September 16, 2008

It's really hard reading this story about Galveston's current state.

In this ruined city, reduced to such an unlivable state that its mayor wants all remaining residents gone, searchers made their way through 90 percent of the inundated neighborhoods. So far they have confirmed two dead, with four others undetermined. Thousands of homes have yet to be reached.

Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas warned that her city was heading toward a "downward spiral" and is not fit for habitation. Residents who evacuated are not being allowed back.

"There is nothing to come here for right now," Thomas said. "Please leave. I am asking people to leave."


The scale of devastation pointed to an almost unimaginable cleanup ahead. Several inches of reeking mud caked the trolley lines of The Strand. Shutters and screen doors littered the streets. Some million-dollar beach homes lay in heaps of lumber and concrete, while others stayed aloft on 10-foot pilings. There was no way to get into many of the homes left standing: Their stairs had been washed away.

FM 3005 was closed along the island's western shore, where 4 to 6 inches of hard-packed sand turned the pavement into an extended beach, the asphalt crumbled away into new-formed tidal pools, and loose cattle roamed the roadway. Bulldozers plowed the wet sand into towering banks along the edge.

All of Galveston looks like an empty set from a disaster movie, or perhaps a smelly ghost town. Nearly 150 structures have collapsed across the island from Ike's assault, [city spokeswoman Alicia] Cahill said, and countless more will have to be demolished.

We don't know what the human toll is yet - there are still large areas of the island that have not been searched. I'm amazed at how many of the people who chose to stay have been found alive, given the extremely dire forecast for the storm. That last-minute jog to the east really was critical. But it's way too early to think that we've averted a high body count. All we know is we don't have one yet.

Thinking long term, I really wonder what the island's prospects will be. New Orleans has done an amazing job of getting itself back on track, but it was helped by the fact that its main industry - tourism - was spared some of the worst damage from Katrina. The French Quarter mostly didn't flood. The casinos survived. That at least offered some hope from the beginning. I feel more concerned for Galveston right now. What happens if the Strand is ruined? I'm buoyed a little by seeing that Moody Gardens says it will reopen on the 21st, and that while the Schlitterbahn is less specific, it at least is still advertising 2009 season tickets. Carnival Cruises says they want to get back to a Texas port as soon as possible. Maybe there's more hope than I think. But this is what worries me about Galveston's future. There has to be something to rebuild for.

Anyway. I hope I'm worrying needlessly. We'll know in a few months, I guess. In the meantime, if you want to feel angry instead of vaguely depressed, read this story of how charity does not begin at home. I just hope that if Lori Long and her family are ever in the position that so many coastal Texas families are in now, she gets a warmer reception from wherever she winds up than she's willing to give them. Thanks to Ginger for the heads up on this.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 16, 2008 to Hurricane Katrina

Michael told me a really scary story yesterday from a coworker who has friends who rode it out on the island. Two of them went into the attic when the house flooded and when the eye came, they ran for it to a nearby hotel and kicked in the door to get in. They were ordered to leave, but fortunately sense and compassion kicked in, and they rode the rest of the storm out there.

There were two other people in the house next door. It was washed away, and there's no word about the neighbors sheltering there.

I think we'll never know the true death toll for Ike on the coast. There are people we'll just never find.

Posted by: Ginger Stampley on September 16, 2008 12:05 PM
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