Refugio Struggles Weeks After Harvey, But Town Is Resolute

Oct 13, 2017

It’s been seven weeks since Harvey hit the Texas coast, and the small inland town of Refugio is still in recovery mode. The process has been slower than residents would like, but spirits are high.

“It’s been rough,” said florist Mary Rushing. “Of course, we closed down for two to three weeks, you know, mold and stinky and stuff like that.”

Rushing, who owns Nona’s Flower Box, has lived in Refugio for 17 years. She says it’s starting to look like the town she knows.

“Now that they’re starting to get all the garbage picked up off the streets and it’s starting to look a little clean again," she said, "people are feeling a little bit better."

Debris is piled in front of a property along Highway 77 in Refugio.
Credit Martin do Nascimento / KUT

Rushing has seen business in the town of 2,800 people ebb and flow through the years. For her, it’s about to flow – a little bit.

“We’re coming back,” she said. “Homecoming brought us back, and we’re doing good again.”

For a florist in Texas, homecoming means mum season, the giant flower arrangements high school kids wear through homecoming week. The homecoming football game isn’t for another two weeks because of the damage Hurricane Harvey caused to Refugio’s stadium. And school has been in session for only four weeks, thanks to the storm.

Refugio High School Principal Brandon Duncan said for most of the kids in town, school was a welcome relief.

It's kind of a vacation, he said, from "the chaos of trying to clean up a mess at your own home."

In that break from the chaos, students get some needed structure.

“Get back in the routine, basically, you know, where there’ll be a set of rules to follow or the bell rings and ‘I’m going to this class,’” he said. “It’s just a sense of order.”

There's still a long road ahead. Seven weeks ago, parts of homes, businesses and trees were strewn across the town. Now the debris sits in neater piles. What was once the twisted canopy of a Shell station, is now a neater clump of twisted metal. Other gas stations and the grocery store have re-opened. Homes are still being repaired; others wait for work to begin - some so damaged they appear to have been abandoned.

A Shell gas station in Refugio sustained heavy damage from Hurricane Harvey.
Credit Martin do Nascimento / KUT