Erratic, potent Hurricane Harvey slowed down Galveston County’s economic engine, but failed to shut it down, leaders of mainland chambers of commerce said.
There were few business interruptions on Galveston Island, a rarity in a storm of Harvey’s magnitude, but the county’s mainland municipalities were less fortunate.
To date, six deaths, all on the mainland, have been linked to Harvey’s tremendous downpours.
Dickinson was hardest hit among the county’s municipalities, chamber officials throughout the county said.
That city’s chamber offices remained shuttered Friday; there was no word on when it might be open again for business.
“I have relatives in Dickinson,” Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce President Gina Bouvier said. “They were stranded on the second floor of their home. It’s that way all over Dickinson.”
The Santa Fe chamber’s offices remained closed as of late Friday as Bouvier dealt with destruction, having not escaped unscathed, either commercially or residentially.
Bouvier’s small business, an event organizer named The Hidden Palms, was among Santa Fe companies affected by the storm.
“We had about a foot of water in my offices,” she said. Moreover, her home was damaged by the insistent rain and the area’s overwhelmed bayous.
“Our home had never before flooded,” she said of the house her grandfather built in 1959.
The Santa Fe chamber isn’t expected to reopen until Tuesday at the earliest.
Jenny Senter, the president of the Texas City-La Marque Chamber of Commerce, which reopened Wednesday as Harvey moved north and east toward the Texas-Louisiana border, has member companies that operate in hard-hit Dickinson.
“We haven’t received any requests for equipment; that might come later,” she said. “I know that one of our members there is temporarily relocating due to property damage. Others are busy tearing out Sheetrock at their offices.
“Our main goal in this shocked feeling was and is to find out how our businesses are doing. It seems most businesses here in Texas City and La Marque are up and running.”
League City businesses fared fairly well, said Jane McFaddin, operations and events manager for that city’s chamber: “I know there are some businesses that have been damaged, but so far none have called us.”
Friendswood, like Dickinson, was among the cities hardest hit by the storm.
“So many of our businesses have been damaged,” Lucy Woltz, the Friendswood chamber’s vice president, said. “We’ve sent out an email to let them know we’re here for them.”
The Friendswood chamber’s offices sit just off Cowards Creek, which overflowed its banks.
“We had 18 inches of water in the office,” Woltz said Friday. “We were just able to get in here today.”
Before the storm’s arrival, chamber staff had safeguarded computers and other electronic gear inside plastic bags and stored them well off the floor, where they remained out of harm’s way throughout the storm.
Now, Woltz said, recovery efforts are underway, and she vowed more than a mere recovery.
“We’ll come back bigger and stronger and better than ever,” she said.
Meanwhile, Hitchcock’s recovery is in full swing, Jimmy Fullen, the president of that city’s chamber of commerce, said.
“We just reopened yesterday,” Fullen said Friday of the chamber’s operations, and noted that several businesses, including Texas First Bank’s Hitchcock branch and One Stop Hardware, similarly sustained damage.
“Texas First took on water, but now they’re up and running on a limited basis,” he said; the same holds true for the hardware store.
Galveston came through the storm with minimal damage to the island’s businesses, Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce President Gina Spagnola said.
“We’ve been extremely busy, but there have not been any serious problems,” she said. “All of the chambers in the county are working together to respond to the storm, and we’re also reaching out to Rockport” — where Harvey first made landfall — “and to Beaumont. We have an eighteen-wheeler loaded with water on its way there.
“So many chambers along the Gulf Coast came to our assistance after Hurricane Ike, and now we get to help others throughout the county and beyond. I’m so thankful.”