"Harvey disrupted lives, damaged property" by: Mike Reddell

Precinct 6 Constable Bill Orton took this photo Wednesday of an attractive Sargent area residence with significant flooding. Orton was instrumental in keeping the county informed on social media on what Hurricane Harvey wrought on the Sargent area, including what roads were closed and what services were functioning.

   Thursday marked the one-week anniversary of how long many Matagorda County residents have been away from home since the beginning of the prolonged ordeal from Hurricane Harvey.
   County Judge Nate McDonald reminded people of how long it’s been and where Matagorda County stands now during a video conference Wednesday afternoon.
   With the threat of Colorado River flooding greatly reduced and the sun shining here Wednesday a lot of people who left under the two mandatory evacuations were returning home.
   McDonald and Mayor Mark Bricker struck cautionary notes in their talks Wednesday about the forecast for some river flooding – the river was expected to crest at a little more than flood stage at 45 feet Thursday morning - and the uncertainty of what Texas highways were open.
   “Again, we understand this has been a stressful week for you and we are working night and day to restore the needed services so we can get back to business,” McDonald said.
   “Matagorda EMS is fully staffed and operating countywide,” the judge said.
   “The Matagorda Regional Medical Center has a first aid clinic up and running. 
   “And they keep their Facebook page updated in real time. The best source of information for our hospital is the hospital Facebook page,” McDonald noted at the Emergency Operations Center set up at the Sheriff’s Office.
   Bay City HEB and Wal-Mart both are open and they have gas, as does a number of convenience stores, the judge and mayor both said Wednesday.
   In HEB’s case, corporate headquarters routes food and other supplies earmarked for other stores to the Bay City store
   But, as the city and county work to restore services and utilities, there remains a voluntary evacuation in place – plus a countywide curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
   “You are subject to be pulled over and ID’ed,” McDonald said Wednesday and the mayor also makes the same point in his video presentations.
   Matagorda County residents actually were under two mandatory evacuations. 
   McDonald first called for a mandatory evacuation as the threat grew for Hurricane Harvey for residents in the southern portions of Matagorda County Thursday, Aug. 24, then extended it for the entire county early Saturday morning, Aug. 26.
   Bricker also called for a mandatory evacuation for Bay City on Friday, Aug. 25.
   The second mandatory evacuation came late Sunday night when McDonald and Bricker announced that a forecast model had shown the river would leave its bank and inundate downtown Bay City under 10 feet of water.
   Maps issued of the possible flooded area were shocking as they showed not only the city under water but a large area around it as well.
   City Council met in special session Monday morning and gave Bricker the authority to act in keeping people and property safe.
   People had to leave by 1 p.m. Monday, Aug. 28, or be trapped in the city – with a catastrophic flood threatening their homes – because of highways out of Bay City would be flooded.
   Indeed, people leaving Bay City Monday did encounter fierce rain storms and Texas 35 – the only route passable out of the city – became flooded later Monday.
   The forecast for the projected 52.5-foot Colorado River crest that threatened the catastrophic flooding was downgraded by Tuesday morning, Aug. 29.
   Between 6 p.m. Monday and 6 a.m. Tuesday major events played a hand in diminishing the crest’s arrival Thursday, said EOC Public Information Officer Mitch Thames.
   First, there was more diversion of Colorado River floodwaters into the countryside between LaGrange and Columbus, although both cities were significantly flooded.
Likewise that was true between Columbus and Wharton.
A strong north wind was the third mitigating factor. 
Thames said that 43 mph northern winds pushed the waters out in West Matagorda Bay and lowered the tide that helped the river to empty in the bay faster.
The LCRA Flood Operations report at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday showed the crest prediction had dropped from 47.1 to 45.3 feet during the course of a few hours Tuesday afternoon.
At a noon press conference Tuesday, McDonald and Bricker noted the reduced threat posed by a lower-level river crest and changed the mandatory evacuation to a voluntary evacuation.
   But they still cautioned against Matagorda County residents until essential medical, emergency and utility functions were re-established.
   As county residents return, they’ll learn that while the county was spared from the horrors from Harvey at Rockport, Port Aransas and Houston, the storm still took its toll locally.

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