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'Scary and nerve-racking' — Johnson City transplant recounts Hurricane Harvey

Nick Shepherd • Aug 28, 2017 at 2:30 PM

When Christy Iles and her family moved from Johnson City to Texas, it was to get a change of scenery and escape the cold winters. Christy, her husband and her young son  packed up their belongings and moved to a small coastal town in the state last year.

The last thing they expected was to be hit by a Category 4 hurricane.

"We were watching the hurricane make landfall from a hotel in San Antonio," she said. "It was scary and nerve-racking."

Hurricane Harvey hit Texas on Friday evening with winds of 130 miles per hour. It moved offshore and made landfall again as Category 3 hurricane. Harvey has killed at least five people and dumped torrential rains on parts of Texas.

Portland is 25 miles away from where the eye of the hurricane hit. Christy said there was plenty of information available to get people prepared. She said a tropical storm warning on Wednesday night was quickly upgraded to a hurricane warning Thursday morning.

"The schools closed at noon that day and everyone scrambled to board their houses and get sandbags," she said. "Then Thursday evening the city (Corpus, Portland) was urging everyone to leave, but it was not mandatory. ... Friday morning we had a mandatory evacuation of our county."

She said many residents went north to San Antonio or south to the Rio Grande Valley. She said San Antonio had a large number of shelters available for people and pets, and people were offering their rental homes for free on Airbnb.

Christy and her family drove home on Saturday morning to assess the damage done to their home. Their entire fence collapsed, a storage shed ended up in a crumpled ball at a post office across the street and the roof sustained some damage.

Portland received a lot of damage, Christy said, mostly from the wind. She said Portland was not experiencing the flooding issues that Houston is currently experiencing. Some areas near Portland, like Rockport and Port Aransas, are still inaccessible.

A hurricane is not enough to deter Christy and her family from leaving Texas. She said they did a lot of research on Portland and are determined to rebuild.

She said she considers her family and neighborhood to be lucky compared to other areas in the state. She plans to do everything she can to help out those affected by the storm. But the memories are sure to stay with her for a long time.

"The only thing we do plan to do is buy the wind storm insurance for our home," she said. "We opted not to buy it last year as our area doesn't usually get hit. It was so nerve-racking knowing we could have lost everything. "

Residents in Portland were still under a tropical storm warning on Monday afternoon. Christy said her neighborhood received electricity and water Sunday night and cable and cell service Monday morning.

Thousands are still without electricity and Christy said right now they have no answer as to when it might be restored. Christy said it might take years for the Coastal Bend of Texas to recover. She said she plans to do all she can to help rebuild.

"It's unbelievable how much help the area has received and how quickly electric was restored," she said. "Yesterday there were semi trucks full of water giving it out to residents and hundreds of electricity trucks stationed at a Kmart just waiting to go out and help. It makes me hopeful that people want to get out there and help.”

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