Florida Keys officials closed schools, opened shelters and urged visitors to leave as Tropical Storm Fay threatened to strengthen into a hurricane Sunday, but residents and tourists seemed in no hurry to evacuate. We just got our dose of rain and floodwaters down here in South Texas. I hope and pray that Miss Fay stays at tropical storm level and does not increase to hurricane level. We are still dealing with the aftermath that Miss Dolly left us down here in the South Padre Island area of Texas. The devastation was not as bad as it could have been but for some people who were not financially prepared for the mess Dolly created, it was bad enough. FEMA just set up shop this weekend on the island and is still helping people deal with Miss Dolly’s damage. At least now I know firsthand what Florida is going to be like for the next few weeks: crowded with huge trailers and trucks that were just here. Even in destruction, there is rebirth; the construction, contractors, glass, roofing, and air-conditioning businesses will all experience a boom in business. Insurance adjusters will swoop down into the area. Housekeeping and cleanup crews will find lots of work as well. The restaurants and hotels that service these workers will also see business come their way. Even in destruction there is construction. That is the beauty of life, that in even in death, there is birth. The end of something almost always signals a beginning of something else. How many of us did not want to see something end or were saddened by it only to find out it meant the birth of something else? How many of us did not see that everything is part of a cycle, a master plan and that “all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord”? You may not see it or feel it but sometimes horrible tempests in our lives had to occur for a new beginning, perhaps the birth of a new you or of a new chapter in your life. I hope that whatever happens in Florida that it is more of a rebirth and an economic surge than anything detrimental and that no injuries or deaths occur during their upcoming trial.
The rate that South Padre Island was cleaned up after Hurricane Dolly’s visit was amazing. People joined together and neighbor helped neighbor pick up the debris Dolly rudely left behind. Power was restored quickly and as AEP truck convoys led each other warily through the Los Fresnos speed traps out of the Rio Grande Valley, glass and roofing companies worked in stride to bring beautiful South Padre Island back to its former glory. Not just citizens of Cameron County were hit hard by this category 2 hurricane. In the northern part of the valley near Harlingen, ancient, sturdy trees with trunks with trunks 3-4 feet across were blown over and lay there in the mud like they had been slapped in the face hard and were still in shock from it. Towering business signs no longer jutted into the sky but stood snapped in two like a thin weak toothpick. South Padre Island’s residents showed their incredible resilience by stoically continuing with the spectacular Friday night fireworks extravaganzas the weekend after Dolly hit. It was as if the residents were saying, “We will not let anything keep us down!” Restaurants, hotels and condo rental businesses, gift shops, convenience stores, and others opened their doors as soon as it was feasible and the rest of the valley came over to show their support. Residents from nearby Brownsville, Harlingen, McAllen, Edinburg, Los Fresnos and San Benito supportively left their homes and spent the weekend on the island dining in Island eateries, buying novel and beautiful souveniers, effectively jump starting the island businesses. People opened their homes on the island and in Port Isabel to their friends and neighbors who were displaced by the storm. In fact, many new friendships were forged by people who would not have met if it weren’t for the storm. I am proud to be from such an area where people would come for miles to give an economic jump start to the Island, our pride and joy. Hurricane season is far from over but I know that if another storm were to come, people would be better prepared due to the lessons learned.
Yesterday, August 16th, a Disaster Recovery Center opened on South Padre Island. This will help the businesses on the island that were hardest hit, get back up and running sooner. The most beautiful thing, though, that was brought to the surface by the raging winds and flooding waters of the churning Gulf of Mexico during Dolly, was the undeniably unbreakable spirit of the people down here. It was truly amazing and a real pleasure to experience.