Rebuilding After Harvey: A Damaged Marina Becomes Donation Super Center | Texas Public Radio

Rebuilding After Harvey: A Damaged Marina Becomes Donation Super Center

Oct 1, 2017

Hurricane Harvey left Port Aransas and its marina in shambles. Some boats capsized. Others crashed into docks. Now, the marina serves as a distribution center for donations of food, clothing, water, even tools. In the fifth part of our "Rebuilding After Harvey" series, we explore how the marina has been transformed into what looks like temporary grocery store.

Normally, the marina in Port Aransas has 180 boats in its docks. A month after Hurricane Harvey, at least a dozen damaged boats remain. One sits half submerged with its bow sticking in the air; another...on its side in the water.

The Port Aransas Marina one month after Hurricane Harvey
Credit Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio

Danny Bonnet lives in Port Aransas part time and is a marina regular. He’s been coming here since the 1980s.

“Once a year they have a fishing contest with kids. We bring our grandkids here to fish – perch fish -- and this is where they do all the weigh-ins for the big tournaments. It’s just hard to look at all this right now. Pretty bad…” he says.

At least nine boats sank. Some ended up in the streets of Port Aransas. Bonnet says a friend can’t find his boat.

“He had it in a store shed. Two blocks this way. And he has not found the boat yet. Don’t know where it went,” Bonnet adds.

Harbor officials say more than 50 boats were damaged. There’s no total damage estimate yet. Charlie Fisher is the marina's harbor master. He says even with all the damaged vessels, there are no major ecological threats.

“We really amazingly didn’t have serious pollution concerns in the harbor from fuel and other petroleum products. We had one boat we had to boom,” Fisher says.

Parts of the marina are back in operation; some docks are still heavily damaged. No one knows when it will be fully repaired.

“Tourism is extremely important to our community, and we understand the urgency in getting it back online, and that’s the goal: Getting Port A get back to what it’s always been as soon as it can get there,” Fisher says.

Next to the marina is a pavilion.  It’s now serving as a donation distribution center. Volunteers open boxes and organize items.

Rosalie Johnson (right) walks the aisles of this temporary donation site at the Port Aransas Marina
Credit Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio

Colleen Simpson is the city’s Nature Preserve Manager. After Harvey she’s helping manage the distribution center. Volunteers have been pouring in from across the country to help staff this site.

“And they take in the donations. They set it up like a grocery store. And people can come in and shop for what they need. Some people have called it retail therapy. It's kind of nice to just browse,” Simpson says.

It really does look like a grocery store. There are rows of cereal, cans of food, bottles of medication, boxes of donated clothing.

“School supplies, shovels, and rakes, and hammers, and nails, and tarps, and all the things you need when cleaning out a flood-damaged home or your roof caved in; all those things that our citizens are most in need of right now,” she says.

Rosalie Johnson is a Port Aransas resident who’s now staying in North Padre Island. Her condo was flooded with five feet of water.

“I’ve had some people move stuff to storage that was salvageable. I don’t have very many clothes or shoes or anything. I’ve just lost everything. I don’t know,” she says.

Volunteers organize boxes at the temporary donation site
Credit Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio

She was holding a cereal box as she walked through the aisles of this temporary grocery store last week.

“I’m so grateful. I’m a single parent. Tomorrow is actually my sons' 16th birthday. I got him a box of Cheerios,” Johnson says.

Rebuilding Port Aransas after Harvey won’t happen in a day, a month or even a year. There is a spirit of resiliency here, a determination to bring it back to the beach destination it’s been for decades.