Before Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas suspended the ‘Look and Leave’ program thousands of evacuees jammed I-45 to check on their property. Traffic into the island was slow…as vehicles maneuvered around debris. I was ahead of California Task Force-4, a contingent of Oakland firefighters headed by Wes Kitchel.
“We’re in here to support the local resources and do searches. So, we’re doing contact searches to see if anybody wants to leave, move them to a shelter, advise them how to get what they need. If they need medical attention, we have ambulances standing by with us to request to go to those positions.”
Hernandez: “So, it’s not your charge to get these people out?”
Kitchel: “It’s not our job. Our job is to ask them if they want to go, and assist them if they need it. We’re not working under FEMA’s direction necessarily, we’re working under Texas’ so, whatever plan they have set up is what we need to follow, and that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Not far from the Task Force staging area, a point of distribution manned by Warrant Officer Kelvin Grimes and the Texas National Guard:
“We’ve got some hemmets here that we’ve taken out into the neighborhood. I’ve been doing patrols in the neighborhood to make sure we are providing adequate service, and been met with a lot of positive response. It’s one of the more gratifying we do, where you get to help people.”
Barbara Harvel opted to stay and ride the storm out.
“When the second part came through, when the wind changed, I was absolutely terrified. I’ll never stay again. Never. Never. The only reason we stayed is because of our property, of course. We never expected it to flood. I mean, never did we expect to lose almost everything we own. But, I’m not leaving. I’ll stay until everything is back and it’s our normal Galveston.”
The historic Strand took a beating and business owners were busy surveying, taking pictures and trying to calculate the return.
“We do love it, and we know that there’s a risk associated with it but, I gotta tell you that from what I’ve seen so far, I’m very optimistic.”
Grant Mitchell is the son of George Mitchel, who built the Woodlands. His family is synonymous with the Strand.
“These buildings have all been here since before the great storm in 1900, and they’ve gone through multiple hurricanes and, some worse than this one so, I’m very optimistic that we’ll be back in relatively short order.”
Hernandez: “So, what do you tell your dad, How do you begin to tell your father?”
Mitchell: “I tell you, he has seen these before. He has seen what hurricanes can do and, what he had in his mind about what we would see here, is about right. So, he’s already pretty aware of what the situation would be like. I was honestly expecting worse.”
The impulse to rebuild follows any catastrophe. Mitchell says it’s even greater for people in Galveston.
Pat Hernandez, KUHF…Houston Public Radio News.