Heroes of Harvey: Sgt Lonnie Garcia looks back at destruction in Wharton County

- On August 27, 2017, Wharton County began to assess the little damage from Tropical Storm Harvey that had blown through.

"We had some wind damage, but it wasn't very bad," recalls Sgt. Lonnie Garcia.

Garcia has patrolled for the Wharton County Sheriff's Department for the past 29 years.

His wife, daughter and niece who had evacuated to Tyler came back into the house.

No one realized the worst was yet to come.

But five days after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, the floodwaters seemingly came out of nowhere in Wharton County.

"I remember August the 30 is when I took pictures of my house, and you could see the water rising from the flood," said Garcia.

The sheriff's office was on a mandatory schedule of 12 hour days, every day. Sgt. Garcia was sleeping at the sheriff's office.

His wife and kids were evacuated for a second time.

When Garcia had a quick moment to swing by his house, he snapped photos.

"[At] about  5 p.m., the water was already getting close to the front door of my house, and that was the last time..." Garcia's voice trails off as he's overcome with emotion.

Garcia was assigned to help with water rescues and road closures on the east side of the county.

"It was anything from providing traffic control to rescuing people from their houses because the water was rising so fast."

In one instance, he remembers helping a woman remain calm.

"I remember one lady that was having a medical issue, and I just stayed there to comfort her until the paramedics arrived."

Meanwhile, Garcia's neighbor was on alert calling him every hour.

"He was like, 'Lonnie, your house has got about 6 inches at the door. Now you're at about a foot at the door.' Then he said, 'I think you got water in your house.' The feeling was like gut wrenching."

The flooding had spread so far that he was unable to drive within eyesight of his home.

Overflow from the Colorado River and from Peach Creek filled up a creek near his home, unleashing water onto his street.

The place he and his wife had called home for 20 years flooded at least 18 inches.

"[September] 2nd or the 3rd we were able to get back into the house, and that's when we discovered all the damages."

The family lost irreplaceable mementos like family photos, items made in kindergarten and mother's day cards.

They've stayed with relatives for the past four months while they gut the house out and salvage what they can.

Insurance adjusters say the house can't be saved and they'll have to tear it down and rebuild.

But the Garcias are counting their blessings.

"It was hard to see the devastation, but I knew that none of my relatives were hurt. They all got out safely," Garcia says.

To help Sgt. Garcia with rebuilding and the recovery after the Harvey floods, FOX 26 partnered with Exclusive Furniture and Walmart.

Each of them presenting the Garcia's with much-needed gift cards to help this Hero of Harvey during a difficult time.

"It's been tough, but we have our faith. We have our family. I hope 2018's a lot better."

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