Governor's Recovery Panel Tours Galveston

Four months after Hurricane Ike hit Galveston, the island continues its slow road to recovery. A new state commission created a month after the storm listened to presentations about response and recovery. Members also took a tour of neighborhoods and the city’s badly damaged medical center. Pat Hernandez has the story.

Hurricane Ike came ashore September 13, flooding 75-percent of homes and businesses. The Commission for Disaster Recovery and Renewal is charged with evaluating the state’s role in the storm recovery process. Former Harris County Judge Robert Eckels is commission chairman.

image of Robert Eckels

“Most people don’t understand the difference between the state or the local, you know, the county or the city government or the federal government. To most people it’s just the government, and so we’d like to see in the end that the government works well. And that means that all of us have to work well, not only individually, but together, to provide better services for the taxpayers.”

He joined other commission members, island officials and the media on a 90 minute tour of the island. Galveston mayor Lyda Ann Thomas served as tour guide.

“The question that has been put before me so many times, and I’ve put before you…is Galveston worth saving? We believe it is. We are coming back. We will come back, but we cannot do it without the help of the state of Texas and the federal government.”        

A major part of the tour was spent at the island’s biggest employer, The University of Texas Medical Branch. Karen Sexton is interim executive VP and CEO.

“We had 710 million dollars of damage, uh lost, probably split out between business interruptions of in patient care revenue from the hospital’s closure, and damages sustained in equipment and facility. So, you know we need the lion’s share of that back to keep our recovery going.”

Victoria Salinas with FEMA says any major disaster results in incremental recovery.

“Long term recovery really is a matter of a bunch of concurrent activities happening so you have more strategic approach to your long term recovery. And that’s what I think is one of the most challenging shifts for people to make because they’re overwhelmed. In terms of the community recovery, we’re at the point in which people are able to step back a moment, take a breath, clear their mind and think where do we want to go as a community. How do we want to rebuild? Where do we want to be three to five years from now? Do we want to look the same? Do we want to look different? And then, pool all the resources together using all the recovery partners to actually bring that vision into reality. So, I think we’re at that really good point to launch those discussions.”

The Commission for Disaster Recovery and Renewal will find solutions for rebuilding stronger communities and ways to be better prepared for the next storm.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF…Houston Public Radio News.