The staff of Texas Monthly interviewed 28 Texans who together, tell the chronological story of Hurricane Harvey. They recount its birth as the blip on the radar that became the Atlantic hurricane season’s eighth tropical cyclone, to how it grew “into the strongest hurricane to hit Texas since Carla, in 1961, churning over the state for five agonizing days, releasing more rain than any storm ever in the continental United States, and [will] likely become the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history.”
BILL ROGERS, 61, self-employed mechanic, Port Aransas. We started watching it when it started to develop, back when it was in the Caribbean. When you live like this, come hurricane season, your ears perk up and you start watching things. When I first moved here [25 years ago], I listened to the old shrimpers, what to do and what not to do. And I always heard, you leave when the birds leave—they know more than we do. But this caught everybody off guard, ’cause there’s dead birds all around my house.
ZACHARY DEARING: About two hours into being in [J.J.’s friend’s] house, the walls started breathing. If you were to put your hand on the walls in the house, it felt like if you were to put your hand on the chest of a horse.
WANDA WRIGHT: My sister came over on Friday. Probably two o’clock. We were fine. We sat here and played Yahtzee until we lost power, and then it started getting ugly. My mother took her hearing aid out and went to bed. She wasn’t scared. She didn’t hear a thing. The wind was blowing, and those windows are the slide-open kind and we were holding them. They were bowing out, even with plywood on them. The sound was like screaming—woooo! It sounded to me like forty hoarse old ladies in our trees were screaming. I can’t even make that noise. This went on for, like, three hours, then the eye came over, then dead silence for an hour and forty-five. Crickets. You could hear the frogs. I’ve been in an eye before, and the eye lasts thirty minutes. This one was almost two hours. And then it came back again. Then it was a different sound. Like a groaning. I mean, it’s a mystery. It sounded like there were forty salty banshees up in this tree.
LISA EICHER: In the middle of the night before, my husband had taken my Suburban and driven it to higher ground. The firemen dropped us off at a Valero just a couple miles away from there, and my husband had a neighbor come get him and take him to our car. So we waited at the Valero for a while, the kids and I, the pig and the dog. My little boy was only in his underwear. My daughter had no pants on. We had no shoes, and we were dripping wet. It was definitely a bit of a spectacle. The gas station attendant came out and gave us food and drinks. A homeless couple came up and gave us blankets because the kids were freezing cold, and they stayed with us. They didn’t want anything in return. They just wanted us to be okay, and the kids to be warm. We have the blankets in the car still, and I told my husband, “We are never getting rid of those.” It’s a good reminder of the goodness of people.
HOLLY HARTMAN: I texted [a dispatcher] and said, “Do you know if anyone has gotten to the family in Orange whose two boys were electrocuted?” He said, “Yeah, we got to them an hour ago.” That was in the afternoon, and they had called me at 3 a.m. So I think for at least twelve hours, that family was in their house with these two bodies.
BOBBY SHERWOOD: There have been a lot of tears. Everyone is distraught. When people heard about my house, they just started showing up with food and water. I have more stuff than a grocery store right now. My son Matt set up a barbecue grill and started feeding people who had not eaten in days. This is our town, and the people of Port Aransas are resilient. We care about each other, and we care about taking care of each other. Texans are tough. The people of Port A are tougher.