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Once hard hit by a flood of its own, Del Rio rallies for Rockport

August 31, 2017 GMT

ROCKPORT — Joel Langton wondered how to help victims of Hurricane Harvey as images of devastation filled his Facebook feed as the week began.

Then, it him - everyone needs water. Langton started a find-raising drive with folks he knew in Del Rio, where he works as a public affairs officer at Laughlin AFB’s 47th Flying Training Wing.

He called the Del Rio Chamber of Commerce, which agreed to lead the campaign, and people all around town began donating cash to buy pallets of bottled water, including patrons of a bar in nearby Comstock who chipped in $360 — enough for two of them.

That was Monday. By midday Wednesday there was enough, $13,615, to nearly fill three tractor-trailer rigs. The water will be trucked to Rockport from H-E-B’s San Antonio warehouse — each truck’s 60,000 bottles should be enough to supply the town for two days, Langton estimated.


“I just talked to the chamber, and they said, ‘Let’s do it,’ and frankly it’s to a point right now where we can’t stop people from giving,” he said.

Del Rio, just east of the Chihuahuan Desert on the U.S.-Mexico border, has 35,998 people, three times the population of Rockport, a coastal tourist and fishing town.

Langton noted that both towns have retired two-star Air Force generals active in their communities.

Maj. Gen. Gerald Prather, who earned his wings at Laughlin in 1956, lives in Del Rio and served as a justice of the peace for many years. Rockport Mayor Charles J. Wax, a one-time commander of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, knows a thing or two about logistics.

The Del Rio water drive is just one effort on behalf of Rockport, Wax said, explaining that the Salvation Army, Baptist Men and Church Unlimited have come to the city’s aid, among others.

“There’s just a plethora of people who are stepping up. That’s just the names that came to mind. It’s almost any number of people, almost every charitable organization you can think of,” he said.

One of the H-E-B trucks carrying water bought by people in Del Rio had arrived at the Harbor Oaks shopping center in Rockport, he said. An Ace Hardware store has partially reopened as well as H-E-B’s pharmacy. The local Wal-Mart, like H-E-B’s grocery store, was badly damaged, but he said it was important for people to be able to get prescriptions filled.

Prather couldn’t be reached, but Langton noted he led the recovery and rebuilding of the 1999 flood in Del Rio that killed 20 people. It was the biggest flood Del Rio has ever seen — and was caused by a hurricane.

Starting last weekend, people from hurricane-ravaged communities have taken refuge in 12 hotels around Del Rio or were staying in one of three shelters there.


“Everything we do, we like to work with the base and help out in any way possible,” said Hannah Hinson, the chamber’s community outreach specialist. “It was just the perfect way for us to help out other Texans.”

So far, 48 individual donors and businesses have contributed, with the largest check for $1,980 given by the Bank & Trust of Del Rio, Hinson said. Those who want to add to it can call the chamber at 830-775-3551.

“The bottom line is, we’re just one little town trying to help another town out,” said Langton, 53, a native of New Iberia, Louisiana and a retired Air Force tech sergeant. “If a tornado comes through Del Rio, Rockport’s going to be doing the same thing.”