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Victoria Starts Harvey Recovery While Guadalupe River Rises

Many Coastal Texas residents are finally able to begin the process of assessing the damage from Tropical Storm Harvey. But even as the storm cleanup is underway, there is a new threat for the community.

Work crews were out in force chopping up and clearing out the streets of Victoria that were blocked by fallen limbs, toppled trees and snapped utility poles. These old giants were unable to stand up to Harvey's 85 mile an hour winds.

Lynda Torrey and her neighbors admire a once mighty tree that’s now sideways.

"It’s an old grandfather pecan tree," Torrey says. “When it fell, it missed everyone’s house and definitely got the wires."

Downed power lines throughout the area have left over half of the community in the dark. It’s been days since electricity and drinkable water flowed into the homes. That’s made getting a hot meal difficult for many people.

San Antonio Chef Johnny Hernandez pitched in with other chefs to support the Victoria restaurant Guerrilla Gourmet that opened its doors to serve free meals. 

"We have some pork ribs we're grilling. One of the local guys is bringing a big old 12-15 feet grill," Hernanedez says. "James Cantor, who owns this restaurant – he's been a great friend of the chef community in San Antonio. He's one of us, even though he's from Victoria."

In the days since Harvey hit Victoria, volunteer chefs have fed over 4,000 people.

Victoria County Judge Ben Zeller says getting power restored and lifting the boil water notice are top priorities now the Harvey has moved on, but there’s also a new threat.

“[We're] just dealing with the aftermath of this hurricane, Zeller says. "And now, after that, we’re going to be dealing with the flooding in the low-lying areas by the river."

Rainfall that Harvey brought to the region up river from Victoria is now flowing back to the Gulf of Mexico via the Guadalupe River.   

"They’re flooded up there [in Cuero] so all that water up stream naturally, predictably, comes down to us," Zeller says. "And that’s what we’re preparing for."

Zeller says the river is expected to crest Wednesday, but it’s uncertain how high that crest will be. He’s recommending that anyone still in the flood-prone neighborhood should evacuate.

Resident Georgia Robinson isn’t ready to leave.

“I should be okay. Right now it’s a waiting game," Robinson says. "I’m figuring another 12-24 hours and it should be the highest it should be, and that should give us a good indication.”

On this Tuesday afternoon, Robinson is able to look out her front door and see the rising Guadalupe River rushing past her house – a view she doesn’t typically have.

Robinson says the river is twice the normal level, but she's still reluctant to leave.

Neighbors Melissa Martinez and Ronnie Ortega share that languid attitude about the rising water. They were told to evacuate.

“The police come by and everything. They give us a fair warning – but at the end of the day it’s your option if you want to stay or go you know," they say.

Both say they’ve been through floods before and they prefer to postpone an evacuation until the Guadalupe River flooding becomes an unavoidable threat.

“You’re not obligated to leave your own property and all your belongings behind unless you feel you have the need to.”

They say they rode out the night Harvey hit with all its wind, rain and fury. Now, they just want the disaster to be over.

While they might be done with Harvey, the storm and its many forms might not be done with them.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi