One year later, Hurricane Harvey survivors seek $2.5B bond for future preparations

As a teenager, Gayle Hillman's grandmother survived the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900, which killed thousands and is still the deadliest hurricane in U.S. history.

The 85-year-old grew up hearing her grandmother’s stories of that storm, never knowing that more than one hundred years later, and fifty miles from the shore, she would survive the worst rainfall event in U.S. history.

Hurricane Harvey dumped more than 50 inches of rain across the greater Houston area and beyond, causing more than sixty deaths and at least $125 billion worth of damage.

A year later, Hillman and so many like her are just beginning to regain a sense of normalcy.

"Everything was gone," she said as she showed her new living room, "so we had to buy everything new in here."

Hillman is back in her home, but it's been a long, tough road.

It's hard to square up her essentially brand new home with the ripped up, sopping mess of a skeleton that stood in the same spot a year ago – which was when Fox News first met Hillman, and her daughter Susan Thomas, several days after the storm hit.

Thomas' home was still flooded with several feet of water, so she came to help her mother.

"At the time, I thought, it's just stuff, it doesn't matter," Thomas told Fox News. "I have continued to think that throughout the experience, how blessed I am to be able to have insurance, to be able to rebuild."

Unlike her mother, Thomas' home is not finished yet. She and her husband are living out of one room, as contractors work to finish the rest.

Thomas' street, in a suburban neighborhood of Houston, may serve as a good example of what's happening all over the area.

In just one block, there are homes in every state, from completely finished to still in ruins. There are brand new homes being built and empty lots where beloved neighbors used to live. Some estimates say ten thousand people are still out of homes even now, one year after the storm.

Now, Hillman and Thomas are supporting a new $2.5 billion bond measure on the ballot in Harris County this weekend – which they hope will help them prepare for any future storms.

The bond measure would help provide matching funds for federal grants, as well as widen bayous and create new detention basins, large areas where rainwater could sit before it drains back into the bayous and out to sea.

"This would double or triple our budget and allow us to really pursue larger projects," said Matt Zeve with the Harris County Flood Control District.

A recent University of Houston study found 62 percent of voters who say they'll vote in the bond election support it. The administrator of Harris County says he's not surprised- it is one issue that has been strictly non-partisan.

"There is nothing political about this bond," said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. "This is really everybody saying we have to do this."

That spirit of cooperation may be one thing that harkens back to the dark days of the storm.

Jim McIngvale, affectionately known around Houston as "Mattress Mack," opened his furniture storerooms to refugees during and after the storms.

"Everybody to a person," McIngvale told Fox News, "all they cared about was people, and taking care of people."

He added: "And that's what we should do every day."

He and other supporters say the bond will be the first step in doing that.

As for Hillman and Thomas, despite the haunting experience of living through Harvey and the headaches of rebuilding, they say, they are grateful.

"I have learned a lot about the power of nature," said Thomas. "But I have also learned about the power of man."

Thomas' mother agreed.

"Everyone was so kind," said Hillman. "They went beyond what you expect from people."

All those neighbors and friends and even complete strangers, who helped a grandmother move on and flourish, and live to tell her own grandchildren her survival story of a great hurricane.