High storm surge

The height of Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge is symbolized by the height of the Katrina memorial in Biloxi.

Hurricane season officially began Saturday and I, like most of you, look at the beginning of the season a little differently then we did prior to August 25, 2017.

We had a lull of 47 years between the previous last storm, Celia in 1970, and Harvey. Our family had just moved to Baytown, from El Paso, and I had just started sixth grade when Celia made landfall.

It’s been said many times that we shouldn’t “relive” Harvey, but we also shouldn’t forget what happened in less than a 24-hour period.

To do so, or to think we’re clear for another 40-plus years, would be foolish. We have to be prepared every year, and I believe each of us will be, at least until years pass without a storm. That’s not good, but unfortunately, that’s probably reality.

Major natural disasters have a way of changing a community. They always do, and we will be no different in that aspect. Sure, we are still Rockport-Fulton, but our demographics will change, as will many of the “unseen” characteristics of our communities … those things tourists and those who don’t call Aransas County home can’t see when they roll into town for brief visits.

This past weekend my wife and I were in Biloxi and it was interesting for several reasons.

First, it was the beginning of hurricane season.

Second, the annual Blessing of Fleet took place, which took me back to my days in junior high when Celia hit Corpus Christi dead on. I remember how the Blessing of the Fleet was on national news. Back then there was only ABC, CBS, and NBC News. I remember how colorful the shrimp boats were decorated, and always wanted to see it in person.

Through the years, that big event has waned, and I understand. The big shrimp fleets are no longer around (at least in our area).

When we walked down to Biloxi Harbor Sunday afternoon (the day after the Blessing of the Fleet), I only saw one shrimp boat still decorated.

Of course, I stopped and talked to the woman on the shrimp boat. She was a fifth or sixth generation commercial fisherman, and a joy to talk to.

She confirmed the Blessing of the Fleet isn’t as large as in past years, but the meaning behind the spectacle remains the same.

We walked a few blocks inland and looked at the Katrina Memorial and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Even though we know it, and regardless of how damaging Harvey was to our communities, we were sparred the devastating 20-plus foot storm surge those along the Mississippi Gulf Coast experienced in Katrina.

The stripe at the top of the pole in the accompanying picture is the level the water reached in Katria in Biloxi. The stripe below it is the level the water reached in Hurricane Camille. Both storms dramatically changed Biloxi.

Imagining water that high (way over my head) is hard to fathom.

As we enter a new hurricane season, and continue our long-term recovery, we can give thanks we didn’t experience a massive storm surge that could have inundated most of our peninsula.

Whenever we visit New Orleans I have a good feeling because I was born in that city.

Whenever we visit Biloxi, post Harvey, I also feel a sort of kinship to the people who lived through Katrina.

Our stories are similar, but different.

We rank one and two on the largest natural disaster list in the U.S.

Biloxi is located on a east/west peninsula and the national media coverage dried up once the levees broke in New Orleans.

We are on a north/south peninsula and the national media coverage dried up once Houston flooded.

Please prepare you homes, businesses, and families for this hurricane season.

Experience has shown us forecasts can change quickly in a 24-hour period.

I also have an eerie daily reminder we’re in hurricane season, and what it was like the two weeks after Harvey (no electricity or utilities). A City of Rockport contractor is dewatering the ground around the sinkhole just down the street from us.

Guess what powers the machines?

That’s right … generators.

I don’t like the sound of generators at night.

Until next week, have a good week.

Mike Probst can be reached at publisher@rockportpilot.com.

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