The university and local community of Belton and Bell County have been affected by Hurricane Harvey after it hit the Texas shore four miles east of Rockport as a category 4 hurricane with winds reaching up to 130 miles, on Friday, August 25, at 9:45 p.m. It retreated only to return and hit land once again that midnight as a category 3, at the northeastern shore of Copano Bay.
Harvey brought record amounts of rain to other areas, dumping more water than Hurricane Katrina, Sandy, and Andrew combined. Over 50 inches of rain has been dumped on the state of Texas, and Governor Greg Abbott declared 54 counties as a state of disaster. Many people found themselves stranded on the roofs of their homes, and had to be rescued by boat.
Hurricane Harvey, currently classified as a tropical depression, is expected to drift to the Gulf of Mexico before moving northeast towards Louisiana and Arkansas by Sat., Sept. 2.
Senior public relations major Lynsey May, who is from Kingwood, TX, said that her family was forced to evacuate due to the rising waters. Although the waters have begun to recede, when we spoke with May on Monday, water levels in her home were still rising.
“The water has reached the inside of my house that is seven feet off the ground,” she said. “It has affected my family’s business and forced us to not only evacuate ourselves but our 29 horses, as well.”
May worries that her home may not be there when the waters finally recede.
“We laid every brick of our barn. We nailed every screw in. We danced on the floors of our house when we were building it. The memories will always be there, but the actual place that I call home might not be there.”
Senior public relations major Paige Mareth, who is from Victoria, TX, said that her parents chose to remain at her childhood home and weather the storm.
“They’re without water and electricity and it may be that way for a while,” she said.
Mareth said that although it’s been an emotional week, she is thankful that her home sustained minimal damage.
“Not everyone else in my little city was as fortunate, and that’s hard to know,” she said.
Hurricane Harvey evacuees began arriving from Brazoria County to Bell County early Monday morning. They were first transported to the Expo Center, where they were given dry clothes and shoes, and then they were taken to shelters that had been set up around Bell County. Vista Community Church took over the process of receiving donations.
Volunteer Coordinator for Bell County, Lacey Dove, said that it was truly humbling to see the evacuees arriving Monday morning.
“I saw volunteers take shoes off their own feet to give to people who didn’t have shoes this morning,” Dove said. “There was an evacuee who came in without pants because there was someone worse off than him who didn’t have pants.”
There are many ways that people can help with Hurricane Harvey relief. Vice President of Student Life Brandon Skaggs sent out a campus-wide email Mon. Aug 28 with ways that students could help.
He advises students to be in prayer and “be aware of your fellow students who have been impacted by the storm, and seek to serve them by offering a listening ear and a compassionate heart.”
Campus Activities Board is also collecting donations that they will deliver to Vista Community Church. An updated list of items can be found at http://thevista.tv/harvey/. Donation boxes can be found in Farris Hall and Baugh Center for the Visual Arts, as well.
Shelters are still looking for volunteers, including FBC Belton, FBC Temple, Vista, and all the other shelters in the area. According to Skaggs, you can visit the BSM Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/umhbbsm for opportunities to serve.