Rockport’s tourism thriving five years after Hurricane Harvey despite even more obstacles

After Harvey, Rockport still survived pandemic, February freeze, inflation

ROCKPORT - – Hurricane Harvey destroyed towns and upended lives along the Texas coast five years ago. KSAT crews that reported in Rockport during the storm went back to check in with the community, where they found the strength displayed during the town’s darkest hour has only grown.

Gloria Whitley has lived in Rockport for almost 30 years and has lived on the coast almost all her life.

“August the third, 1970, (Hurricane) Celia hit, and I remember that clearly. I remember sopping up the water that blew in under the windows. It was so powerful,” she said.

Fast forward 50 years, an even more powerful hurricane would hit the area.

Whitley worked downtown at the Texas by Design boutique when Hurricane Harvey came through Rockport.

“Nothing was open down here, and of course, we didn’t have facilities. I think it was about a week before the water was clean enough. Where we lived, it was about three weeks before we got electricity,” she said.

Whitley said the boutique took on a lot of water damage, but the staff was determined to open it back up. They didn’t know at the time how strong that determination would have to be.

“We had Harvey. Then we had the pandemic, which turned us down also. And then we had a freeze a couple of years ago that shut us down. So it’s been one thing after another,” Whitley said.

The seemingly endless hurdles slowed all kinds of businesses across Rockport.

A strong sign of vitality in the town lies in the small bait shops that line the harbor. Many were destroyed during the hurricane.

“If you think about it, without the bait, the fishermen can’t come to fish, which means they won’t spend that money in local hotels and restaurants. Basically, the entire economy of this area depends on these shops,” said Rockport Harbor Master Keith Barrett.

The drought and inflation have also affected the shops, but owners said they’re still open and welcoming customers.

The town, despite all the obstacles, is thriving.

“I have to say that this is the best summer we’ve had,” Whitley said. “Ever since Memorial Day, it has been busy, and it’s thanks to the people of San Antonio and in the surrounding area.”

It’s also thanks to the true grit of a community that has refused to give up.

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About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.