Hurricane Harvey: 6 months later

LUMBERTON, Texas (KETK) - **Editor's Note: A previous version of this story said FEMA condemned the home of Cecil Gilmore. FEMA does not condemn homes. The video version still says FEMA condemned the home, but that is not the case.

It's been six months since Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas Gulf Coast.

Buckets of rain wiped out homes and dreams. Some may have forgotten about it all, but that's human nature to move forward.

For the people Neal Barton knows affected by the storm, including him, life stood still and the pain is still there-- perhaps even worse, now. These lives are still not back to normal.

Hurricane Harvey made landfall on Friday, August 15, 2017. Winds at 90 miles per hour slammed into Rockport, north of Corpus Christi.

Harvey did what most hurricanes do: tear things up. But the difference with this one is it didn't continue to move inland to rain itself out.

The problem with Harvey is it became Tropical Storm Harvey and became caught between two high pressure cells, wobbling around and dumping more than 60 inches of rain between Houston and Beaumont.

One of the neighborhood's in the path of destruction hit home for Neal. It was where his mother's home stood, in the the city of Lumberton. The peaceful country city outside Beaumont was blown away.

In June, Neal's mother passed away. She loved her house and neighborhood that she still clung to after his dad died in 2010.

The home his dad bought on a hill could take 30 inches of water, but this time it was too much, receiving 63 inches. Harvey won.

The neighbors there said flood waters went up to the roofline, if not all the way to the rooftop.

"I've lived here 20 years and overnight lost everything," neighbor Cecil Gilmore painfully said. " I got at least 12 feet of water here and water the house near 15, 16 feet."

"[FEMA] said do not go in your house Mr. Gilmore," he recalled."My wife cried for 12 days...God told me in way that only I can understand is it's okay. I'm going to get through it."

It was all too shocking just trying heading home to rest his head at the end of a long day.

"There were times I was at work and thought I was going to go home and then realized there no home go to," Gilmore said.

The first week in February FEMA finally got him the trailer he's been promised.

"Don't feel sorry for me. Go out and do something for someone who is sitting there with no one to help them. Don't feel sorry for me. I'm going to be okay," Gilmore said.

Mark Theobald lives near Beaumont in Bevil Oaks. He was forced out of his home and couldn't return for two weeks.

"We rented a U-Haul and got the bedroom suite and whatever we could from the den here. We put everything else up on cinderblocks," Theobald said. "I hooked up to my travel trailer and hauled it to Lumberton...that's where we've lived since August 28."

He knew his house would have to be mucked to the studs when he finally got to come back home.

"That's when we walked in and could see water marks on the window...the water stayed there for 5 days," Theobald recalled. "All the clothes already had mold and mildew growing on everything."

Theobald and Neal say the survived the only way the knew.

"With the Lord. God has played a big part in what has happened in my life. And the generosity of the people in southeast Texas," Theobald said.

He says now Job is an important character in the bible for him.

"What I have gone through is nothing like we went through," Theobold said.

Westgate Baptist Memorial Church Executive Pastor Jeff Sandusky in Beaumont said they had more than 50 families displaced by the flood.

"People had 4, 6, 8 feet of water and just knowing where to start. They didn't know how to handle it," the past said. "We were getting into people's houses and getting sheetrock and furniture out, so the recovery process could start."

The church raised money in southeast Texas and all over the country. They were able to bring in about half a million dollars.

Although this happened six months ago, the frustration is still there. So the church is working with Lamar University to set up counseling for those with PTSD and also to help navigate FEMA and financial problems as they get back to the new normal.

On top of the trauma of losing everything, people are still having to make life-changing decision every day.

If you or any group which is looking for a hands-on project, Pastor Sandusky says they would love to hear from you at 409-866-3417.






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