Numerous communities along the Texas coast were all but completely destroyed in the onslaught of Hurricane Harvey on August 25. Texas residents and organizations rallied to help with the clean-up and the supplying of these communities with the basic necessities of life.
One of the groups that answered the call was This is Texas Freedom Force (TITFF). All Things Crossroads Magazine caught up with Lamar Henry of Yorktown, one of the group volunteers, to hear about the clean-up operation that TITFF was involved with in Port Aransas and some of the other coastal towns.
Needing a base camp, Henry and several others with TITFF initially stayed in Ingleside and named their location Camp Delta. Due to the fact that only one ferry was operating for emergency personnel only, to get to Port Aransas TITFF and other teams helping with the clean-up had to go the long way to the island over Corpus Christi. This process ate up precious time in travel. The team settled in an area known as the Pioneer Beach Resort. “It was totally devastated.” Recalls Henry. “A lot of people didn’t pull their trailers out and it ripped them all to pieces.” The resort along with the whole of the coastal area sustained four and five foot waves, storm surges from 6 to 12 feet and 130 mph winds. Trailer houses and RVs did not stand a chance under such forces. TITFF’s first trip to the island was to take three pick-up trucks and a rental trailer full of supplies and begin the long clean-up process.
The second time they went to the island the team was able to move their Camp Delta to the location of the RV park. From here they could eliminate the long drive time to the island and devote more time to the clean-up operation. The team spent a total of eight days helping with the clean-up. The first four days were spent mainly doing manual labor, picking up logs, fence posts and debris of all sorts. When the team made their second trip to Port Aransas, the residents in the area knew the team as a hard-working, honest group of volunteers and allowed them to have free rein to do the work even giving them a front-end loader and a dump truck to help with the clean up. With this equipment, the crew was able to accomplish much more in the time that they were there, working from early morning until dark.
When they first arrived on the island there were literally no telephone poles standing for miles. Debris was piled into big piles all over the island and in neighboring areas. Just the wood pile from the RV park that the team worked on was 75 feet long and 20 feet high. Henry is no stranger to hurricanes and tropical storms as he has experienced them all of his life. But when asked what his first response was to this devastation he replied, “Even then, I don’t think you ever quite get use to it. When you see damage in a small area, you may say that’s bad but when you look out across the countryside and everywhere you look it looks the same it’s stunning, it’s very stunning to look at.”
When they stayed at Ingleside on their first trip the team stayed in tents. On the second trip to the island the team was able to use some RVs in which to stay. “As it turned out, it was a good thing because the mosquitos were horrible.” Recalls Henry. During the storm, waves from the bay side washed grass and mud over the island and in some place this mud was four or five feet deep. Mixed up in all this was lumber and debris. “You didn’t know what was in there.” States Henry. Pools of standing water cluttered with debris created a perfect breeding ground for mosquitos. During the time that the team was at Camp Delta, there was no electricity, sewage or water. All water was bottled. Along with the heat and mosquitos, the working conditions for those volunteering was extreme. Some RVs that were left in the park were stripped down to the frame. During the storm, decks and porches from the RVs and trailer houses acted as battering rams against any building in its path.
Along the island several hundred vehicles from the electrical and telephone companies stretched down the island for miles repairing the downed poles. “That was very impressive.” States Henry.
On the second trip to the island, the group took tools and medical and cleaning supplies to distribute. Tools on the island were scarce and often times those kinds of needs are not considered. Keep Yorktown Beautiful and other generous people helped TITFF with financial donations to buy supplies for the second trip. “The people were so appreciative of us it helped keep us going.” States Henry. “We didn’t mind doing it. Once we got there and saw how bad off they were well we were even more glad that we were doing it. They needed our help so badly that was one reason we could keep going.”
This Is Texas Freedom Force covered four towns in the coastal areas. They also had volunteers in the Houston, Katy and Wharton areas as well. Volunteer groups and individuals such as TITFF are helping residents of these devastated areas see a light at the end of this long tunnel to recovery. There is still much work to be done. All Things Crossroads Magazine would like to thank TITFF and all the volunteer groups for the work they have done and are still doing to make recovery possible for the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
Video 11 - Hurricane Harvey The Coastal Towns