Hanna intensified to hurricane strength (75 mph sustained winds) as of the National Weather Service - Corpus Christi’s 7 a.m. bulletin Saturday, July 25.
Although not a Cat 4 storm, one could tell many Aransas County residents were somewhat anxious, remembering how quickly Harvey exploded into a major storm a little more than 24 hours before his landfall in Aransas County.
It was quickly learned Hanna would take a tract south of the Rockport/Fulton area, making her first landfall at 5 p.m. Saturday on North Padre Island, north of Port Mansfield, 30 minutes after Rockport/Fulton was removed from the hurricane warning area.
Local officials reported no major damage to personal property, but the constant drum of wind-driven rains and minimal storm surge scoured areas along the waterfront.
The most damage was reported on roads along the shoreline (Fulton Beach Road, Water Street, Shell Ridge Road, etc.).
“There was just enough wind and wave action to cause issues,” said Aransas County Emergency Management Coordinator Rick McLester. “Every storm is different. The only real damage we had was marine related.”
McLester said one unique feature of this storm, and the continuing threat of COVID-19, is local leaders who usually meet in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), met virtually.
Had the storm become a major threat to this area, the team would have moved into the EOC located in the Public Safety Center.
Early on it was decided Aransas County residents would be told to shelter in place.
Evacuating residents will present new problems for local officials due to social distancing required on buses, the need for qualified drivers due to more buses used, and the fact Aransas County’s reserved rooms (inland) for nursing home residents aren’t available due to COVID-19.
Aransas County Judge C.H. “Burt” Mills said, “We were lucky we didn’t take another direct hit, but we did get the worst side of the storm (albeit in a weaker state than if it had made landfall further north).”
The judge also noted it was “different” meeting via Zoom, but added, “We’ve had some experience, and were well organized.”
Rockport Mayor Pat Rios echoed the judge, saying, “We were well prepared for this. I’m thankful we didn’t experience what they’re experiencing further south.
“We were very lucky this time. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we knew what to do (after going through Harvey).”
The mayor also reported dive teams were in the water Monday, July 27 inspecting the Key Allegro Bridge pilings.
“There was a lot of wave activity and we wanted to make sure (the bridge didn’t receive any more damage),” said Rios.
There was no additional damage to the bridge, which is in the process of being replaced after Harvey weakened it.
Parts of Fulton Beach Road (FBR) and Water Street had to be closed temporarily, with the worst damage occurring on FBR in Fulton.
Fulton Sewer/Street Supervisor Matt Olenick said the storm surge and waves did the damage.
“We had little, if any wind damage,” said Olenick. “The holes in FBR were filled by the county (Monday) and it’s open to traffic, but we’ll be picking up boards and debris (washing ashore) the rest of the week.”
Aransas County Navigation District (ACND) Harbor Master Keith Barrett said the wind coming in from the east (directly into the shoreline) was the worst possible scenario for Aransas County.
“Our shoreline received maximum impact,” he said, noting the damaged roadways and the parking lot at Rockport Harbor, which was undermined in some areas.
The ACND was forced to turn off electrical power to Rockport and Fulton harbors after an electrical box shorted out under Capt. Cady’s bait stand at Rockport Harbor. The small fire was quickly extinguished by local firefighters.
Barrett said Rockport Beach lost a lot of sand, especially at the north end.
The ACND closed the fishing pier (groin) at the north end of the beach (bordering Leggett Channel) as a precaution until all the boards can be inspected.
At Fulton Harbor, the low breakwater, which protects it, was overtopped early on.
“We basically had waves inside the harbor,” said Barrett. “It could have been much worse. It was like a washing machine (inside the harbor).”
Two vessels sank in the harbor behind the Casterline building.
Barrett said people driving to the harbors to take pictures made is difficult, at times, for ACND staff to quickly address problems.
“I saw adults, and even some kids walking out on the seawalls,” said Barrett. “People need to understand these storms (regardless of severity) aren’t something to play in.”
Local officials breathed a sigh of relief Hanna didn’t grow into a major storm and/or make landfall in Aransas County.
The also encourage residents to be prepared for the next one. The two most active months of hurricane season are still ahead of us.