Thousands of Texans fled their homes this weekend as Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast Friday. Harvey has since been downgraded to a tropical storm, but coastal residents are still holed up, waiting for the storm to subside and for authorities to give them the go-ahead to return home.
Rachel Burns left her home in Palacios on Friday and checked into a hotel in Yoakum, about 80 miles north of Harvey’s landfall, with her 90-year-old mother.
As the storm moved over Yoakum on Saturday, Burns lost power in her hotel. She sat outside her room, watching the rain and smoking the cigarette. The worst part of this situation for her, she said, was the boredom.
“You almost feel trapped because you can’t go anywhere and you can’t do anything and you can’t get any information,” Burns said. “And then when you finally get to hear a tidbit of information, it’s like oxygen!”
Burns said she’s trying not to focus on what happened to her house or what she will go back to. Instead, she said, she’s trying to focus on the positives – that her friends and family are all safe.
When the rain started to let up, Burns drove around the block from her hotel and found a building with power, a restaurant called Mimi’s Kitchen, where owners Kaylee Lerke and Mimi York were serving warm meals to evacuees staying in nearby hotels.
“Once we saw [hotels] were booked with evacuees, we were thinking, they have no microwaves, they have nothing to eat hot food, some of them may not have money to get food, so we were like, ‘We’re going to open up,'” said Lerke, who owns the diner with her mother, York.
They, too, couldn’t get many groceries from the local H-E-B before the storm hit, but York decided to serve a limited menu with what was left in the kitchen.
“We figured we’d cook what we had,” she said. “We’d rather cook it and serve it than throw it away if it rotted in the bad weather.”
About half of the restaurant was full, a mix of evacuees and locals who came to watch the news on Mimi’s TV, which was one of few working in town.
“We have chili with corn bread, stew with corn bread, and we also have tuna salad sandwiches with chips, and bologna sandwiches with chips,” said Lerke. “And iced tea comes with everything.”
With the worst of the storm-force winds gone from the coast, evacuees are preparing to drive back to their homes and assess the damage. Joyce Spears and her daughter, Brenda Fryer, stayed in Yoakum to avoid the storm as it hit their homes in Cuero. Both say they are worried about what they will return to, and they know the tough work is just beginning, when it comes to cleanup and insurance claims.
“Insurance is not going to value your stuff 10 years back,” Spears said. “You have to show pictures and everything else. They depreciate everything.”