Saturday, January 24, 2009

Galveston Island Four Months After Hurricane Ike

Yesterday we drove down to Galveston Island again. It's now four months since Hurricane Ike hit and some progress toward recovery has been made. We originally went down two months after the storm and were shocked by what we saw. I don't think people realize how devastating the storm was to the island. We didn't realize and we're only 26 miles inland.

For us the storm was over when the electricity came back on and the branches and debris were finally picked up a month after the storm. For the people of Galveston the storm won't be over for many, many years. I now understand what they mean when they say the storm surge is what does the most damage and costs the most lives. There's a world of difference between the damage where we live and the damage on Galveston Island.

On this trip we found more places opened, more people driving around, and less piles of debris. Two months ago, there were debris piles on sidewalks, in the streets, etc. This time it was more contained.

We drove down to the Strand which is the historical business section of the island. It seemed to us that approximately 98% of the stores are closed and either undergoing repairs or have plans to make repairs. The storm surge really took a toll on this area. You can see where someone marked the water line on this building. That's my husband and he's 5'8" and the curbs are very high which adds another foot or so.

It's very sad to see all the empty stores. Most of the merchandise was shoveled out onto the sidewalks and hauled off. This store is empty except for the few things that remain hanging in the window.

We stopped for a while and spoke with a lady working on this old fashion soda fountain/candy store. We've stopped in here in the past and were pleased to hear that they're hoping to reopen in April. During the storm the owner's son stayed here and marked the water level every so often on the door frame until the water got too deep and he had to retreat upstairs. Then he started marking the water line on the staircase.

But, they've got the wood now for the sub floor and it should be down in the next week or so.

The lady told us that parts of The Strand still don't have electricity or water. We did notice at least one traffic light that's still not working which surprised us after all this time.

But things are looking up a little. The island looks greener now. The salt water seemed to kill a lot of the vegetation, but they've replanted some palm trees and shrubbery. We passed these bushes on our walk.

But then we took a closer look and saw some green starting to sprout. We were all excited...perhaps they aren't completely dead after all!

We saw this sign too. No one will ever say that the people of Galveston aren't resilient.

And someone has even decorated a little for Mardi Gras which they still plan to have this year. (There were quite a few cars parked along the street, but most of them belonged to people working on the restoration.)

And I was pleased to see one of my favorite antique stores reopened and restocked. The lady told me just about everything was destroyed but they managed to reopen the day after Thanksgiving after a lot of hard work.

Every year the Galveston Historical Association has the Historic Home Tour in May and we enjoy going. I was pleased to see that they're still planning to have it in 2009.

The worst national disaster in the history of this country was the 1900 Galveston Hurricane when the storm surge swept across the island and anywhere from 6,000 to 8,00o people were killed. (By the way, a lot of people think the Great Chicago Fire was the worst national disaster, but it wasn't.) Galveston came back, but it was never the same. I believe history will repeat itself and Galveston will be back, but it will be a different Galveston.

After the 1900 storm a seawall was built along part of the island to protect it from future storms and the elevation of the island was raised behind the seawall. The remaining homes and buildings were jacked up and sand was pumped in underneath. Considering the time period it was a pretty amazing feet of engineering and I've always been fascinated by the story.

Just last week it was reported in the Houston Chronicle that the 100 year old seawall was damaged by Ike and will need expensive repairs. The heavily damaged University Of Texas Medical Center at Galveston has laid off 3,000 people. This week the Shriner's Hospital announced that they will temporarily close due to damage and loss of funds in the current economy. A lot of people fear that the closure won't be temporary. And, I recently heard on the news that 40% of the people that lived on the island are gone.

However, there are many proud and determined people in Galveston who are descendants of the 1900 storm's survivors. I'm sure the island will make a come back, but it will take considerable time. And please, no more hurricanes for a while.


  1. Gracious, this is such an interesting post, thank you for showing all the pics. Isn't it amazing how people just pick themselves up and rebuild. Truly extraordinary!

  2. I'm shocked that it is taking so long actually. I guess I just assumed things were back to normal for these poor people! This was certainly an eye opener!

  3. What an informative and interesting post. I hadn't heard of the 1900 Galveston Hurricane. Those people are, indeed courageous.

  4. Karen, I loved your interesting post. I love history. My great grandparents passed through Texas, and I believe settled in Taylor. I'll have to look up the name. They picked cotton or hops for 10 years before moving to Amity Oregon. Isn't life interesting? I didn't realize the salt water would kill the vegetation. (I never gave it a 2nd thought! )Thanks for the interesting info!


Thank you for taking the time to visit my little world and leave a comment. I appreciate hearing from you.

I do not receive all comments by E-mail and I'm not exactly sure why. I do try and remember to check the actual blog so I won't miss any of your comments.

I do not belong to Google+ and regret that I am unable to leave comments on Google+ blogs.

WORD VERIFICATION: I have NOT set up word verification for comments. However, every so often it appears on my blog even though I have chosen NO in the settings. Please let me know if you encounter word verification when leaving a comment so I can try and fix it. Thanks.