heartbreak. Many people have selflessly devoted their time, resources, and spirit to help other people in need. This selfless spirit is the single light in the darkness of the tragedy and gives me and many others hope in humanity for the future.

Matt Bochat is a County Extension Agent - Ag/Natural Resources Victoria County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.



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