Calhoun evacuees return home to unknown
Sept. 1, 2017 at 10:33 p.m.
Updated Sept. 2, 2017 at 8:05 p.m.
PORT LAVACA - Crystal Zarate and her Seadrift family of nine felt a sense of relief when officials announced Friday they were coming home after spending a week at emergency shelters.
"We are thankful that they fed us and gave us a safe place to stay," the 34-year-old mother said, "but we were ready to come home."
Zarate was one of more than 50 Calhoun County evacuees who returned home Friday afternoon and were dropped off at the Bauer Community Center.
Zarate said she decided to evacuate with her family because they live in an "older-model" mobile home and her father is disabled.
"We grabbed whatever little bit we could and left early Friday morning," she said.
Another evacuee, Delia Ramos, 54, of Port Lavaca, said she did not want to evacuate because she did not want to leave her five puppies behind.
But she changed her mind after the police knocked on her door and persuaded her to evacuate when they provided kennels for her dogs: Paco, Belita, Meme, Irish and Pepita.
"If it wasn't for the police, I wouldn't have been able to take my puppies," she said. "They helped me out a lot."
Zarate said the evacuees were in New Braunfels for three days and were then transferred to San Antonio before they returned home.
She compared the locations they stayed at to warehouses that were twice the size of the Bauer Community Center.
Zarate said the evacuation centers started becoming packed after Houston residents started to evacuate.
"I've never been around so many people ever," she said.
As she spent her days at unfamiliar places and with strangers, Zarate could not stop thinking about her home back in Seadrift.
She had received photos of her damaged home from her sister who traveled from Yoakum to check on her home.
The roof fell to the floor, and the porch was blown off.
"It was shocking and emotional," Zarate said. "That's our home. That's all we have."
People who assisted the evacuees were from agencies and departments including the Calhoun County Independent School District, Calhoun County Office of Emergency Management, United Way and Calhoun County Sheriff's Office.
Mayor Jack Whitlow was one of the people who welcomed back the residents and provided them with care packages that contained toiletries, food and water.
"There are things we are not giving out anymore but we saved for them so they can start over when they get back home," he said.
Returning residents who did not have a ride home were provided one by volunteers.
Ramos said she hoped to see her trailer still standing, but she won't know until she makes it home.
Zarate planned to check out her family's RV and hopefully sleep there, where they would be a "tight squeeze."
"I don't know what is going to happen," she said, "but I am happy to be in our area where I can see familiar faces."