Hard hit by Hurricane Harvey two months ago, many northern Galveston County businesses have only in recent days begun reopening their doors.
Yet others remain weeks, even months, from being back in business, chambers of commerce executives in northern Galveston County said in recent interviews.
Dickinson, by most estimates, was the hardest hit of those cities along Galveston County’s northern border.
“Ninety percent of our businesses took on water,” Dickinson Chamber of Commerce President Dawn King said. “Forty or 50 percent are back in business, I’d estimate.”
More than 4 feet of water fell in a matter of hours across Galveston County’s northern reaches, forcing bayous and feeder creeks out of their banks and into homes and businesses.
The Dickinson Chamber of Commerce served as a clearinghouse following the storm.
“The chamber was a great way to get out FEMA information and Small Business Administration information to our members,” King said. “The chamber also was a source of support, and helped keep them focused on the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Businesses affected by the storm in largely residential League City have reopened with few exceptions, League City Regional Chamber of Commerce operations and events manager Jane McFaddin said.
More than 70 businesses in Friendswood took on water, particularly those on FM 2351, along Mary’s Creek and Clear Creek, and on FM 518, along Coward Creek.
“Quite a few have reopened,” said Carol Marcantel, president of the Friendswood Chamber of Commerce, whose offices, inundated by Coward Creek’s overflow, are still several weeks from reopening. For now, the chamber is operating out of a temporary space donated by Stanfield Properties.
All told, 71 businesses operating out of 39 buildings suffered damage, according to a tally by the city’s Community Development Department.
“Most are now back in business,” Karen Kapps, Friendswood’s economic development coordinator, said. “From my observation, there are probably only a handful that haven’t yet reopened.”
In the weeks immediately after Harvey swamped the city in late August, the Friendswood chamber provided its members guidance.
“A lot of our members called asking us for recommended contractors from the area,” Marcantel said. “We also sent out e-blasts to inform people when someone has supplies to offer to help.”
Other help came from beyond the county line and in at least one case from beyond the state line.
“The Amite, La., Chamber of Commerce adopted our chamber of commerce,” King said. “They brought in a truck with about $20,000 in supplies, pallet after pallet after pallet. That’s a community of 5,000 people reaching out, one small town helping another small town.
“The camaraderie was essential. Small cities don’t have the same resources large ones do. We have to depend on one another.”
Some Dickinson businesses are still working to renovate their facilities, yet took measures to demonstrate their commitment to the city.
“Dickinson businesses, these people are brave,” King said. “A lot of them brought in trailers and set them in their parking lots to demonstrate they weren’t leaving. It makes me weep to see how strong and undaunted these business owners have been.”
The city of nearly 20,000 residents remains without a grocery store, although Dickinson’s only food market, Ziegler’s, is nearly restocked after having repaired storm damage, King said, and a sign out front promises the store will reopen soon, a positive sign for the city’s beleaguered population.
“The Small Business Administration says that after a disaster like Harvey, three out of five businesses go out of business within a year,” she said. “That won’t happen in Dickinson, I can promise you that.”
Harvey’s torrential rainfall, as it stalled over the mainland, set a U.S. record, according to the National Weather Service, which termed the storm “catastrophic.”
Said Friendswood spokesman Jeff Newpher: “To say Harvey was unprecedented is the very definition of the word.”