Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Weathering the Storm: Aransas County Road & Bridge

Elle Moralez and her husband Caleb evacuated Rockport, Texas, at 4 a.m. in the morning on Friday, August 25, and Hurricane Harvey hit the small town at 8 p.m. that night. They had no idea what was happening to their house or their town. Elle caught an image on the news of the boat barn near their house that had been destroyed, so they knew the storm had passed over the area.

Luckily, a neighbor who’d stayed walked down the street filming the houses that weekend, so they got to see their house—still standing—on Sunday. They returned home on Monday and took stock of the damages not only to their home, but to the town. They were able to work on their home Tuesday, but on Wednesday they were both called in to work.

Aransas Co Road & Bridge
Wednesday also happened to be Elle’s first day at Aransas County Road & Bridge. The crew was so busy that for a couple of weeks, they didn’t even know Elle’s name or that she worked with them. Elle had never worked for a city or a department like this-- especially not during a catastrophic event like Hurricane Harvey--so her on-the-job training was incredibly intense.  Road & Bridge is one of the most important departments during and after a storm; they were working non-stop on recovery as well as handing out permits for rebuilding.

“They used to talk about how we did five permits a week? We do about fifty a day,” said Moralez.

Inside the R&B Building
There was no time to fill out paperwork. Their building was flooded and had no electricity. In fact, when Elle was shown her office it was done with laughter, since the ceiling had opened up over her desk and it was completely unusable. While the R&B crew were running non-stop, Elle was lucky to get office supplies and a place to sit to do her regular work, much less the extra paperwork necessary to receive FEMA reimbursement.

Luckily, Elle Moralez and the crew at Aransas County had help on the way. The Texas A&M UniversitySystem’s Rebuild Texas initiative brought volunteers from system partner Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) to help her with paperwork as well as helping her learn how to do it herself. Next on the horizon are the other departments in Aransas County.

As for Elle, she’s coping. “I’m still trying to learn my regular job on top of all of the Harvey stuff,” reported Moralez. ”Really I’m just paddling through every single day.”