By José Manuel Vazquez, Class of 2026

Disasters strike in all parts of our Earth. On a smaller scale, my community has undergone a few natural disasters. Among the three biggest disasters, South Texas has endured a pandemic, a handful of flooding incidents, and a few extreme cold fronts. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview some local business owners, and I was able to hear their testimonies on how they experienced these disasters, overcame them, and planned for the next one.

My first interview was the owner of a car lot. Because this person owns a car lot, his business, which consists of cars, is outside. During the interview, I learned that heavy rainfall would get inside the vehicles during flood season, and rust would eventually form because of the acidity of the rain. This recurring flooding was not the only disaster that took a toll on his business. COVID-19 triggered a large halt in customer influx due to the quarantine as well as the rise of market prices. The interviewee revealed that he had to lower the value of the cars because people were reluctant to buy a vehicle in the middle of a pandemic. Despite the setbacks, I learned that it took an immense amount of perseverance to not give up on the business and find a solution. One such example of this display of fortitude included relocating the car models to a higher elevation. This was the recovery and preparation aspect of the car lot business: recognizing that a future flood would have less impact by raising the elevation of their vehicles.

Another interesting interview I had was with the owner of a steel-erecting company. Like the owner of the car lot, recurring flooding has had a direct impact on the business’s supplies. His company’s warehouse has a large amount of metal materials in the yard. Heavy rainfall leads to rusting on the materials, which in turn requires workers to fix and repair the metal. Additionally, the harsh cold front that the Valley experienced in February of 2021 caused the warehouse to have frozen pipes and lose internet connection. The interviewee disclosed that the warehouse had to temporarily close for the entire duration of the cold storms because no one could fix the issues at the time; it would take even more time for the warehouse to regain its power and water. Regardless, the owner mentioned that it was one of many small setbacks: he just had to get right back up, solve the issues, and return to what he did best.

When analyzing both interviews, I concluded that the community overcomes disasters by adapting and persevering. In the car lot interview, I learned that the interviewee adapted to constant flooding by moving his products away from the point of impact. In the steel-erecting company, I learned that the interviewee’s business was able to take multiple hits from all these disasters — and yet they did not give up — even when profits were low, their warehouse was partially ruined, or when they were low on workers. Both businesses remain in operation because they represent commendable attributes: attributes I am sure many other companies also have despite disaster after disaster.

Read Jose’s first blog post here.

To learn more about this project and see more student and researcher’s blog posts, click here.