“We’ve had a lot of hurricanes, and we survived. But never any flood like that magnitude,” local resident Warren Joseph said.
Joseph’s family suffered great loss because of the devastating flood. They lost all of their furniture and other possessions inside the house. 2017 is the 60th wedding anniversary of Warren Joseph and Barbara Joseph, and the flood became a special “surprise” for their diamond wedding milestone.
“We could see it covering our garage…we lost everything,” Barbara Joseph said.
In late August 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit Port Arthur, a city located in southeast Texas, and caused great loss. Three months later, local residents of Port Arthur are still working on rebuilding their homes.
Hurricane Harvey was a Category 4 storm, and it was the second worst hurricane disaster right after Hurricane Katrina in U.S. History. At least 82 people died because of the flooding caused by Harvey. It caused $180 billion in damage and affected 13 million people from Texas throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky.
According to the City of Port Arthur’s official website, the total population of Port Arthur in 2010 was 53,818. The majority racial group of Port Arthur was African-American. The city was located nearby the Gulf of Mexico, and the elevation was just one meter. In this situation, frequent hurricanes in the summer usually caused flooding in this city.
The nation’s largest oil refinery was located in Port Arthur, and the refinery was also forced to shut down during Harvey floods in Port Arthur.
Warren Joseph mentioned that he believes the flood was man-made: in other words, “it had to go somewhere and they opened some floodgates and we got the bulk of it here.”
Even though Joseph suffered great loss, he still keeps active optimism. He has already finished most of the rebuilding and acquired some new furniture and decorations to celebrate the upcoming Christmas.
Blake Brown was still working on his run-down house. He lived across the street from Joseph’s house. After the flood, the surface of his house still looks pretty good, but the interior of the structure was destroyed. He hired a construction team to restructure his house, and he also plans to buy some new furniture.
“I spent almost $13,000 to pay for rebuilding. I had insurance, but a lot of people…old people out here, a lot of them didn’t have insurance,” Brown said.
For people who didn’t have flood insurance, the rebuilding could be a big problem. According to The Balance, Texas Governor Greg Abbott will need more than $125 billion in federal relief. How to help these people who didn’t have flood insurance became a serious question for local government.
Local people of Port Arthur treat hurricanes as a “guest” that regularly visits. Many of those interviewed didn’t believe that climate change or greenhouse gases caused hurricanes. “We don’t believe in climate change. Hurricanes are really normal for people like us who live nearby the coast,” local resident Chuck said.
Many geographical factors caused frequent flooding in Port Arthur. Port Arthur is near Sabine Lake, which is a 90,000-acre salt water lake between Texas and Louisiana. The east side and south side of Port Arthur are both surrounded by water. In this situation, hurricanes usually gather the energy from the Gulf and then release the energy right after the hurricanes arrive on the land.
As of Sept. 5, Hurricane Harvey damaged 203,000 homes and destroyed 12,700.
Because of its specific location and low elevation, flooding caused by hurricanes is really normal in Port Arthur, although not to this degree. Based on statistics from one government website, Port Arthur was brushed or hit by hurricanes every 2.96 years, and the longest gap between storms was just 13 years (1919-1931).