NEWS HEADLINES

Picking up the pieces; Families deal with storm’s aftermath

By Kristen Tribe | Published Saturday, September 16, 2017
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Just prior to Hurricane Harvey making landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast three weeks ago, the Messenger shared the stories of three local families evacuating the area and the challenges they faced in doing so.

This week the Messenger touched base with them to chronicle the circumstances to which they returned.

Before

BEFORE – The Griffeths’ motor home before Hurricane Harvey. Submitted photo

After

AFTER – The Griffeths’ motor home immediately following the storm. Submitted photo

MOTOR HOME DESTROYED

Jennifer Griffeth, formerly of Decatur, moved to Fulton in late July to take a special education teaching job at Little Bay Elementary in Rockport.

She had been living in a motor home just six to eight blocks from the coast, but before the storm evacuated to Wise County, rejoining her family, who hasn’t yet made the move.

She and her husband, Monty, were driving to the coast Thursday to try to salvage more belongings from the motor home, which is totaled. This is their second trip back since the hurricane.

“The first time it looked like a bomb had gone off,” Monty said.

Jennifer said campers in the park where she was staying were knocked over and some appeared to have rolled.

“There were trees everywhere,” she said. “It took two hours just to get to the front door of the motor home. I’m curious and nervous to get back down there and see what it looks like now.”

The roof of the Griffeths’ motor home was severely damaged and the inside flooded.

“It smells like a bait shop in there now,” Monty said.

He said it looked like coffee had been poured down the walls due to the water damage.

“We’ve been looking for another camper of some sort or other options to rent something,” Jennifer said. “We’re trying to figure out what to do and what will be in our best interest.”

They’re waiting on insurance money to make a final decision.

Jennifer’s school will re-open Oct. 9, and portable buildings are being brought in for the middle school and high school campuses in the district. Jennifer said she’s excited to get back.

“It’s been hard for me to read about it and the hardships, and not be where I can help,” she said. “I think of them as family down there. I’m excited to get back down there in school with my kids and be part of the community again.”

Jennifer and Monty said they’ve been encouraged by the immense support shown to their newly adopted home.

“There’s been a lot of supplies and a lot of kind people outpouring to help,” Jennifer said. “It’s appreciated.”

SAFE AND SOUND

Cody Duty, a Decatur High School graduate, his wife Alyssa and their 18-month-old daughter, Boston, left their Houston home Aug. 25 and didn’t return for nine days.

Fortunately, their home did not flood.

“Our house hasn’t flooded but because of constant rain, we had some damage to our ceiling,” Duty said. “I had to cut a chunk out of the ceiling and wall, so I’ll have to do some drywall work.”

Duty said although his family was fortunate, they’re surrounded by devastation, and they’ve spent time helping friends clean out their homes.

“You can drive down street after street and you see piles of the entire insides of homes,” he said. “I was in a house where they tore out the entire first story … and these are just neighborhood after neighborhood.”

Another problem is traffic. He said although most roads are now open, there are still enough streets closed to severely hamper commuters.

“It’s been horrendous,” he said. “It can take you up to twice as long to get to work.”

Move In Day

MOVE-IN DAY – Bryn and Davin Edwards help their big brother, Ryan, move into his dorm room at Texas A&M Galveston. Submitted photo

FRESH START

Ryan Edwards of Alvord finally moved into the dorms at Texas A&M Galveston Labor Day weekend and started classes the following Monday.

“The dorm had a lot of water damage, but they were still moving kids in,” his dad, Davey said. “They were cleaning as the kids came in.”

Ryan, a freshman, lives on the fifth, and top, floor of the dormitory, so his room was not damaged other than a couple of leaks in the ceiling.

Davey said there were a few challenges on the drive to Galveston with long lines at gas stations and limited food options. The closer they got to the affected area many restaurants were still closed and those that were open had limited menus.

“Little things we would expect to be a convenience for everybody … they just didn’t have it,” he said. “Nearly every gas station on Galveston Island was closed.”

The Edwards family also had to find a new hotel because the one where they had reservations was closed. They ended up staying about 40 miles from campus instead.

Davey said Ryan is settling in now and getting caught up in his classes.

“They had all the professors re-do their syllabi and incorporate the first five days of class into the first five weeks,” Davey said. “The first Sunday he was there, they had a class. Some of the other classes were just going to meet extra during the week, but a couple met on Sunday to get it out of the way.”

Davey said it was a little unnerving leaving Ryan because at that time the direction of Hurricane Irma was still unknown, but because of Harvey they were familiar with the school’s evacuation plan and they have family in Houston. Davey said Ryan wasn’t apprehensive about staying, but he now more aware of the weather and attentive to the forecast.

Davey said the recovery effort was inspiring.

“One thing I noted was the resilience of the people working toward getting back and moving,” he said. “They were opening up stores, opening up Walmart, to make sure people had milk and bread.

“It was inspiring to know people aren’t just going to sit back and wait for someone else to take care of them,” he said. “All in all you could tell there was a feeling of ‘we’re just going to keep moving.'”

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