Hope After Harvey: 6 Months of Recovery, Port Aransas
PORT ARANSAS, Texas (FOX 26) - It's hopping at Iries Island Food. Customers are pouring in and the kitchen is going full tilt. It's hard to get manager Melissa Aube to stand still long enough for a chat. But when she slows down for a second she'll tell you things are going great.
"Well it was us or Domino's for the first couple of weeks. Domino's was a little hit or miss, you know, so we... we can't complain. We've had a really good winter. All of our regulars are back. It's been really good."
But outside the little restaurant the picture is not so rosy. There is a floodwater mark painted by a local artist on the wall. Much of the island that was home to approximately 4,000 before the storm, remains pretty devastated.
Harvey had wind gusts of up to 130 miles an hour. This island was pretty much ground zero for the storm. It was so bad that 85 percent of the buildings on the island had enough damage to file an insurance claim.
People liked to joke about the unhurried pace of life here as "Island Time." That was before Harvey. It's different now. There's a sense of urgency. This clean-up has to happen and happen quickly. Why? Two words: Spring Break.
Tracy Gutierrez manages the Island Hotel. It's one of the three hotels on the island her company owns. Two of the three are back and ready to go. One is two weeks away. The clock is ticking.
“We need to be up, ready and running now. March comes up and it’s spring break. There's going to be 200,000 people here, hopefully, which i think there will be because they want a beach, so this is the time when we have to get everything up and running. Yeah,” she laughed.
The hotels that managed to reopen quickly have done ok because of the large influx of contractors, insurance people and FEMA guests. But she says only about half the hotels are open and about the same percentage of restaurants.
The question remains: even if they rebuild them in time, will they come?
"We are getting booking which is good. We're waiting to see but we're filling up nicely and that’s a good thing for us," said Gutierrez.
It's critically important because the island needs the revenue to continue the recovery. But some of those doing the rebuilding may be not as optimistic.
“There's still a lot of debris to be picked up. There's still a lot of work. There's places that haven't been touched. I think there are some places that haven’t been demolished yet. So there's quite a bit of work so I'd say a year and a half? I would say," said David Barrera as he took a break from offloading mattresses from a pickup truck to go into hotel rooms.
Back at Iries, Aube shows the determination and optimism about the upcoming season that may be key to the recovery.
"We're going to prepare for it. We are ready for it. We're excited for it. I don't know that. If it hits it hits if it doesn't there's always next year."
Next year can seem like forever on Island time.