ROCKPORT, Texas - In mid-August, a Category 4 hurricane ripped apart more than one third of structures in Rockport.
Authorities said Hurricane Harvey was also responsible for two deaths in the coastal community.
The town was once buzzing with tourists, but now only debris and construction crews line the streets.
“Whenever you have a community like ours that experienced 13 consecutive hours of hurricane force winds, things like that are going to happen,” said Rockport Mayor Charles J. Wax.
Contractors and volunteers are slowly moving forward, rebuilding rooftops, clearing roads and bringing down broken buildings.
“Thirty-five percent of the entire community was destroyed,” Wax said.
“Honestly, I've been in combat zones that didn't even look as bad as Rockport did after the storm,” said Air Force veteran Robert Mitchell who lost his home in the storm.
Because of the decision Robert made nine weeks ago, he's lucky to be standing here today.
“We felt like with our house being category five certified that we wouldn't have the problems that we had,” Mitchell said.
It's a choice he wouldn't make again.
“It was really just the perfect storm for us to maybe have not stayed this time,” said Mitchell.
After the eye of the hurricane passed directly over Robert’s home, he figured the worst was behind him, but the storm was only getting started and it aimed another deadly threat in Robert’s direction; a tornado
“The house just kind of shifted a little bit and then just started lifting straight up off the ground. I counted about a four count, three to four count, before it dropped us straight down,” Mitchell said.
Back on solid ground, Robert and his wife breathed a short-lived sigh of relief.
“My thoughts in my head were, ‘Maybe that's the worst part of it.’ Not even 30 seconds later, the wall of water hit us out of Copano Bay and it was chaos for the next twenty minutes and four and a half hours of riding out whitewater rapids running through our house,” said Mitchell.
With only a flashlight to help him navigate through four and a half feet of water, Robert collected the animals and placed them on the center island in the kitchen with his wife. He could feel the house moving beneath his feet.
“Probably 50 yards is how far it floated away,” Mitchell said.
Roberts truck, which he relocated just before the storm hit, probably saved their lives.
“When the first responders got here, they looked at the way the house was positioned up against my truck and, the first thing they said was, ‘You're lucky the truck was there, otherwise the house would've gone in the ditch and flipped over.’ And we couldn't have survived that, there's no way,” said Mitchell.
The couple walked out with two U-Haul boxes filled with keepsakes and clothes. Everything else was ruined.
“We lost everything, obviously, but my wife and I are still here, our dogs are still here, we did lose some animals in the storm, but, yeah, for the most part our family is intact and that's all that matters really whenever it comes down to it,” Mitchell said.
Days after the hurricane, Robert paid a contractor to demolish his home and the couple temporarily moved an hour away to Corpus Christi.
“It's been a little bit easier on us, let me say it that way, because we don't have to get up every morning and walk out our front door to this, to the mess,” said Mitchell.
Others in Rockport are not as lucky.
“If you see a pile of debris every day when you get up, you remember more and it doesn't look like things are getting better,” said Mayor Wax.
Hundreds of contractors have been working hard to help with cleanup efforts since Hurricane Harvey roared ashore with wind speeds reaching over 140 miles per hour. Still, mountains of debris, sometimes more than six feet high, line streets throughout the town of Rockport and the mayor said it could be years before cleanup efforts are complete.
“We've moved about three quarters of a million cubic yards of debris,” Wax said.
Even Robert has chipped in to help his neighbors, commuting to the town several times a week just to volunteer.
“We can't just focus on us because there's a lot of people out there that are worse off than us so we've tried to step up our game and help wherever we can,” Mitchell said.
Being part of the recovery efforts has shown Robert the resilience of his neighbors.
“Look at the progress, move forward, normalcy, Rockport strong,” said Mitchell.
Robert did have insurance on his home. However, he said he will still have to take out loans to rebuild the entire property.