Rockport: A year after Harvey

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

ROCKPORT, Texas - The town of Rockport has made tremendous strides in the year since Hurricane Harvey clawed its way over the Texas coast, but the recovery is not complete. Many business owners struggle to get their businesses back up to financial strength, while others struggle to make it back into their homes.

Gone are the massive piles of debris that once lined many streets in the coastal community, but the signs and sounds of construction remain.

“It's been a little rough, but making it,” said Chris Chriswisser.

The lingering effects of Harvey cut both ways for Chriswisser, a local contractor. Chriswisser said he was laid off from his refinery job due to damage at the plant, but he soon found plenty of work helping repair damaged homes in Rockport and Fulton.

However, this has left him little time to repair his own hurricane-battered home.

“I have a camper I've been having to live in with my wife and kids. It’s been challenging,” he said. “Really all we can do is one day at a time. When we do get money, then we go and work on our house a little bit.”

Some of the hotels and townhomes that took a beating during several hours of hurricane-force winds are also still not yet open. Many believe seeing these businesses reopen is key to the area’s full recovery, since tourists are crucial to the economy.

Some smaller businesses have returned, while others couldn't weather the financial losses.

“This was bad. The roof caved in, the glass blew in. It smelled like dead fish and had a lot of sea-grass in here,” said Lisa Ruszczyk, regarding the building that houses her business.

Ruszczyk owns JoD's Etc and said a year after Harvey, business is still down, but it's getting better with the return of tourists.

“A lot of people have come down to be supportive. They want to come down and help the economy and help people stay in business,” she said.

Ruszczyk said she decided to open the shop in Rockport because her store in Port Aransas was heavily damaged and still has not been repaired. Her home also took a beating during Harvey.

“We had tornados in the house,” Ruszczyk said. “In the house doing fun things.”

She said her home has only recently been repaired to the point it is livable. Like the town itself, Ruszczyk is optimistic about the future. A testament to that optimism is seen in a picture of a boat’s stern hanging in her store. The name of the boat is “Resilience.” She said the story goes, the boat sank four times only to keep resurfacing.

Ruszczyk said a friend took the picture and gave it to her.

“She said, 'Lisa, you get the 'Resilience' award for reopening and fighting,'” she said.

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