Hurricane Harvey was the natural disaster we honestly weren’t ready for, but we all figured it out pretty quick.
This Saturday will be the first anniversary since the Category 4 hurricane struck the Crossroads. Victoria was battered by wind and torrential rain and marked the beginning of a very long year of recovery.
As a community, we’ve been through a lot and the newspaper has been here to document it every step of the way, whether it was celebrating our triumphs, including the moment when Pearlie Mae White got the key to her new home, and challenges, such as the family who lived in Motel 6 during the holidays. We reported on how the county’s immediate relief efforts could have been more organized, why the city’s water system failed and how the number of homeless students at VISD has increased.
Through an investigation we also exposed a predatory landlord operating under the guise of a nonprofit that was evicting Harvey survivors.
The paper’s “Understanding Harvey” series earned a national reporting award for public service by the Society of Professional Journalists.
We have documented what residents were doing to help one another, which in many cases was hard to convey in words and naturally not all of it could be captured on camera.
Rick Villa, development coordinator for the Victoria County Long-Term Recovery Group, reflecting on this past year said he is so impressed by how much the community has grown together after the hurricane.
“I’ve seen so much unity in the community,” Villa said. “We really should praise the many individuals, businesses, faith-based organizations and nonprofits that rallied to give the county enormous support spiritually and financially.”
Victoria residents demonstrated just how caring we can be over these past 12 months and how people should help their neighbors after a disaster.
Villa said Victoria was blessed to receive the national help it needed and that, since Harvey, the city/county emergency response department has been offering additional training. He believes we will be more prepared for the county’s next disaster and we have to agree.
Villa and volunteer Cody Shugart, who heads up communications for the long-term recovery group, have spent the past few weeks organizing a free event commemorating the anniversary.
“Victoria Strong, a Hurricane Harvey Anniversary Benefit Concert” is a time to honor the sacrifices and charitable gifts of our neighbors in response to Harvey. Proceeds from the event will fund the group’s ongoing efforts to help survivors recover from the storm.
The public is invited to DeLeon Plaza for the free concert Saturday headlined by country musician Jarrod Birmingham. Austin Meade, a 25-year-old Americana Rock musician, Legal Limit, Texas Continentals, Sierra Alexis and Will Cisneros are also scheduled to perform.
People can come downtown and let loose from 4 p.m. to midnight with live music, children’s activities and booths for local organizations involved in the recovery. First responders and their vehicles will also be set up near the square and survivors will share their stories.
All of this is possible because of the long-term recovery group, Outlaw Offroad of Texas, and many other community partners who donated time and services for the event. Musicians Birmingham and Meade have local ties to the area and didn’t hesitate to perform for this cause.
Meade said after the hurricane, we need more people with good intentions of helping others. “I hope that this show helps raise funds for the folks who need it most.”
Birmingham said he hopes this concert brings people together with others who have been through the same thing as a way to heal.
“It’s not all about rebuilding physical structure it’s about rebuilding your heart and mind as well,” he said. “It’s one year later. Let’s be thankful that we made it through it, and let’s help people who haven’t.”