In Texas, country music is pretty big thing. The King of Country, George Strait, is even bigger.
While federal, state and local officials continue to offer support to the thousands of Hurricane Harvey victims who lost property, homes and even businesses to the hurricane, an outpouring of support from fellow Texans, strangers from other states, and even celebrities have helped to boost morale and lift the spirits of many dealing with the catastrophic losses and damages that remain after the historic storm.
In Texas, support for victims of wind and water damage has been significant, though many remain in shelters weeks after Harvey hit, and many more continue with the struggle of removing debris, repairing damages, and dealing with the physiological and psychological trauma often associated with such tragic events.
Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott charged the Tri-Agency Partners, a state cooperative including the Texas Workforce Commission, Texas Commissioner of Education, and the Texas Commission of Higher Education, to meet with victims, local authorities and media representatives at the Solomon P. Ortiz International Center in Corpus Christi to launch a concerted effort to provide additional state assistance to individuals, communities and educational institutions that suffered the most as a result of the disaster.
Hurricane Harvey roared on to shore near Corpus Christi on Aug. 25 as the first Category 4 storm to hit the U.S. in over 13 years, delivering deadly 135 mile per hour sustained winds and heavy thunderstorms that dumped as many as 52 inches of rain on parts of Southeast Texas. The deadly storm claimed the lives of more than 70 Texans, leaving millions without power and tens of thousands homeless or housed in shelters.
Hard hit were agricultural interests in the state, with heavy losses to the Texas cotton industry in a year that had been called one of the best in recent memory, and to the Texas cattle industry. Officials are still trying to determine the number of beef cattle destroyed by the storm and subsequent flooding, but most believe economic losses will total in the millions.
While some ag producers may receive partial coverage for their lost crops and livestock, others who were uninsured or under-insured will take a hit. Many smaller producers, especially small farms and vegetable and other specialty crop producers, face substantial losses because their operations were either not insured or their crop did not qualify for insurance.
While the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) is working with individuals and businesses, including farmers and ranchers, who were hit hard by the disaster, officials estimate not all losses will be covered. For many, one of the greatest setbacks of the disaster has been loss of income, from either employment or as a result of closed businesses or suspended agricultural operations.
Abbott's Tri-Agency Partners has been charged with addressing those and other issues, including the reconstruction of schools and even college facilities that suffered major damages.
Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Andres Alcantar, Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath, Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Paredes, and TWC Commissioners Ruth R. Hughs and Julian Alvarez met with reporters following last week's meeting to talk about efforts being made to help those who have lost employment resources.
They announced an initiative involving area employers, chambers of commerce, economic development corporations, local workforce development boards, independent school districts, community colleges, universities, non-profit organizations, industry representatives and other community stakeholders who have been asked to come forward with possible solutions for those who have lost gainful employment or income related to damages caused by the storm.
On the same day, however, country music star and fellow Texan George Strait made a personal appearance in Rockport, Texas, a community that suffered some of the worst wind and storm surge damage as the eye of Harvey passed directly across the community, leaving thousands with as yet-undetermined damage.
Strait headlined the nationally-televised Hand in Hand telethon event two weeks earlier that raised more than $44 million for Harvey relief efforts. Strait, who owns a home in Rockport, said his visit to the community was to help spread the word that in spite of the historic damages across the Texas coast, Texans "are resilient and will prevail."
The event, which was held in the parking lot of a local hardware store, attracted hundreds of local residents who had come to greet and shake hands with the music legend and to meet with Gov. Abbott and Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush who were in attendance.
"My wife and I have had a house here [in Rockport] for a long, long time," Strait told the crowd. "We still need help here and we can’t let that be forgotten. We like it just the way it was, and we want to get back to that as soon as possible. I want to go fishing."
Bill Hunt, a longtime resident of Rockport, attended the event where Strait talked to residents, encouraging them to "not lose hope." Hunt said the devastation throughout the community is "incredible. Recovery will be a long process."
Local schools were hard hit by the storm, and businesses across the community, especially in the historic downtown district, were largely destroyed.
"It’s unbelievable, the strength of Mother Nature," Hunt added.